The first part of a major project to protect Leeds from flooding has been launched.
Work has begun on defences at Woodlesford that will help to reduce the possibility of the River Aire bursting its banks.
The scheme – including a low-level landscaped embankment, small flood walls and a storage pond – will be followed by the main project in the city centre and Holbeck.
Adrian Gill, flood risk manager for the Environment Agency, said: “Leeds has narrowly avoided significant flooding to the city centre on a number of occasions in recent years.
“As a major residential, economic and transport hub this would not only cause disruption to the city, but also the surrounding area.
“We are therefore delighted, after many years of working with the Leeds City Council and other partners, to see the start of construction of this crucial scheme.”
In what is a UK first, the city centre and Holbeck phase of the scheme will see fixed weirs at Crown Point and Knostrop replaced with moveable weirs that can be lowered in flood conditions to reduce river levels and the threat of river flooding. An island at Knostrop Cut which separates the river from the canal will also be removed to allow the river and canal to merge to create extra flood storage.
Low level flood defences will also be built in the city centre.
The Leeds Flood Alleviation scheme is being funded by the council, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Environment Agency and the Department for Business Industry and Skills.
Coun Richard Lewis, executive member for the economy and development, said: “Flood risk is increasing throughout the UK and Leeds is no exception, so it’s great to see this vital project getting started.
“These works in Woodlesford need to be carried out first to make improvements as quickly as possible. This will begin the process to provide the residents and businesses in that area with a level of protection and reassurance they have never had before.”