Minister to be quizzed over Leeds flood defences

Leeds MP Hilary Benn is to meet Environment Secretary Liz Truss to discuss floods on Wednesday
Leeds MP Hilary Benn is to meet Environment Secretary Liz Truss to discuss floods on Wednesday
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LEEDS MP Hilary Benn is to warn the Government the city cannot deliver its economic potential without further investment in flood defences.

Mr Benn will be part of a delegation of MPs which is due to meet Environment Secretary Liz Truss on Wednesday in the wake of the Boxing Day floods which hit the city. The Government has been criticised for not backing a comprehensive flood defence scheme put forward in 2011.

Mr Benn, the MP for Leeds Central and Environment Secretary in the last Labour government, said: “We will be going to say to the Government, ‘you’ve seen what’s happened, it was a mistake to say in 2011 we are not funding the full Leeds flood defence scheme’.”

To Ms Truss, he will say: “We now need a commitment from you that you will [fund the scheme] because we’ve got to protect the city and protect the businesses affected.”

Pointing to a commitment made by the Environment Secretary in early January that the Government would “review the Leeds scheme” to ensure that it is sufficient to protect “businesses and communities”, Mr Benn said that that he would hold her to account.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said Ms Truss would want to assesss if Leeds can cope with new levels of rainfall but whether a new scheme would be developed or previous proposals revisited could only be decided after a thorough investigation.

Ms Truss will discuss this with MPs on Wednesday, the spokesman said.

Before the latest flooding. work was already underway on a more limited flood defence scheme, which would be part-funded by Leeds City Council.

The defences will provide the city centre and more than 3,000 homes and 500 businesses with protection against flood events from the River Aire and the Hol Beck.