Leeds could be in line for a Government windfall which would protect thousands of homes and businesses in its most flood-affected city centre areas – but councillors have been given no guarantees.
Treasury minister Danny Alexander unveiled a £120m fund to boost flood defences, stating Leeds is a “leading candidate” for funds at a short-notice meeting on the banks of the River Aire.
But although he said the city’s plans for flood protection were near the top of the list he made it clear there were no guarantees Leeds would get a slice of the funding, which has to serve the whole country.
Leeds City Council’s £57.5m planned defences, the first phase of which could complete in 2015, would protect 250 businesses employing over 100,000 people and more than 3,100 homes in ‘at risk’ areas of Leeds.
Coun Richard Lewis, the council’s executive member for development, said: “Don’t count your chickens, you never do in this game but it is a positive announcement.
“I think it’s good that Danny Alexander has made his announcement in Leeds but I would say we are probably one of the cities that have an incredibly good case for this.”
The Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme would be the first in Britain to make use of movable weirs, which can be collapsed when waters reach a set level.
The council will provide £10m of the scheme’s cost and is asking the Government for a further £15m, while hopes are pinned on £23m coming from European funding and contributions from local businesses.
Coun Keith Wakefield, leader of the council, said: “This announcement sounds optimistic and we would certainly welcome any additional funding to help with our planned flood alleviation scheme.”
Half of the new funding will target areas where flood defences can encourage growth, while the other £60m will speed up building 50 flood already prioritised defence schemes.
Mr Alexander said: “It sounds like a fantastic scheme, not least with some very innovative technology and I hope very much it is a scheme that can go forward.”