Flood hit Leeds bar and restaurant owners tell of fears over Storm Christoph

The owners of previously flood-hit Leeds businesses have spoken of their fears as Storm Christoph is set to bring heavy rain and flooding to Yorkshire.
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Aire Bar owner Chris Howard is so worried about the risk of flooding that he worked long hours over the weekend to take all the furniture and equipment out of the premises.

A Met Office Amber weather warning is in place for West Yorkshire until Thursday January 21.

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Mr Howard said his bar - next to the River Aire on The Calls in Leeds city centre - has suffered varying degrees of flooding on four occasions since the Boxing Day floods of 2015 caused major damage to his and other businesses.

Azram Chaudhry pictured in the flood damaged cellar kitchens of  Sheesh Mahal restaurant on Kirkstall Road after the 2015 Boxing Day floods.

Picture Jonathan GawthorpeAzram Chaudhry pictured in the flood damaged cellar kitchens of  Sheesh Mahal restaurant on Kirkstall Road after the 2015 Boxing Day floods.

Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe
Azram Chaudhry pictured in the flood damaged cellar kitchens of Sheesh Mahal restaurant on Kirkstall Road after the 2015 Boxing Day floods. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

Mr Howard said it remains to be seen if flood defences - which have been put in place on the River Aire since the 2015 Boxing Day floods - can withstand a flooding event on that scale.

In 2017, contractors working for Leeds City Council installed flood proof windows and doors at his bar, but they failed to stop water getting in during Storm Ciara in February 2020.

Mr Howard said the windows and doors have since been improved, but they too remain untested.

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Mr Howard said: "It is a double whammy for us. We have got lockdown and are closed.

Aire Bar manager Colin Deakin pictured outside the bar on The Calls following Storm Ciara in February 2020.Aire Bar manager Colin Deakin pictured outside the bar on The Calls following Storm Ciara in February 2020.
Aire Bar manager Colin Deakin pictured outside the bar on The Calls following Storm Ciara in February 2020.

"We have pretty much lost a year's worth of trade and, just to add to our worries, now we are looking at flooding again."

"Noone wants a repeat of the Boxing Day floods, but until that happens it is unknown how effective the work that has been done will be."

Commenting on how Covid has affected his business, Mr Howard said "It has been horrendous. We are clinging on, literally.

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"We lost 80 per cent of our trade last year. It's not a very good start to 2021, with no end in sight. The promised light at the end of the tunnel for hospitality feels a long way off."

Azram Chaudhry owns the Sheesh Mahal restuarant on Kirkstall Road, which suffered devastating damage in the Boxing Day 2015 floods when water reached the ceiling in cellar kitchens.

The business was closed for 15 months and Mr Chaudhry said the flood cost the business more than £300,000.

It is the restaurant’s basement which is vulnerable to flooding from overflowing drains, with sandbags providing little protection.

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Mr Chaudhry said he is worried about Storm Christoph, adding: "I'm very concerned, but what can we do. It is basically fingers crossed at the moment. That's all it is, there's nothing else we can do. We just hope for the best."

Mr Chaudhry said the restaurant is closed due to Covid restrictions, but is offering takeaways four days a week as a service to customers.

A Leeds City Council spokesperson said: "A Met Office Amber weather warning is in place for West Yorkshire until Thursday 21 January, as Storm Christoph slowly moves into Leeds.

"While the rivers are acting slower than anticipated, the situation will change rapidly if we encounter an isolated patch of intense rainfall. Our flood risk duty team are working closely with our partners across the city to monitor the position over the next few days, and other teams from across the Council are ready to provide assistance as and when required.

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“If you live in a flood risk area, it is important to be prepared for possible flooding, such as by signing up to the free flood warning service from the Environment Agency and creating a flood plan. Our dedicated webpage also include a range of help and advice for those at risk.”

The first phase of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS) was completed in October 2017 after flood defences were installed along the River Aire in Leeds for the first time.

Last July an additional £21m was secured for the second phase of Leeds FAS, helping to plug a previous £23.7m shortfall.

The £112.1m scheme is designed to better protect the A65 Kirkstall Road corridor and areas of Apperley Bridge

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The Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS) Phase 2 will use traditional engineering and natural flood management techniques to reduce risks.

Step one will see flood defence walls running along an eight-kilometre stretch upstream of Leeds Train Station and will reduce the risk of flooding to a one per cent chance of occurring in any given year, including an allowance for climate change.

Step two is planned reduce the risk of flooding further to a 0.5 per cent probability (one in 200) and will be made up of a flood storage area between Horsforth and Rawdon, alongside flood defence walls, embankments and a new pumping station at Apperley Bridge.