Andrew Carter: ‘You can only build barriers so high - what else must we do?’

Flooding in Kirkstall Road.  27 December 2015.  Picture Bruce Rollinson
Flooding in Kirkstall Road. 27 December 2015. Picture Bruce Rollinson
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As local authorities demand £50m from the Chancellor to help West Yorkshire rebuild after the floods, senior Leeds city councillor Andrew Carter - leader of the main opposition Conservative group - suggests how the city can help itself.

The flooding witnessed in Leeds over the Christmas period was both unprecedented and extremely worrying.

Leader of the Leeds Conservative group Coun Andrew Carter. Picture: Nigel Roddis.

Leader of the Leeds Conservative group Coun Andrew Carter. Picture: Nigel Roddis.

More and more it seems that severe weather events are becoming less exceptional and increasingly a part of everyday life both in Leeds and nationally.

Up to Boxing Day there had been only five days since October when there had been no rainfall.

This increase in rainfall has now happened too often over the past few years and there seems to be little doubt that we are living through a period of climate change.

How does Leeds deal with this new and increasingly problematic issue?

With rainfall at unprecedented levels, you can only build flood barriers so high.

There is significant doubt that phases 2 and 3 of the planned flood scheme for Leeds, had they been built, would have prevented the flooding we witnessed in December, or perhaps made matters worse.

I fully accept that a national strategy is also needed from the Government and more funding is needed in Leeds to prepare the city for the next flooding event and eventually to prevent flooding from happening at all.

The Government has now promised £3m for a feasibility study, but this should go beyond simply building barriers that will only cause flooding downstream in Methley and Kippax and in other towns and cities outside of Leeds.

It is essential that it is a comprehensive study, multi-agency and looks at the Aire, Wharfe and Calder in their totalities.

In my view the following simple actions could be initiated locally by the council:

Review its target of 70,000 new houses by 2028. This figure is unsustainable, and the council’s proposals in terms of the sites involved will increase flooding. We have said all along that numbers are too high and now this must be reviewed urgently.

Every year Leeds loses between 800 and 1,000 trees. Everyone knows that mature trees play a major role in mitigating flooding, and of course help to improve the general environment. This trend has got to be stopped, and reversed.

Invest in gully cleansing to ensure that drains do not overflow as speedily as they have in recent years. This will take time and cannot be done immediately.

Analysis of alternative strategies to deal with flooding. The council should be looking at better land management and investment in wetlands to provide more space for water to flood in a controlled manner. Rodley Nature Reserve is a good example of how wetlands can help to defend against flooding.

The continual paving over of garden spaces. Residents are required to use either permeable materials, or provide drainage channels out to the drainage system.

To be frank, planning guidance locally and nationally needs to be changed, it’s no good providing drainage if the drains are blocked.

There are a host of other, smaller measures the council can take, in a comprehensive strategy that will all contribute towards mitigating against flooding.

This in combination with a national strategy and government funding could lead to a situation where Leeds is able to fend off the rising flood waters.

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