Leeds city centre flood defences plan submitted

UNDER WATER: The River Aire overflows its banks in June 2007. PIC: Mel Hulme
UNDER WATER: The River Aire overflows its banks in June 2007. PIC: Mel Hulme
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Plans have been submitted for stage one of a major flood defence scheme to protect Leeds city centre.

And council bosses hope that if the application gets the go ahead within the next few months, work could get under way in just over a year.

The city centre, widely considered a key driver of the regional economy, currently has no formal flood defences and has come perilously close to flooding on five occasions since 2000.

A £188m River Aire flood alleviation scheme stretching over 17km from Horsforth to Woodlesford failed to attract government support and over the past two years the council and Environment Agency have been working on a £50m-£75m phase one project to provide protection in the city centre.

Stage one, for which the planning application has been submitted, would remove the existing weirs at Knostrop and Crown Point and replace them with moveable weirs. Later work would include walls and landscaped raised defences and removal of the Knostrop Cut to merge the river and the Aire and Calder Navigation.

The current 19th century weirs hold the river level artificially high to allow navigation. When there is danger of flooding, the moveable weirs will be lowered allowing the river level to be lowered,

Once the risk is over, they will be raised again so that boats can navigate the river.

The council earlier this year agreed a £10m contribution to help kick-start the scheme and it was announced recently the city was to receive £4m from the government-backed regional growth fund to help with flood prevention work.

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Further cash support could come from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and a bid has also been made to the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). In the longer term contributions could come from the private sector through legal agreements attached to planning consents.

Coun Richard Lewis, executive councillor for development, said a flood in Leeds could have a devastating impact on the regional economy.

Date: 3rd January 2018.
Picture James Hardisty.
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