A community campaign has persuaded council chiefs NOT to include Rodley Nature Reserve as part of planned flood defences in the area.
Rodley Nature Reserve had been earmarked as a potential water storage area to reduce flood risk as part of the second phase of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme, which aims to reduce the risk of flooding following the 2015 Boxing Day floods which left parts of Kirkstall and the city centre under water.
But a local campaign, which included a letter writing from local school children, has led to a change of mind by council chiefs.
Leeds City Council executive member for regeneration, transport and planning Councillor Richard Lewis (Lab, Pudsey)said:
“We have had some very positive discussions with Rodley Nature Reserve through our consultation process, but after looking further into using the reserve as part of a scheme to reduce flood risk, and listening to the concerns of stakeholders, we have taken the decision not to proceed with this location as an option.
“We’d like to thank all of those with an interest in Rodley Nature Reserve for taking the time to take part in these amicable discussions and for giving their feedback.”
In a statement, the Trustees of Rodley Nature Reserve Trust Limited welcomed the decision. They said:
“[We] are very pleased that the reserve is no longer being considered for use as a flood water storage area. This helps to safeguard the reserve as a refuge for wildlife and as a great community asset.
“We would like to put on record our appreciation of the very professional way that the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme team has worked with the trustees of the reserve to produce a good resolution to this issue.”
The original proposals involved building a moveable weir at the scrubland end of the Reserve, together with a widening of the river bank.
The weir would be lifted at times of flood conditions to slow down the flow of the river and protect downstream locations by using the Reserve – last week shortlisted for a prestigious BBC Countryfile award – to store flood water.
Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme
Following the successful opening of the £50 million first phase of the scheme serving the city centre, Holbeck and Woodlesford last October, phase two of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme identifies measures further upstream including the Kirkstall corridor which was badly hit by the 2015 Christmas floods when the River Aire broke its banks.
It also looks at areas beyond the city boundary to further reduce the possibility of the river flooding in Leeds, as well as additional measures to offer protection for the South Bank area of the city centre which is a key future economic driver for Leeds.
The phase two plans have a strong focus on Natural Flood Management (NFM), with proposals to create large new woodland areas alongside other approaches to slowing the flow in the River Aire catchment upstream of Leeds.
It also proposes water storage areas to be created and developed, operated by control gates system meaning water can be held and then released back into the river when safe to do so. A third element would be the removal of existing obstructions along the river to help reduce water levels, along with lowering the riverbed in places to improve its capacity and flow.
Aside from these measures, phase two would also see some new infrastructure measures installed including landscaping, terracing, embankments and walls.
The business case is currently being finalised, and if approved by the government the proposal – created by Leeds City Council working with the Environment Agency and BMMJV Limited – would see work scheduled to begin in early 2019.
Rachel Reeves lobbies Government for defences
Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves is heading a team of politicians and business leaders who are calling for the Government to approve the second phase of the Flood Alleviation Scheme.
They have written to environment Secretary Michael Gove ahead of a meeting of the Environment Agency’s Large Project Review Group later this month. The group is set to discuss the future of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme and whether the second phase can go ahead.
They have stressed the importance of the scheme – and the threat to Leeds from flooding if approval is refused.