‘Unacceptable’ Leeds flood defence scheme delays

UNDERWATER: Kirkstall Road was among the worst-hit areas during the Boxing Day floods of 2015.
UNDERWATER: Kirkstall Road was among the worst-hit areas during the Boxing Day floods of 2015.
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An MP has criticised the Government for “woefully unacceptable” delays to Leeds’ flood defence scheme after a planned meeting was cancelled.

Plans to bolster the city’s flood protection were accelerated in 2015, after the Boxing Day floods devastated parts of Leeds when the River Aire burst its banks.

The first phase of the £50m Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme was officially opened in October last year, providing protection described as a “one in 100-year” standard, including repairs to the Knostrop by-wash and the construction of moveable weirs at Crown Point.

A business case, outlining the second phase of the scheme, had been submitted by Leeds City Council to the Government for approval.

However, Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves said a meeting to discuss the scheme with ministers this month has now been cancelled. The Environment Agency is reviewing the £112m second phase proposal.

Ms Reeves said: “This latest delay is woefully unacceptable.

“It will do nothing to reassure those hit by the terrible 2015 floods that their businesses, property and livelihoods are properly protected from floods.” It comes after Leeds City Council leader, Coun Judith Blake, told councillors at a Full Council meeting last week that their business case for the next phase would not be backed.

She said the council “received a letter back from the environment agency effectively telling us that they do not support the extent of the business case we have put forward”.

Adrian Gill, flood risk manager at the Environment Agency, said the body, sponsored by the Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), was “fully committed” to cutting flood risks.

He said: “We have recently written to Leeds City Council to confirm our review of their Outline Business Case and will continue to work with them to secure the best possible scheme for Leeds.”

A Defra spokesperson said: “We remain committed to better protect Leeds from flooding. We have already spent £33 million and have committed a further £35m between now and 2021 to better protect properties and businesses in Leeds.

“The Environment Agency continues to work closely with the City Council to find the best way forward to protect the city from flooding.

“Minister Coffey wrote to Rachel Reeves MP on 7 September with the offer of a meeting and we are waiting to hear back.”