Vital works to Leeds' flood defences given the go-ahead three years after Boxing Day devastation

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More than three years after Boxing Day floods devastated parts of Leeds, the second phase of flood defence works have been given the go-ahead.

Planning permission for the measures were today given the go-ahead at a Leeds City Council planning committee meeting.

Kirkstall under water in 2015.

Kirkstall under water in 2015.

The first step, starting this autumn, will use £65m of funding already secured from the Government, alongside additional financial support from Leeds City Council and partners.

This will reduce the risk of flooding along an eight kilometre stretch of the River Aire from Leeds city centre through the A65 Kirkstall Road corridor covering three key areas - Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills, Kirkstall Abbey and Kirkstall Meadows.

Works

The Environment Agency says the works at these locations will include

· At Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills, which suffered significant flood damage in 2015, the defence works include new protective walls, a new higher bridge to improve water flow and two new control structures on the goit which can close when the river levels become too high.

· A new structure will be built at Kirkstall Abbey in front of Kirkabbey Sluice Gates which will limit the amount of water during high river levels going down the goit channel. The structure will also be a walkway that could open up new views.

· The proposal at Kirkstall Meadows is to transform 2.4 hectares into a wetland habitat and also feature kingfisher banks, otter holts and wetland scrapes for fish. A new flood embankment will reduce flood risk to the adjacent railway line.

It will provide an initial level of protection against the threat of flooding from the River Aire which equates to a 1 in 100, or one per cent, chance of flooding in any given year.

Now that planning permission has been given, the council can award the contract that will see the detailed designs for the first step of phase two drawn up this summer, followed by work starting in the autumn.

Next phase funding battle

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves said: "This decision is great news for Kirkstall and the whole of Leeds more widely. Nearly three and half years after the devastating Boxing Day Floods, the council can finally start putting in place important flood measures that will protect homes and businesses."

However, the government is yet to commit the funds necessary to move forward with the next part of the project. That would see an additional 1-in-200 year level of protection and would defend Kirkstall against the level of flooding experienced on Boxing Day 2015.
Last week, Ms Reeves and Leeds City Council leader, Judith Blake, wrote to the Chancellor urging him to meet the £23m funding shortfall for Phase 2 in the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review.

They also invited the Chancellor to Leeds to see the council’s plans for the project and meet residents and businesses who will benefit.

Ms Reeves added: "The Government must now match the ambition shown by the council and provide the additional funding still needed to upgrade the project to a scheme which provides a 1-in-200 year level of protection. Only a 1-in-200 year scheme will protect Kirkstall from the severity of flooding experienced on Boxing Day 2015.

"The ball is now in the Government’s court. They must offer the funding in the next spending review and deliver on the commitments that ministers made to local people in the aftermath of the floods. The Leader of the Council and myself have made clear that we are keen to work constructively with the Government on this to get the job done."