Fresh call for Government to release millions of pounds for flood defence work in Leeds

Politicians in Leeds have called on Chancellor Philip Hammond to visit the city as they seek to break a multi-million pound deadlock over flood protection funding.

Wednesday, 29th May 2019, 3:02 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th May 2019, 4:59 pm
The aftermath of 2015's flooding in Kirkstall.

Leeds City Council and the Environment Agency are preparing to start work on the second phase of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme, which is designed to deliver improved defences in Kirkstall as well as places along the River Aire to its upper catchment.

The Government has made around £65m available for the scheme – but a funding gap of £23.3m needs to be bridged before it offers the one-in-200-year level of protection wanted by civic chiefs.

Now Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves and council leader Coun Judith Blake have sent a joint letter to Mr Hammond asking him to come and find out more about the proposed work, which aims to prevent any repeat of the floods chaos unleashed in the city by Storm Eva four years ago.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

They believe the visit could persuade him to release extra funds for the Leeds scheme in the Government's next spending review.

In the letter, Ms Reeves and Coun Blake say: "[The] brutal reality is that homes and businesses in Kirkstall are still at high risk of flood damage because of the ongoing delay in delivering this scheme.

"We therefore urge you to consider our request for additional funding in the Comprehensive Spending Review to meet the £23.3m shortfall.

"We would also like to invite you up to Leeds to see our plans for the project and meet residents and businesses affected.

"It is our hope that we can work constructively together to mitigate the flood risk and ensure that homes and businesses are protected for the future."

Phase one of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme – which put new defences in place in the city centre and Woodlesford – was completed in 2017.

Work on the second phase of the scheme – which as things stand will only offer a one-in-100-year level of protection – is due to get under way later this year, assuming it wins planning permission.

Storm Eva hit the city on Boxing Day in 2015, leaving 3,300 properties flooded and causing £9m of damage to roads and other infrastructure.

Responding to a previous call from Ms Reeves for additional funds to be released, a spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said in December: “The 2015 Boxing Day floods are a devastating reminder of the damage flooding can cause, which is why we are already investing heavily to provide better flood protection for the city.

“Since the floods, we have invested more than £30m in a scheme to better protect the city centre and a further £65m for a second phase to protect a wider area including Kirkstall Road.”