Leeds in call for £3m to fund work on floods

PUT your money where your mouth is '“ that's the message from Leeds to the Government as the fallout continues from last month's floods.
DECEMBER 2015: Flooding in Kirkstall Road at Viaduct Road. PIC: Bruce RollinsonDECEMBER 2015: Flooding in Kirkstall Road at Viaduct Road. PIC: Bruce Rollinson
DECEMBER 2015: Flooding in Kirkstall Road at Viaduct Road. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

Council bosses have confirmed they are seeking £3m from ministers so preparatory and design work can begin on an extension to a flood defence scheme already under construction in the city.

The project is due for completion in 2017 but will only cover a two-mile stretch of the River Aire running south-east from the centre of Leeds to Thwaite Mills, with additional defences in Woodlesford.

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The extension being proposed by the council would also provide vital protection to homes and businesses along Kirkstall Road – one of the areas hit hardest by Boxing Day’s floods.

Leeds City Council leader Coun Judith Blake said: “As the clean-up and recovery continues, our next priority as a city is to examine the lessons we need to learn, and to have the necessary debates and discussions as quickly as possible, including doing everything in our power to persuade [the Government] for immediate action on providing Leeds with comprehensive flood defences.

“Their positive words ... now need to be followed up with actions – not in a few months or years but in days or weeks.”

Details of the request for funding are outlined in a report on the floods that is being presented to a meeting of the council’s decision-making executive board on Wednesday. The report also reveals:

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* More than 150 structures, including bridges and retaining walls, have to be assessed in Leeds for damage caused by the deluge;

* Leeds has received £4.66m from the Government since the floods to fund grant schemes for affected residents and businesses;

* Plans are being drawn up to investigate how to make the wider city, including communities along the River Wharfe, more resilient to flooding.

Last month’s floods were the worst in West Yorkshire for 70 years. In Leeds alone, around 1,700 homes and 500 businesses were caught up in the chaos.

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Prime Minister David Cameron dismissed suggestions of a North-South divide in flood defence funding in the aftermath of the crisis.

Leader of Leeds City Council, Coun Judith Blake, met with the region’s new flooding envoy Robert Goodwill this week.

She told the YEP: “During the meeting with Robert Goodwill MP this week we got across the scale of what had happened in Leeds and pressed the urgent need for funding for a comprehensive flood defence scheme.

“We are determined to keep the pressure on government to ensure we get a commitment for Leeds and to make sure we don’t see a repeat of the 2011 situation where funding for a full proposed scheme was rejected by the government.

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“We will be making the most robust case possible when we meet the Secretary of State in London next week, as we urgently need defences to protect people, businesses and properties along the Aire through Kirkstall.

“We will also be bringing the plight of residents affected by the flooding of the Wharfe and the Calder to Ministers’ attention, so they don’t forget there were three rivers in the Leeds area that flooded following Storm Eva.”