Commit to £140m flood protection in Leeds City Region, Government told

A regional leader has called on the Government to commit £141 million to support new flood defence works to protect thousands of homes and businesses as well as vital infrastructure.

By John Blow
Tuesday, 3rd September 2019, 7:00 am
Coun Susan Hinchcliffe.
Coun Susan Hinchcliffe.

Chairwoman of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), Coun Susan Hinchcliffe, has written to ministers ahead of tomorrow’s Spending Review asking for financial backing for the Flood Alleviation to Unlock Economic Growth Programme.

It follows the first phase of the programme, which supported schemes providing enhanced flood protection for communities in the Leeds City Region following the devastation caused by the Boxing Day Floods in 2015.

Large parts of Calderdale and the Kirkstall Road area of Leeds suffered flooding after downpours in the days after Christmas that year.

Kirkstall Road after the Boxing Day floods in 2015.

WYCA estimates that the programme, which would begin in 2021, would protect around 3,300 businesses, 5,300 homes and more than 32,000 jobs.

Furthermore, it would unlock development land which could provide 7,500 new homes and create 525 new jobs, adding an estimated £100 million to the City Region economy over the next ten years, argues the body.

The programme involves a number of major projects including flood alleviation schemes in Tadcaster, Keighley and Hebden Bridge.

If successful, £135 million would be invested in 29 such schemes worth a total capital value of £282 million.

The rest of the funding would be invested in a £6 million natural flood management programme.

In her submission sent to the Treasury and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Coun Hinchliffe said: “Leeds City Region is at a unique stage in its development with a series of key infrastructure investments coming forward in the future e.g. HS2, NPR [Northern Powerhouse Rail] and Housing Infrastructure Fund.

“It is critical that this investment is resilient and safeguarded.

“The City Region has a strong track record of delivering innovative and complex flood resilience management schemes on budget.”

It comes after Leeds West MP for Labour, Rachel Reeves, last month wrote to new Environment Secretary, Theresa Villiers, to say that residents and businesses in the Kirkstall still face a “high risk of flood damage because of the ongoing delay”.

The chairwoman of the Commons Business Select Committee said warnings about the dangers of climate change had been “brought into sharp focus” by the intense flash flooding that wrought havoc in the Yorkshire Dales recently.

In Leeds, civic leaders say only what is known as a one-in-200 year level of protection – infrastructure needed for areas where there is a 0.5 per cent or greater annual probability of flooding in any year – would defend Kirkstall from the flooding seen in 2015, which damaged 700 businesses and nearly 3,000 homes at a cost of £36.8m.

The Government has committed £65m in funding towards Phase Two of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme but £25.3m remains to be found, meaning Leeds City Council is trying to find another source of funding.

Work is due to start on part one of the plan, which would offer a one-in-100 year protection against flooding.