Leeds council leader calls on Government to reinstate £190m flood defence plans

Flooding in Kirkstall Road at Viaduct Road.  Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

Flooding in Kirkstall Road at Viaduct Road. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

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THE LEADER of Leeds City Council is calling for urgent talks with the Government to reinstate a flood defence scheme that could have prevented damage caused by the devastating Boxing Day deluge.

The news comes after the YEP reported that plans for a £190m flood defence project was axed by Whitehall back in 2011 on cost grounds.

Floods at Kirkstall Road in Leeds. Pic: Tony Johnson.

Floods at Kirkstall Road in Leeds. Pic: Tony Johnson.

The proposals could have protected homes and businesses along a 12-mile stretch of the River Aire, from Kirkstall to Woodlesford.

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of the council, said: “We are seeking urgent talks with the government about re-instating the flood defence scheme.

“With efforts still focusing on clear-up operations and getting support packages for residents and businesses ready as quickly as possible so they can get back on their feet, our message remains clear. Leeds needs the best possible, comprehensive flood defences.”

At the time, floods minister Richard Benyon branded the £190m project “hugely expensive” and a revised £50m scheme got the green light in 2013.

Leader of Leeds City Council, councillor Judith Blake, by the River Aire in Leeds. Pic: PA.

Leader of Leeds City Council, councillor Judith Blake, by the River Aire in Leeds. Pic: PA.

Due for completion in 2017, it will cover just a two-mile stretch of the Aire from the centre of Leeds to Thwaite Mills, with additional defences in Woodlesford.

The Government yesterday announced a £40m package for Yorkshire to repair and upgrade flood defences, which comes on top of £50m funding to help local authorities respond to the floods.

But councillor Judith Blake, said more funding was needed to tackle the issue long-term.

She said: “Funding to repair flood defences is to be welcomed as a first step.

“We’re keen to see the detail of exactly where and how this will be spent and how much will be available in Leeds, so residents and businesses can be offered some reassurance.

“We anticipate that the cost of recovery from the floods will exceed the funds laid out by the government as the effects of the damage unfold in the coming days and weeks.”

She added: “The extent of the devastation makes it perfectly clear that we need to take a longer term view than existing funding packages are offering.

“Although these deal with immediate aftermath and are much needed, we must have further significant investment so that Leeds has the flood defences that are appropriate for the UK’s third largest city.”