Leeds field becomes 'living lab' following installation of new flood defences

New flood defences have been installed at the Brownlee Triathlon Centre in Leeds, which organisers say will help protect more than 1,000 nearby homes.

By Richard Beecham
Friday, 20th May 2022, 4:30 pm

The works, which include planting 5,000 trees, creating leaky barriers and installing new pond and wetland areas forms part of phase two of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme, and is now complete.

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The environment agency says it will better protect 1,048 homes and 474 businesses from flooding along the River Aire, as it his hoped the measures will help slow the flow of water and increase flood resilience in the area.

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A balancing pond at the site.

It is claimed the scheme is the first of its kind in the country, it forms part of a catchment wide approach to make the district more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

The project has been delivered through a collaboration between the Environment Agency, Leeds City Council and the University of Leeds.

A statement from the agency claims Bodington fields now offers a "living lab" for teaching and researching at the University of Leeds and is a centre of excellence for natural flood management measures.

Adrian Gill, area flood risk manager at the Environment Agency, said: "It’s great to see the finished product of the Natural Flood Management Programme at the Brownlee Triathlon Centre, an important component of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme.

“As the country faces a national and global climate emergency, restoring our natural environment will also help us reach net zero emissions in the future.

“Not only do natural flood management techniques help make Leeds more resilient to climate change and capture tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere, but they also enhance biodiversity and provide wider benefits for local wildlife.

“We’re excited for visitors to see the work that has taken place at this new centre of excellence, and to learn more about how different natural solutions can be used to help reduce the risk of flooding along the River Aire.”

Coun Helen Hayden (Lab), Leeds City Council’s Executive Member for Infrastructure and Climate, said: “Many of us remember the devastating flooding on Boxing Day 2015, when the River Aire burst its banks and caused damage throughout Leeds. Flooding as recently as this February also serves as a stark reminder of why the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme Phase 2 is so vital to those who live and work in the area, now and in the future. The engineering works stretching from Leeds Train Station to Apperley Bridge are key to the resilience of the city, but just as integral is the catchment wide Natural Flood Management Programme.

“We all need to play our part in combating the climate emergency and the innovative NFM techniques trialled here will allow us to develop the gold standard of NFM and encourage wider use on both Leeds FAS2 and wider projects. The works will capture carbon, help us to reach our goals to combat the climate emergency, and create and preserve areas for wellbeing for our citizens and habitat for our wildlife.”

Michael Howroyd, Sustainability Projects Officer at the University of Leeds, added: “The site at Bodington Fields will be invaluable to academics and students, providing hands on research opportunities and data, whilst also providing benefits for local residents, biodiversity and climate.

“The project is a fantastic example of how collaboration across stakeholders can make use of University land as a living lab for world class research and teaching, which will have an impact across the wider city region and beyond.”