THE EXPANSION of Leeds Bradford Airport could cost the Leeds City Region up to £3.1 billion in ‘lost economic activity’.

That is one of the key claims according to new analysis published by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) - which also says that the number of jobs that it has said could be created has been overestimated by more than a third.

The report says that the expansion plans do not include the cost to Leeds of lost money caused by tourists flying out of the region and argues that, at a time when the UK leisure and hospitality industry is in deep recession, the proposed expansion is not economically wise.

It goes on to claim that the expansion plans - involving a £150 million replacement terminal - have understated the potential carbon emissions and impact on air quality and the climate crisis.

The NEF report states that: “The negative impacts of noise and air pollution, carbon emissions and improving transport connections to the airport is likely to cost £883 million between 2024 and 2050.

“If approved the expansion would likely be the largest single driver of growth in carbon emissions in the Leeds City Region.”

It concludes that the overall ‘net’ impact of the scheme is likely to be negative for both the Leeds City Region and the UK.

Consultant at the NEF, Alex Chapman, said: “The climate change risks of the proposed expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport are obvious.

“What is discussed less is that the economic benefits the scheme claims to create are based on inconsistent and logically flawed economics.

“The proposed jobs will not materialise because the aviation industry is automating, creating less and less jobs, and this trend has just accelerated through the Covid-19 crisis.

“The predicted business benefits are overstated, because businesses are making less and less use of air travel, especially in the fallout from coronavirus.

“Finally, the airport ignores the negative impacts of incentivising Leeds City Region residents to take cheap flights out of the country, instead of spending their money in the local economy.”

Noting the report’s findings, MP Alex Sobel (Lab, Leeds North West) said: “The current Covid crisis is exposing the need to look at new forms of employment and transition workers through ‘skilling up’ and investment into these new clean, green jobs including in transport.

“Aviation has taken a huge hit over Covid and sadly Leeds Bradford Airport has suffered, this has happened quickly but there will be a long term move away from high carbon industries which aviation is near the top of currently, so now is the time for new thinking and repurposing sites not new carbon intensive jobs.”

The airport, meanwhile has challenged the report’s claims - and insists its headline figure is based on ‘a number of untrue assumptions’.

A spokesperson said: “The findings of this report are untrue. LBA is already an economic hub and the council’s Local Plan supports the continued development of the airport.

“It is, and will continue be, a cornerstone of the regional economy providing jobs and livelihoods for thousands of people and vital connectivity for Yorkshire’s economy.

“In these difficult times of COVID-19 Yorkshire needs its economy to recover quickly and to thrive.

“LBA’s plans to modernise can be a key part of that recovery by generating inward investment and attracting international tourists and students.

“We look forward to helping businesses in our region to meet this demand in the coming decades.

“To say that jobs in aviation are unsustainable is misleading.

“On the contrary, the sector has jointly committed to becoming net zero by 2050 and there are advances in technologies and fuels on the horizon.

“We know we have work to do to get there, but the long-term future for sustainable aviation, and the jobs that it will create and sustain, is positive.

“Leeds as a city will only have the ability to innovative if it enjoys strong connectivity with the rest of the world.”

The airport’s upgraded new terminal, which it says would be one of the most sustainable airport buildings in the UK, would allow it to increase its flights and accommodate passenger numbers of up to seven million per year over the next decade or so. Environmental groups, however, insist that the resulting increase in greenhouse gas emissions would be unacceptable.