ENVIRONMENT SECRETARY Liz Truss has warned it will take time to deliver new flood defences for Leeds but insisted the Government is committed to ensuring the city is better protected.
The minister insisted she understood the desire in the city to see improvements made quickly after the devastation caused by the Boxing Day floods.
Work is already underway on flood measures in the city centre and this week’s Budget included £35 million towards a second phase on the stretch of the Aire up to Newlay Bridge.
But the money is only half the expected £65 million cost and construction is unlikely to start for several years as design and planning work is completed.
Visiting Leeds today, Ms Truss insisted the Government was “committed to making it happen”.
She told the YEP: “I totally get it and I want to see it done as soon as possible as well,
“We need to make sure it’s done right though and we need to make sure we do have the proper planning permission in place, the engineering and design work in place, we need to make sure it is what the community want.”
She added: “We saw the flooding caused by the Aire but it’s also a positive asset to the city so we don’t want to cut the Aire off so people can’t use it and enjoy it.
“We have to have a scheme that addresses all of those issues. That takes time to get right but certainly we want to progress it as soon as we can.”
The Coalition Government refused to back a £180 million flood defence scheme and instead, with Leeds City Council, funded the more modest £45 million project now underway which is due to be completed next March.
Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves said the £35 million now being promised was only “a quarter of what we think is needed”
She said: “It’s good that we have got some money but nothing like what we need to provide the protection required.
“I don’t think they realise how devastating the floods were and the impact they are still having.”
Duffield Printers and ThyssenKrupp Woodhead have both closed in the wake of the Boxing Day floods and several shops on Kirkstall Road have yet to re-open.
Ms Reeves added: “I am worried we are going to have a second rate scheme rather than the protection homes and businesses need.”