AIRPORT bosses' plans of starting a multi-million pound programme to swell passenger numbers at Yeadon have suffered a major setback.

Leeds Bradford International Airport (LBIA) wants to carry out the first phase of a £28 million project by adding a two-storey extension to its main terminal - a move which could help attract five million passengers per year (compared to the current 2.9 million) by 2012.

But planners today refused to approve the plan, citing serious concerns about the predicted passenger increases and the impact on the area's roads and environment.

Planning officers had actually recommended that Leeds Plans Panel (West) rubber-stamp the proposals, which would give the airport a state-of-the-art new entrance and include a £2 million-plus roadworks and public transport fund. Panel members, however - watched by around 200 members of the public whose attendance forced the meeting to be moved into the larger council chamber at the Civic Hall - disagreed.

Councillor Stuart Andrew (Con, Guiseley and Rawdon) summed up their concerns. He said: "The fact is that this (proposed) building can cope with up to five million passengers a year so in my view this application is not just about the terminal building, it's about expansion too.

"The big question is how do we get people to the airport? There's a problem on the roads now. Getting five million people to that airport is a massive piece of work and I think the list (of proposed public transport incentives and road improvement funds) we have in front of us is woefully inadequate.

"We need to be a lot bolder and braver about how we get people to the airport. I'm afraid what I've read and seen and heard doesn't provide a lasting solution for now or for the future, I think we need to go back to the drawing board."

Councillor Neil Taggart said: "What I see in terms of public transport is an aspirational wish-list", and the A65 is already full.

"I don't think anyone here's got a problem with the building per se. But this (the transport package) is too vague, I think we have to pin down more of the specifics.

"This is a lovely airport but in terms of getting there it's one of the worst in the UK."

Councillors Jamie Matthews, Lucinda Yeadon and Ben Chastney all agreed, and argued that the plan's impact on climate change should also have been central to the debate, despite being advised that it was "not a planning issue".

Coun Matthews said: "We've got a duty to discuss climate change. If we're going to take it seriously then this is a point where we have to discuss it, a proposed airport expansion. We can't write a blank cheque when it comes to the number of flight movements."

Members had earlier passed protesters, carrying large banners, from the No Leeds Bradford Airport Expansion coalition campaign who had positioned themselves outside the Civic Hall before the meeting. Inside, they heard objections from Friends of the Earth (FoE), a Yeadon resident, hackney carriage representatives (cheered on by a large contingent of taxi drivers) and Aireborough Civic Society.

FoE representative Anthony Rae warned that allowing the extension along with unchecked passenger increases could see LBIA's CO2 emissions by 2050 exceeding, on their own, the emissions target for the whole of Leed set by the Leeds Climate Change Strategy. He said: "This is proposing a huge expansion. We've looked at the transport assessments and the important road junctions are already at capacity. We think there will be an additional one million car trips per annum (as a result of this) in just four years' time.

"As for the mitigation package, our analysis shows it will not work - a fake solution to a very real problem."

LBIA's head of engineering, facilities and projects, Carl Lapworth, had highlighted the benefits the proposals could bring. He said: "The successful regions in the UK are supported by a strong and growing regional airport. This is about delivering improved, professional, efficient airport facilities.

"This is not about a runway extension and not about the principle of growth, which has already been established.

"It's supported by a wide number of regional and local organisations that represent significant numbers of businesses throughout our region. It's about safeguarding the 2,200 people directly employed by LBIA currently and the terminal's development will create new jobs."

But the panel unanimously asked for further negotiations to be held with the airport to draw up more detailed public transport and road improvement targets before they would consider approving the plan.