No new money for Leeds flood defences, MP is told

Flooding in Kirkstall, Leeds, over the Christmas period.

Flooding in Kirkstall, Leeds, over the Christmas period.

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AN MP claims there will be no new money for a Leeds flood defence to protect homes and businesses in Kirkstall following a 'frustrating' meeting with the Environment Secretary.

Labour's Rachel Reeves, who represents Leeds West, said in the hour long meeting held this morning that the Secretary of State for the Environment, Liz Truss, and the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, James Bevan, said budgets had already been set for the next six years.

Rachel Reeves MP

Rachel Reeves MP

YP Comment: Leeds flood defence snub is indefensible - and a false economy

While Leeds city centre is getting a £33m Government investment to build new defences to be completed by 2017, a 12 mile long proposal that would protect Kirkstall is not currently being considered, Ms Reeves understands.

The Labour MP had asked for £3m for a feasibility study into a larger project that protects Leeds, and then a commitment to building it.

Ms Reeves said: "It was just incredibly frustrating. We all came out quite anxious about what this means.

Environment Secretary Liz Truss

Environment Secretary Liz Truss

"I had high hopes for the meeting in terms of what we would get out of it. I hoped that we would come out with a commitment to the feasibility study with the money fully committed to build a bigger defence."

"The £2.3bn that the Chancellor and Liz Truss talk about for the flood defences in the Parliament is all fully spent so there's no pot of money - they've got a full programme for the next six years."

The Environment Secretary said that in 'the light of recent events', the Environment Agency will start work immediately with local partners on scoping work on further protection for the wider area which will lead to a full feasibility study.

However Lib Dem MP for Leeds North West, Greg Mulholland, said he understood the Government was going to see if they could find £3m as it wasn't immediately clear where it might come from.

Flooding in Kirkstall, Leeds, over the Christmas period.

Flooding in Kirkstall, Leeds, over the Christmas period.

Ms Reeves added: "She said she needs to go away and find the money but there's no money in her budget, or the Environment Agency's, to do a feasibility study, let alone a flood defence scheme at the moment.

"We came out of the meeting with a commitment but I could say I'm going to take someone for lunch, but if I haven't got the money to pay for it, it's a vague commitment."

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said: “Today I held a very constructive meeting with Leeds MPs to discuss what more can be done to protect the city and surrounding areas.

“We are fully committed to ensuring Leeds is properly protected from flooding. As we face ever more frequent extreme weather events such as those in December, which saw water levels on the River Aire 1.2m higher than previously recorded, it is right we look at what lessons can be learned and how we make Leeds more resilient for the future.

“That means considering the threat to Leeds and the entire Aire Valley, taking into account how we plan for and manage flood water across the whole river catchment.

“The first phase of the Leeds flood defence scheme is due for completion in March 2017 thanks to £33m of government funding. In the light of recent events, the Environment Agency will start work immediately with local partners on scoping work on further protection for the wider area which will lead to a full feasibility study."

“Across the county £280m is being spent over the next six years – giving Yorkshire one of the most resilient flood defence programmes in the country.”