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Calls for better consultation over Kirkstall flood defences

Community groups and activists in Kirkstall and Burley have called for better public consultation and more time to comment on £112 million flood defence plans for the area.

The plans – submitted by Leeds City Council and the Environment Agency last month – aim to feature measures such as new defence walls, embankments and a large flood storage area.

They come three years after the Kirkstall area was left under several feet of water when the River Aire broke its banks, devastating local businesses.

kirkstall flood defences plans
Plans for flood defences in Kirkstall

But a letter of objection submitted by Paul Chatterton and Adele Rae of the Kirkstall Valley Development Trust has called for a public meeting and more time to consider the proposals. Their letter says:

“We, the undersigned, would like to lodge our strong concern about this current application. Our overall brief assessment is that what is being proposed could be detrimental to the Kirkstall community in terms of safety, recreation and access.

“We are specifically concerned that there has not been sufficient time for consideration of this complex, detailed and important proposal, especially since the application was issued over the Christmas vacation. It is a complex and extremely lengthy document which is difficult to access, difficult to navigate and understand what is being proposed where. Moreover, a promised follow up meeting by the Flood Alleviation Scheme team in the autumn of 2018 did not happen.

“We specifically ask for an extension to this application and a public meeting so it can receive full consideration from the numerous community groups in the valley area.”

The letter is signed by several West Leeds groups, including Kirkstall Valley Development Trust (KVDT), Kirkstall Neighbourhood Forum, Kirkstall Valley Community Association, Burley Top Community Association, Burley Village Community Association, St Ann’s Residents Association, Kirkstall in Bloom, Friends of Morris Wood and Victoria Park Community Association.

Kirkstall activist Jim Corah called for a one-month extension to allow people to comment on the planning application. He added:

“As a resident of Kirkstall and an active member of the community (Secretary of Kirkstall In Bloom, board member for Kirkstall Festival and the Kirkstall Valley Community Association), I do not believe this application has had enough public consultation.

“From reading through the community engagement document, I see there were only two consultations in Kirkstall. One was at a month deli market (where visitors come from all over Leeds) and another at Kirkstall Leisure Centre on a weekday between 9am and 1pm.

“In comparison, consultations for public art work in Kirkstall have taken place at Kirkstall Festival (attendance 25,000), at the monthly deli markets, and during a weekday evening.”

The Urban Wildlife Leeds group has also registered concern. They said:

“There is a serious lack of democratic involvement in a major development, with many impacts.

“The proposed design and walls direct to the river will have a detrimental affect on wildlife, due to habitat loss. The use of sheet metal walls direct to the river bank, changes to the goits; tree loss of 19,016m2 of tree groups plus 21 individual trees, 14 temporary construction compounds – all of which will cause major disturbance to and habitat loss for wildlife.”

The plans focus on the four key areas of Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills, Kirkstall Abbey and Kirkstall Meadows, Apperley Bridge and Calverley.

The scheme also incorporates a flagship Natural Flood Management programme, delivering a range of measures such as creating new woodland and other natural features upstream on the River Aire. These will help reduce the flow of rainwater into the river and help reduce the impacts of climate change.

In December, Environment Agency flood risk manager Adrian Gill said:

“The joint project team have worked hard to get to this point. We are keen, through this consultation process, to understand what the public think about the proposed scheme.
“If approved, it will enable our team to begin works at pace, extending the level of protection in the city centre out to the Kirkstall area, whilst we continue to work towards our ambition of a 1-in-200-year level of protection from the River Aire for the whole city.”

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