Government has bowed to pressure over Leeds flood defences by confirming tonight that it will issue the city £3million to develop the case for better protection.
At an adjournment meeting in the House of Commons called by Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves, flood minister Rory Stewart pledged the funding due to the “unique case” Leeds is as one of the country’s largest northern cities.
He told the chamber that the decision will mean the Government will need to commence “quite difficult conversations” with other flood-affected parts of the country but maintained supporting a “great northern city” like Leeds needed a “different kind of economic case”.
It comes after MPs and Leeds City Council called for more investment from the Government as the clean-up operation following the Boxing Day floods continues.
Mr Stewart said: “I’m happy to confirm that we will now go through with the feasibility study that the honourable member has requested. That money will be made available and we will do a full analysis of that scheme.”
He explained that the investment will look at what can be done now and in the future, pointing towards possible flood defence walls along Kirkstall Road and the possibility of two types of new reservoirs and measures to protect catchments upstream.
Adding that the Secretary of State is committed to Leeds, Mr Stewart said: “The arrangement we need to focus on is a different kind of economic case on how a northern powerhouse requires a great northern city, and there’s huge potential if we get this right.”
A comprehensive £180m flood defence scheme to protect Leeds was tabled five years ago but did not receive Government funding and a more modest proposal, part-financed by Leeds City Council, was approved and work is currently underway.
In the wake of the floods, the city has now been granted the £3m it asked for to develop the case for extending the current scheme.
It comes after Environment Secretary Liz Truss previously indicated that the spending plans for flood defences across the country are set until 2022 making any upgrade for Leeds unlikely before then.
Rachel Reeves told the chamber of the need for the funds in Leeds and surrounding areas, with her calls being universally backed by Leeds, Wakefield and Calder Valley MPs.
She said: “I fully appreciate the budgetary challenges regarding flood defences, but we must all acknowledge the significance of the flooding arising from Storm Eva and, therefore, the significant economic risk the city of Leeds, and thus the UK economy, faces without the adequate investment in flood defences.”