‘Trust us to deliver the flood defences Leeds is entitled to’

Environment Agency flood recovery team members by the new flood defences along the river in Dock Street. PIC: Tony Johnson
Environment Agency flood recovery team members by the new flood defences along the river in Dock Street. PIC: Tony Johnson
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Trust us to give you the best, most comprehensive flood defences as quickly as possible. That’s the overall message from the Government team heading up the city’s response to the massive devastation of the Boxing Day floods.

Adrian Gill is the Environment Agency’s area flood risk manager for West and South Yorkshire.

He is a senior member of the team tasked with investigating and helping produce the city’s promised feasibility study into a comprehensive flood defence system, to replace the Government scheme abandoned in 2011.

Speaking to the YEP after fears about long delays in building the enhanced scheme, he pledged everything would be done to ensure it is accelerated.

“We will develop a scheme, we will do the consultations, we will get the approvals and we will get to point where if the funding materialises, we can start on site,” he said.

He also warned that the flood-risk factor has to be a huge part of the city’s future vision for developments like the South Bank and Kirkstall Forge.

Asked if there was ever a danger of over-developing cities –and risking engaging in a losing fight with nature – he said: “We do need to be careful how we develop the city in the future, but that’s already built into the planning process. We would be very keen to keep new developments out of the immediate flood plain in favour of viable alternatives.”

Mr Gill’s department will ultimately be responsible for designing the city’s enhanced flood defences. It will also continue to administer Government funding for future and ongoing work.

He explains lots of smaller projects are already under way and completed as part of the first phase of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS), a watered down version of the bigger Government scheme cancelled in 2011.

The £45m FAS project is still one of the largest river flood defence schemes in the country, with major construction work along the River Aire in the city centre and Holbeck extending 4.3km. It also includes the installation of moveable weirs at Crown Point and Knostrop, the first of their kind in the UK.

The project, expected to finish in March 2017, will protect more than 3,000 homes and 500 businesses.

Mr Gill explained that what the city will ultimately get is “somewhere in between” the FAS and the abandoned project.

He stressed that “lots of work” has already happened in preparation for the FAS and its predecessor, adding: “The next phase of work will build on everything that’s gone before but also explore opportunities to ultimately come up with the best possible solution for Leeds, which gives a high standard of protection but one which also fits with all the city’s other aspirations.”