David Parkin on airport ambition, a Royal welcome and surviving Dry January

AT last Leeds Bradford Airport has come up with plans that are ambitious, exciting – and backed by serious investment.

You only have to travel from any other regional UK airport to realise that the West Yorkshire airport is the runt of the litter.

Queues of passengers waiting to check-in trailing out of the building, overcrowded bars and restaurants selling over-priced food and drink, long windswept treks to your aeroplane on the apron.

And when you arrive home the welcoming sight of a huge queue trying to get through passport control.

I don’t like the phrase “not fit for purpose” but it certainly applies to Leeds Bradford Airport.

The airport’s owner AMP Capital was already looking at extending the terminal building but new chief executive Hywel Rees has scrapped the project and replaced it with plans for a new terminal building with the aim of dramatically improving the passenger experience.


Mind you, getting WH Smith to stock newspapers before 8am would dramatically improve my passenger experience at Leeds Bradford.

I don’t ask for a lot when I fly.

Just a newspaper and a lightly spiced turmeric skinny latte.

According to Mr Rees the layout of the airport hasn’t changed since it was created in 1965.

In an interview he said he’d seen a film about World War Two fighter pilots over Christmas and the layout of the aerodrome in the movie was almost identical to that of Leeds Bradford Airport.

It says it all.

The new plans, which are due to be submitted to Leeds City Council in the spring, would, if they are approved, see work start later this year and the new terminal building completed in early 2023.

At least that is within a timeframe that makes a difference to people working today.

I’m not even sure whether HS2 rail is still happening.

And if it does go ahead I wouldn’t be confident it would be completed during my working lifetime.

Or even my lifetime full stop.

The proposed new project at Leeds Bradford Airport, which would be privately funded by AMP Capital, would see the existing terminal building replaced with a more efficient and sustainable development over three floors on a different site within the airport boundary, closer to where passengers board the planes.

Improvements would include better surface access, with the site located nearer to the proposed rail link, clean and airy interiors, improved shopping, restaurants and bars and “excellent access and comfort through from arrival to boarding”.

Chief executive Hywel Rees, said: “For more than 55 years, LBA has provided an international gateway to and from Yorkshire. Our vision is to serve our region as a truly outstanding airport and to profoundly change the perception and reality of customer experience for passengers. To do this we need a terminal that meets the needs of the future in passenger flow and energy efficiency.”

Now before Extinction Rebellion hitch up the yellow boat they parked outside Bridgewater Place in Leeds during last year’s demonstration and start to tow it to the gates of the airport, just hang on a mo.

Listen to what else Mr Rees has to say.

“This proposal is not about growing beyond our predicted capacity; it is about meeting the same demand in a more efficient way, with a smaller environmental footprint; it is about creating a more modern building that can achieve operational excellence to give passengers the best experience; and it is about addressing the challenges we know our passengers face far too frequently and that cannot be overcome within our current building.”

They’ll be disappointed with that, although when did Extinction Rebellion ever appear to think rationally about anything they do?

Last year’s protests certainly raised their profile but they also succeeded in frustrating and angering lots of working people who just wanted to get to their jobs on time and do a decent day’s work.

Police and the local authority showed no appetite for making any attempt to clear the protest, which blocked the main road into the city for several days.

I’d have had the water cannons on them.

From what I saw most of them would have benefited from a good wash anyway.

I’m no climate change denier but let’s get a bit of perspective here.

Leeds Bradford Airport looking to improve its facilities is not Heathrow wanting to add a third runway.

BBC Look North covered the story the other evening. 

Their report included a pre-recorded piece from the airport with short interviews with Hywel Rees and Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership who called the plans “crucial” and said they “form a key part of the wider Northern Powerhouse and national aviation strategy, with environmental sustainability, including closer access to rail links, once built, critical.”

Then it was back to the studio where they had managed to unearth some PhD sustainability research wonk from Leeds University who said that in his view the airport development should not happen.

If he’s true to his beliefs then he should have left the studio and returned home on a penny farthing.

But he probably got an Uber.

I know the BBC bends over backwards to try and present balanced news but sometimes it tries so hard it falls over.

Investment in the regions, particularly the Midlands and the North, is a key part of Boris Johnson’s strategy after December’s election success.

Improving transport connections is a crucial element of that and getting both business and leisure travellers to fly from airports in their own region, rather than make long journeys to airports in other parts of the UK, makes a great deal of sense.

My one concern is that Leeds City Council, which will be making the decision on these plans, isn’t hijacked by the climate change lobby.

It has already embraced the phrase “climate emergency” and shown a willingness to engage with climate campaigners.

I don’t have a problem with that approach.

It just needs to retain some perspective.

If the region is to prosper then it needs improved transport links – both road, rail and in the air.


AFTER its recent experiences it was nice to see the Royal Family back in the news for all the right reasons this week.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived in Bradford and received a warm welcome on their visit where they highlighted and celebrated the work of a host of charities and community projects.

After the crisis summit at Sandringham, William and Kate did what the Royals do best – got on with the job.

And after the year that Welcome to Yorkshire has had following the departure of former chief executive Sir Gary Verity, it was good to see the tourism agency get some positive profile.

I was struck by the photograph above – the Duchess of Cambridge receiving a Yorkshire welcome including a bunch of the county’s iconic white roses.

I’m sure the roses were a more appropriate welcome gift than a Fat Rascal or a Yorkshire Growler.

The positive publicity from the Royal visit caps a good first week in the job for new Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive James Mason.

He is tasked with getting the agency back on the front foot and doing what it does best – promoting the county across Britain and the world.

And images like the one above, which featured on media across the globe, certainly helps do that.


I RECEIVED a couple of queries after last week’s blog.

Given it was a little more forthright than usual, one or two people wondered if I was partaking in the trend for Dry January and if it was the lack of alcohol that was making me more frustrated and uptight than usual.

Well, yes I have to admit I am doing Dry January.

But it isn’t making me feel any different to how I usually feel.

No, I insist it isn’t.

You. Are. Wrong.


I’ll tell you the most frustrating thing about Dry January. 

You stay in a bit more than normal and watch more television.

And if some of the shows currently on TV won’t drive you to drink I’d be surprised.

The Masked Singer for one.

A bizarre concept in which a panel of judges consisting of Rita Ora, Jonathan Ross, Davina McCall and the bloke that played Mr Chow in the Hangover, have to guess the identity of a dozen celebrities who perform songs wearing a series of elaborate costumes.

Given the first two “celebs” that were unmasked were former EastEnders actress Patsy Palmer and ex-Home Secretary and Hull MP Alan Johnson, you quickly get an idea of what kind of a guest budget the programme has.

The judges haven’t quite twigged that yet.

That can be the only reason they have suggested that some of the remaining masked singers are Britney Spears, Margot Robbie, Stevie Wonder and Kylie Minogue.

So can I gently inform them that the bloke dressed as a hedgehog is very unlikely to be Sir Elton John and there is a much better chance that it is Christopher Biggins.

Appearances as Widow Twankey in Aladdin at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley permitting of course.

Have a great weekend.

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