Leeds Boxing Day floods: Looking back on the day that changed our city forever
We take a look back on that fateful Boxing Day in 2015 that most people in Leeds did not see coming, and one that the city may never forget.
The surreal image of shops on Kirkstall Road submerged under murky rainwater after the almighty downpour on Boxing Day 2015 will be a lasting one.
Devastated business owners and residents paid the price in this city - just one area of West Yorkshire to face the expensive and emotional brunt of Storm Eva’s after-effects that Christmas holiday.The deluge battered 3,355 properties in Leeds, 672 of which were businesses.
Before December 2015, the closest comparison to such conditions was in 2000 when around 100 properties in the city flooded.
But as shops, restaurants and bars prepared for a bustling Boxing Day almost three years ago, the Environment Agency issued a red warning – its highest alert.
This signalled “significant impacts to infrastructure and risk to life in the area,” it said.
Parts of the city centre, including Sovereign Street, The Calls and Clarence Dock, felt the full force of the deluge as the evening wore on.The River Aire at Leeds Crown Point, which is usually 0.9 metres high, rose to 2.95 metres at 1am on December 27.
Its previous high was 2.45 metres, recorded in June 2007.
Other areas affected in the city centre as the flooding continued included Neptune Street, Asda House, Canal Wharf and the Brewery.
Ultimately, the direct cost to the city was an estimated Â£36.8m, with the cost to the wider city region being more than Â£500m, according to Leeds City Council.Judith Blake, the authority’s leader, said at the time: “The Christmas floods of 2015 caused devastation to communities and businesses in Leeds and across the region, but the response both immediately and in terms of the recovery which followed showed off the very best of our community spirit and a real teamwork approach by all agencies to help people get back on their feet.”
Plans to bolster the city’s flood protection were accelerated after the floods devastated parts of Leeds.
The first phase of the Â£50m Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme was officially opened in October 2017, providing protection described as a “one in 100-year” standard, including repairs to the Knostrop by-wash and the construction of moveable weirs at Crown Point.
A business case, outlining the second phase of the scheme, had been submitted by Leeds City Council to the Government for approval.
However, Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves said a meeting to discuss the scheme was cancelled.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn backed a bid to get millions more in funding promised by the Government for flood defences recently, saying while on a visit to The Climbing Lab on Kirkstall Industrial Park: “I was in this very place in December 2015 , when it was being flooded and the volunteers were amazing, the community support was fantastic.
“Unless the Government now funds the next stage of flood protection for Leeds then there are going to be problems ahead.
“In January 2016 I asked David Cameron in Prime Minister’s Question Time for a guarantee for the flood protection scheme in Leeds.“He promised it would be funded, he said there would be no problem with central government money for flood protection.
“Here we are now nearly three years on, and it still hasn’t happened."