Leeds facing a five-year wait for ‘adequate’ flood defences

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Communities and businesses in Leeds could be forced to wait another five years before they get “adequate” flood protection, it is feared.

The setback comes as new research lays out the full scale of the Boxing Day flooding devastation, and its impact on thousands of families across the city.

An updated report prepared for Leeds City Council’s cabinet reveals that a staggering 3,396 homes and businesses in the city were either directly flooded or affected by Storm Eva. These included 391 houses, 2,320 flats, 678 businesses and seven others such as churches and sports clubs.

City and Hunslet (2,701) and Kirkstall (377) were the two areas with the highest numbers of flood-hit properties, both residential and commercial.

The council also revealed today that £1.4m of funding support has already been given to flood hit homes and businesses in Leeds since the Boxing Day deluge. Around £1 million has been given to residents, and £400,000 to businesses.

However a recent letter to the council from the Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has delivered a new blow.

The letter, detailed in the report going to the council’s executive board next week, says an initial feasibility study into an enhanced flood defence scheme for the city could take 18-24 months to complete. And the report adds: “Taking into account required processes such as detailed design, acquiring planning permissions and procurement process, this could mean businesses and communities in Leeds being without adequate protection for some four to five years.

“We will seek to have this timescale significantly shortened to ensure businesses and communities are protected as soon as possible.”

The YEP has reported previously that city MPs and council leaders successfully lobbied the Government for a commitment to fund the feasibility study for enhanced work on the Leeds (River Aire) Flood Alleviation Scheme including providing Kirkstall the same level of protection as the City Centre and better protection overall from Newly Bridge to Woodlesford.

The Environment Agency has been tasked with preparing a “scoping” report by the end of March which will feed into a feasibility study brief, and which will “define the aspiration, extent and level of flood protection to be delivered in the city, including upstream measures beyond Leeds”.

Meanwhile Leeds City Council has started the process of completing a statutory detailed report into the causes and impact of Storm Eva, while ‘lessons learnt’ reviews are also underway at local and regional level.

Central government has already launched a national review which will be led by Oliver Letwin MP and will investigate the nation’s resilience to flood risk and make recommendations on a future investment strategy.

It is intended that Leeds will contribute as a member of the Core Cities UK group and independently.