Blow up barrier plan to stop Leeds floods

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TWO deflatable weirs on the River Aire, which could be lowered at times of heavy rainfall, form the centrepiece of a radical plan to prevent a devastating flood in Leeds.

The Environment Agency is examining a £10m proposal to transform the weirs at Knostrop in Cross Green and Crown Point Bridge in Hunslet into moveable flood barriers.

The flood risk facing Leeds is exacerbated by a series of weirs along the River Aire, which keep the river’s water level artificially high to allow easier navigation by boats.

Under plans drawn up by engineering firm Arup, the two weirs would be rebuilt and each consist of a metal barrier sitting on top of an air-bag structure below the water level.

These airbags could be deflated at times of dangerously high water levels, lowering the height of the weir.

Engineers believe this would help prevent the river bursting its banks following a heavy rainfall.

The blueprint was yesterday presented to Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman during a “Leeds flood summit” in Westminster attended by MPs, councillors and business chiefs.

The coalition has previously rejected a huge £190m flood defence scheme, which have and protected thousands of homes and businesses,

The “moveable weir” plan would be the first phase of an incremental approach at bolstering the Aire’s flood defences. The city centre is currently vulnerable to flooding once every two to five years. The new weirs would protect it from a one-in-75 year flood.

Leeds came within centimetres of a huge flood in 2000 and narrowly escaped widescale disaster during the extensive flooding of 2007.