Flood-hit businesses welcome vital work on River Aire defences

Flood-hit business owners in Leeds have welcomed the next phase of work on River Aire defences but urged the Government to spend more to fully safeguard the city.

Tuesday, 21st January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 21st January 2020, 10:29 am

Work began yesterday on phase two of the £112m Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme - drawn up in the aftermath of the devastating Storm Eva Boxing Day floods in 2015.

The latest phase will see defences built upstream of the city's railway station, along the so-called Kirkstall Corridor, which suffered most severely in the deluge four years ago.

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Flooding in Kirkstall Road, December 2015. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Hannah Tutin, one of the owners of The Climbing Lab, on Kirkstall Road, said: "I have seen the plans and I’m really positive and reassured that we will have really good defences around us, whereas at the moment we are really vulnerable.

"The river has been within a metre of coming over, three times last year. When it comes that close, we have to start preparing for the flood. So I’m really happy with the work planned, although obviously it will take some time to do."

However she joined politicians and council chiefs in calling on the Government to commit a further £25m to increase the city's protection level from a one-in-100 chance of flooding in any given year, to one-in-200 - equivalent to that of the 2015 Boxing Day floods.

She said: "It’s a higher cost to recover from than it is to protect. [Just] £25m in the scale of what the Government pays for is not so much, to be able to safeguard such a large and important city in the UK."

Hannah Tutin, of The Climbing Lab in Leeds

She added: "For me, since we flooded, I have been preparing for another flood. I have a long lease on this warehouse and I need to safeguard my business. I feel like it will happen again during the time of my business being here. The extra funding will double the protection, or cut the likelihood by 50 per cent. That would make me feel really at ease and really looked after by the council and the government. I would love for that to happen. It’s not just me - it’s the whole community of Kirkstall. Kirkstall is really developing - there are lots more independent businesses, lots of great cafes, restaurants - everyone would be just so knocked if it flooded again."

Azram Chaudhry, owner of Sheesh Mahal restaurant, on Kirkstall Road, which was left under 10ft of water in the flood, said: "I would like the city to be as safe as it can be. If they think that [extra funding] is needed for flood safety, then they should put that in place.

"It's so important. It's people's livelihoods. Since 2015 we have been living in fear. Every time it rains, my heart is blocked, just hoping the worst doesn't happen."

The Sheesh Mahal restaurant owner Azram Chaudhry. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe