Floods fight showed Leeds at the very best

Flooding in Kirkstall Road.
Flooding in Kirkstall Road.
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THE figures tell their own stark tale about the scale of the damage inflicted on Leeds during Boxing Day’s floods.

Around 3,300 properties flooded. About £9m of damage to roads and other infrastructure. More than £3m distributed in support to affected businesses. People in 30 households across the city still, even now, unable to return to their homes.

But those figures, remarkable as they are, only give half a story. For behind them lie countless examples of people pulling together to help family, friends and neighbours battle through the worst flooding in West Yorkshire since the Second World War.

And today, six months on from Storm Eva and the massive problems that accompanied it, civic chiefs paid fresh tribute to the resilience of the residents of Leeds.

Leeds City Council leader Coun Judith Blake told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “People have come together showing incredible grit, determination and community spirit to get their families back home, businesses back on their feet and help clean up their communities.

“Even with the support available in the last six months, sadly there are still some people who can’t get home or into their premises due to the sheer scale of work needed to rectify the utterly devastating impact of the floods.

“We can only imagine how heartbreaking this is.

“Residents and businesses need to be confident that they’ll have the financial and physical protection they need.

“That’s why it’s vital that we continue to press for changes so people have the right level of insurance and that, with our partners, we crack on with the feasibility study that will allow the flood defences Leeds needs and deserves to be installed with all haste.”

The £3m feasibility study mentioned by Coun Blake was approved by the council in April and is being funded by the Environment Agency.

It will look at the possibility of extending the soon-to-be completed £45m Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme – which will initially cover the River Aire in the city centre and Holbeck – upstream to protect Kirkstall.

But if the extension does get the go-ahead, it could still be at least four years until it is actually put in place.

One man hoping there is no repeat of Boxing Day’s events in the meantime is Alex Koi, who runs the FrameGame picture framing business off Kirkstall Road.

His premises were left under three feet of water, causing thousands of pounds of damage not covered by his insurance.

It took Mr Koi a month to reopen his business and he admitted: “If the same thing happened tomorrow, then it would be difficult to bounce back again.”

Recalling the moment he first saw the havoc wreaked by the floods, Mr Koi said: “It was a bad time but you just get on with it, don’t you? I didn’t have any choice. My mates came down and cleaned up with me – it was hard work but we got there.”

The support Mr Koi received from his friends was mirrored by the city-wide response to the YEP-backed Leeds Flood Appeal. Set up by the Leeds Community Foundation charity to help households, social enterprises and other groups, to date it has raised more than £300,000.

Leeds Community Foundation chief executive Sally-Anne Greenfield said: “We have been overwhelmed by the response from local people, as well as companies and individuals from across the country.

“People not only gave money to the appeal, but have offered their time to help with clean-up efforts across Leeds. We are very proud that we have been able to provide key support and grants to allow people to get back on their feet.”