Leeds Boxing Day floods: Flood defence schemes bring hope five years after devastation

"Ambitious" plans to drastically cut the risk of flooding in Leeds are well underway - five years after the Boxing Day floods that devastated the city.

Saturday, 26th December 2020, 6:00 am
Kirkstall Road at the end of 2015.

The deluge that resulted from Storm Eva battered homes and businesses, costing Leeds an estimated £36.8million.

The flooding, which saw Kirkstall Road submerged in water, was the worst in a generation.

But five years on, there is hope that the long-called for flood defences which are currently being built will make flooding a one in two hundred year event.

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Flood defences being built on the way to Kirkstall.

A £112.1million scheme to better protect the A65 Kirkstall Road corridor and areas of Apperley Bridge will protect 1,048 homes and 474 businesses.

The Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS) Phase 2 is now using traditional engineering and natural flood management techniques to reduce risks.

Step one will see flood defence walls running along an 8km stretch upstream of Leeds Train Station and will reduce the risk of flooding to a one per cent chance of occurring in any given year, including an allowance for climate change.

Step two, subject to planning permission, will reduce the risk of flooding further to a 0.5 per cent probability (1 in 200) and will be made up of a flood storage area between Horsforth and Rawdon, alongside flood defence walls, embankments and a new pumping station at Apperley Bridge.

The River Aire, which flooded in 2015.

The work follows completion of the first phase of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme in October 2017, where flood defences were installed along the River Aire in Leeds for the first time.

In July of this year, an additional £21 million was secured for the second phase of Leeds FAS, helping plug a previous £23.7m shortfall.

She said: “It may be five years since the floods of 2015, but my constituents still face the prospect of yet another winter of sleepless nights worrying if their homes and businesses will be hit by a repeat of those terrible floods – which, with the pandemic could not come at a worse time.

"It was an extremely difficult time for those affected communities, and I know it is something no one wants to go back to.

“With predictions that the next two months could be wetter than usual, it is vital the Government stops dithering and ensures Leeds gets confirmation that funds are finally on the way for Phase Two of the River Aire Flood Alleviation Scheme.”

From this month, residents in Mickletown, who were severely affected from property flooding following Storm Eva, are benefiting from a new £800,000 flood alleviation scheme.

In spring next year, the £3.3m Otley Flood Alleviation Scheme will also begin construction.

Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “There is no doubt that together with our partners, we have made great strides in our efforts to protect this part of the city from flooding.

"Whilst it’s been an incredibly challenging year for everyone, we have pushed ahead, adapting to new ways of working with a vigour that we can be truly proud of.

"We must not forget the devastation of Storm Eva. Instead, we must use this awful memory as a way to drive forward our ambitious plans to respond to the risks facing our city due to the climate emergency.”

Adrian Gill, flood risk manager at the Environment Agency said: “The fifth anniversary of the 2015 Boxing Day floods acts as a stark reminder of the devastation flooding can cause to people, property, infrastructure and the local economy.

"Since then, we have worked closely with Leeds City Council to develop the best possible flood alleviation scheme for Leeds.

“We continue to work at pace on this second phase of the scheme, which is combining hard flood defences with flood storage and ambitious natural flood management measures to slow the flow of water upstream on the Aire river catchment.

"As well as reducing flood risk, this catchment based approach will create new habitats, increase biodiversity, improve water quality and create climate resilient places.”

Leeds FAS2 is due to be complete in winter 2022/23.