‘We must help flood-damaged Leeds firms keep the faith and stick with the city’

Aerial picture over the Kirkstall Road area of Leeds, following the 2015 Boxing Day flooding.

Aerial picture over the Kirkstall Road area of Leeds, following the 2015 Boxing Day flooding.

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Leeds City Council’s leader has warned that delays in extra insurance help for flooded businesses could have an “immense” knock-on effect on the vital grassroots economy by forcing businesses to quit the city.

Judith Blake was speaking 100 days after the Boxing Day flooding which devastated communities across Leeds and Yorkshire, and was particularly brutal for scores of businesses in Kirkstall and the city centre.

Coun. Judith Blake, leader Leeds City Council, in Kirkstall in December 2015, as work began  to clear up after the flooding.

Coun. Judith Blake, leader Leeds City Council, in Kirkstall in December 2015, as work began to clear up after the flooding.

In the last few days, the Government has launched a new flood insurance scheme to help at-risk households get more affordable cover - but it does not offer similar help for business owners, some of whom have been hit with rocketing premiums.

Referring to recent news that a coil-spring factory in Kirkstall Road had decided to quit the city, Coun Blake said: “We cannot afford to lose [any more] companies.

“The knock on effect is immense and we are working on doing what we can as a city to support them to stay in their current premises.”

She said the long term effects of the flood damage could be felt not just on firms direct, but on the wider economy through the “additional supply chain” which they are part of.

She also pledged “not to take the pressure off” in lobbying Government on the wider issue of flood defences.

“History has shown that floods come, and there are warm words and promises, but we need to make sure they are honoured,” she said.

Coun Blake added: “The thing that will be the abiding memory has been the extraordinary resilience and support that has come from communities and also from across the country.

“People coming together to clean up silt that was one metre deep, and showing grit and determination to get businesses back on their feet as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile the Environment Agency says it continues to work closely with the council on both the current £45 million Leeds flood alleviation scheme and development of a future Leeds scheme that would cost in the region of £65 million.

The Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme Scoping Study is completed and sets out a range of options, requiring further investigation, to reduce the flood risk to Leeds city centre and the Kirkstall Road area.

Assessment of nearly 8,500 assets across Yorkshire highlighted more than 70 requiring repair in Leeds.

Our asset recovery team has already completed 11 repairs including tree and gravel removal and fixing telemetry gauges damaged by the floods. A further 36 are soon to be underway.

Four temporary flood defences have been constructed in Leeds with the help of the army in the Kirkstall Road area.

Phil Younge, major incident recovery manager, said: “We welcome the government’s recent announcement of £115 million to increase flood resilience across the Calder Valley, Leeds and York. This is in addition to £265 million we are already investing between now and 2021 to better protect 108,000 properties against flooding and coastal erosion.

“Approximately 16,000 more properties have signed up to our free flood warning service since the December floods, which is great news. However, we continue to urge people to sign up to this free service as only one fifth of all properties at risk of flooding in Yorkshire currently receive flood warnings.”

The 100 day milestone comes as a further £115 million was announced by Government for flood defence schemes in Leeds, York and the Calder Valley, which were badly affected in the December floods.

The focus of this funding is on schemes that will help communities at highest risk and areas where new defences will have the greatest impact on supporting economic growth, particularly in areas that were affected in December.

In Leeds £35 million will be made available to take forward plans for future phases building on Leeds City Council’s current £45 million flood alleviation scheme.

The Environment Agency was funded to carry out a Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme Scoping Study looking at future phases of the current scheme as a result of the flooding experienced throughout Leeds on Boxing Day 2015.

The scoping study is now complete and sets out a range of options to be investigated further with a view to reducing flood risk to Leeds city centre and the Kirkstall Road area.

The Environment Agency is working in partnership with Leeds City Council to produce a full business case which will establish the appropriate standard of protection for Leeds, looking at how this can be achieved, what it will cost and how long it will take to deliver.

The scoping study highlights the need to take a catchment wide approach, looking at both engineered options, such as raised walls, embankments and flood storage areas, as well as natural flood management measures which work with natural processes and manage the sources and pathways of flood water.

Over the next few months a consultant and construction team will progress the business case for approval in Autumn 2017. It is expected that work will start straight after this in late 2017 with significant progress to reduce flood risk to the city centre and Kirkstall Road. Further engineering work and a continuous programme of natural food risk management measures will carry on beyond 2021.

FLOODING FACTS

More than £2.2m support for Leeds businesses distributed by council since Boxing Day

181 applications for flood relief grant approved, worth over £388,000

132 firms offered rates relief (£955,000)

36 flood resilience grants approved (£168,000

15 applications to LEP business recovery fund (£702,000)

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