A Leeds city councillor has spoken out against a decision to build an industrial estate on a flood plain in Keighley, claiming people in Leeds could suffer, writes Richard Beecham.
Bradford Council voted this week to approve the plans for an industrial park off Royd Ings Avenue, next to the River Aire, despite concerns from the Environment Agency it could create a higher risk of floods further down the river in Shipley and Bingley.
Parts of Leeds – including Kirkstall, Rodley, Burley and Armley – were left under several feet of water when the River Aire broke its banks thanks to Storm Eva on Boxing Day 2015.
Armley Mills closed due to the Boxing Day floods
The decision to build on the flood plain was made just hours before Leeds City Council’s development plan panel discussed plans for a £112m scheme to reduce the risk of flooding further down the River Aire.
Leeds councillor Barry Anderson (Con), who sits on the panel, said he felt the decision was unfair on Leeds. He said:
“We have a duty of co-operation – we should be working together and we should not be making decisions without communicating with each other.
“If people get it wrong in Bradford, it’s likely to be Leeds people that suffer, so yes, I do have concerns.
“We should cooperate much more – at the moment it seems to be putting our fingers in our ears and seeing what happens.
“Has Leeds been consulted by Bradford on this? If they were, they should have raised objections.”
Aerial view of the floods along Kirkstall Road, Leeds, in 2015.
Decision-makers in Bradford who voted to approve the plans, argued the benefits of a multi-million pound investment and hundreds of new jobs in Keighley outweighed the risks created by building on a flood plain.
The committee had already voted to support the plan, by PH Holdings, in March, despite the recommendations from planning officers it be refused.
But since then the Environment Agency had raised serious concerns about the scheme, saying the development would cause flood risks further down the river, and there would be no way to mitigate this.
They had pointed out that on April 3, days after the committee voted to support the plans and claimed there was little evidence of recent flooding on the site, the site flooded.
The committee were asked to re-consider the plans in light of this detailed expert opinion, but at today’s meeting again voted for it to go ahead.
Flood damage at Rodley Nature Reserve in 2015.
The scheme, on both a floodplain and partly in Greenbelt land will now have to go before the Secretary of State for final approval, and one senior councillor has already said she will write to the secretary of state to urge them to refuse the plans.
At the meeting Ian Hayfield, representing the applicants, said:
“I cannot stress enough the economic benefits this development will have on the area for generations to come. This is about £50 to £60 million in private sector investment. I have companies on my doorstep waiting to expand by moving here. There will be hundreds of jobs.
“Keighley has never before seen this level of investment, and it is unlikely to ever again. Keighley needs your support.”
At today’s meeting, members grilled Sam Kipling from the Environment Agency.
Councillor Mike Ellis (Cons, Bingley Rural), pointed out that flood alleviation projects would soon be taking place elsewhere on the river, and this could make flooding at the Keighley site less likely.
Mr Kipling responded that those flood alleviation projects were publicly funded, adding: “This funding is about protecting existing developments, not to unlock sites for growth and new developments.”
Councillor Simon Cooke (Cons, Bingley Rural) said:
“It would be nice if planning decisions were clear cut, and and we didn’t have to make a Solomon like judgement of whether the people of Keighley should have jobs or if we have to put up with a higher risk of flooding somewhere else down the River Aire.
“This development will have a clear benefit to people who we are hear to represent, set against a difficult to assess future risk to some other people who we are here to represent in places like Cottingley, Shipley and Esholt.”
Cllr Ellis added:
“This will provide of jobs, inward investment and indigenous money, not money from abroad. This is all desperately needed in Keighley.”
Boxing Day floods at Aire Place Studios, off Kirkstall Road
Councillor Alun Griffiths (Lib Dem, Idle and Thackley) said he would feel “very foolish” to overrule the expert opinion of the Environment Agency.
Councillor Shabir Hussain (Lab, Manningham), said: “I can’t understand why there is so much fuss about building in a flood plain. They build bridges over miles of water without much of a problem.”
Six councillors voted in favour of the plans, and one against.
After the meeting Councillor Jeanette Sunderland (Lib Dem, Idle and Thackley), said:
“As a councillor who was involved helping people after the the floods of 2015 I am shocked and astonished that Bradford Council have gone against all of the warnings of the Environment Agency, and I’m sure the people of Shipley, Bingley, Esholt and Apperley Bridge will be shocked too.”
She said she would write to the Secretary of State urging them to refuse the plans.
A spokesman for Bradford council said:
“The duty to co-operate between Local Planning Authorities such as Leeds and Bradford relates to large, strategic cross boundary issues such as Local Plans rather than individual planning applications and of course we fully comply with our duty to co-operate on the relevant issues.
“On this application members of the Regulatory and Appeals Committee made a decision to approve it after considering the evidence before them, including the objections from the Environment Agency. This will now go to the Secretary of State to decide whether the planning application should be approved or called in for him to make the final decision. If planning permission is granted, the Environment Agency will need to approve an environmental permit before the development can commence.”