Leeds MP Rachel Reeves says 'precious little' done over flooding after climate change warning

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A Leeds MP has reasserted the need for upgraded flood defences in the city as the Environment Agency (EA) warned that at least £1 billion a year needs to be spent in the face of climate change.

EA chairwoman Emma Howard Boyd said urgent action was needed to tackle more frequent, intense flooding and sea level rises driven by rising temperatures, and called for more resilient homes and infrastructure.

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves.

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves.

An average annual investment of £1 billion will be needed over the next 50 years in England for traditional defences such as barriers and sea walls, which could be funded by a mixture of government and private sources.

The warning comes as the government agency publishes its long-term strategy for managing the risk of flood and coastal erosion.

But launching the strategy at Brunel University in London, Ms Howard Boyd also warned "we cannot win a war against water" by building ever-higher flood defences, and efforts are needed to make communities more resilient to flooding.

Ms Howard Boyd said that homes hit by flooding need to be "built back better", with improvements such as raised electrics and hard flooring, while some communities may have to be helped to move in the face of growing risks.

Kirkstall flooding in late 2015. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

Kirkstall flooding in late 2015. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

Reacting to this, Leeds West MP for Labour, Rachel Reeves, took aim at the Government.

She said: “Climate change means that the risk of flooding is only going to increase.

"The Government needs to do much more to protect our communities. It's been well over three years since the Boxing Day floods had a devastating impact in Leeds and parts of Yorkshire, yet the Government has failed abysmally to honour its pledges to protect homes and businesses.

"Planting more trees upstream, better flood defences and measures to make homes more resilient to floods are part of the answer.

"But the Government is doing precious little to make this happen. People and businesses like those in my constituency are being failed by this Government which is refusing to invest in proper flood defences to ease their fears of being washed out by the next major flood."

Under the second phase of Leeds City Council's Flood Alleviation Scheme, the authority is working with the EA to provide natural flood management techniques to help slow the flow of the River Aire.

Alongside engineering works such as flood walls and a flood storage area, it is aimed at cutting flood risk and provide better protection for 1,048 homes and 474 businesses

The Government said it is providing billions of pounds nationally over six years.

Environment Minister Therese Coffey said: "Flooding and coastal erosion can have terrible consequences for people, businesses and the environment.

"That's why we are already providing £2.6 billion over six years, delivering more than 1,500 projects to better protect 300,000 homes.

"But the threat of climate change will mean an increasing risk and preparing the country is a priority for the Government, and the nation as a whole."

The Government will be launching a call for evidence to inform future action towards flood and coastal erosion risks, she said.