Leeds leaders submit £112m plan for city flood defences - but they're still short of funding

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A planning application for flood defences costing £112m in Yorkshire’s biggest city has been submitted despite the project facing a major funding gap.

Leeds City Council and the Environment Agency have put forward plans for phase two of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme, a two-step process that officials say would give one-in-200-year protection in a bid to stop a repeat of the 2015 Boxing Day floods.

Thousands of homes and businesses were damaged by floods in Leeds in 2015

Thousands of homes and businesses were damaged by floods in Leeds in 2015

A range of measures have been put forward to reduce the risk of flooding along an 8.6-mile (14-kilometre) stretch along the River Aire catchment.

But the level of funding available for the scheme is in doubt, after government officials said earlier this year that the city’s request for funds “did not offer value for money to the taxpayer”.

Political leaders in Leeds say the alternative proposed by government only offers protection for a one-in-75-year flood.

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A plan for what one of the flood defence sites might look like.

A plan for what one of the flood defence sites might look like.

The package offered by the Government would be worth around £65m, which city leaders say is £47.1m short of what is needed to prevent the 2015 floods. Through local contributions, Leeds City Council is underwriting £28.5m towards the one-in-200-year scheme, meaning a further £18.6m is needed to bridge the gap.

In October, seven Leeds MPs representing Labour and the Conservatives joined city council leader Judith Blake and Tory opposition leader Andrew Carter in a meeting with Floods Minister Therese Coffey over the issue.

Though the funding shortfall has yet to be resolved, a planning application was submitted this month. If approved, work to deliver the first step, a one-in-100 year level of protection, is expected to start next summer.

The plans feature measures such as new defence walls, embankments and a large flood storage area.

Coun Blake said: “This planning application is an important step in our commitment to providing Leeds with the level of flood defences it needs.

“If it is approved, it would mean we can get on with starting the work we can carry out now, which is vital to provide our residents and businesses with reassurance and confidence as we come up on three years since the devastation caused by the impact of Storm Eva.

“We will continue to pursue all options to secure the remaining funding to deliver the scheme to one-in-200-year level in full.”

Flood risk manager at the Environment Agency, Adrian Gill said: “The joint project team have worked hard to get to this point. We are keen, through this consultation process, to understand what the public think about the proposed scheme.

"If approved, it will enable our team to begin works at pace, extending the level of protection in the city centre out to the Kirkstall area, whilst we continue to work towards our ambition of a 1-in-200-year level of protection from the River Aire for the whole city.”

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves said: “The council’s plans are welcome and I am pleased that they are getting on with the job.

"The same cannot be said for the Government who, nearly three years on from the Storm Eva floods, are still refusing to provide Leeds with the funding for flood protection that it was promised.

"Leeds cannot afford further dither or delay. The Government must now cough up the money to help transform this plan into a 1-in-200 year scheme that is capable of protecting the city from the level of flooding experienced on Boxing Day 2015”

The Storm Eva flooding, which began on December 26, 2015, damaged more than 700 commercial properties and nearly 3,000 homes at a cost of £36.8m.

Phase One of the flood alleviation scheme began in 2014 and was completed in October 2017, at a cost of £50m.

The Environment Agency said its staff had worked hard on the latest scheme and wanted to hear from residents via a consultation launched this month.