More than £22 million in extra government funding has been allocated to flood defences through the Kirkstall Valley and beyond to help stop a repeat of the devastating Boxing Day floods of 2015.
Leeds City Council has been granted £21m for phase two of its flood alleviation scheme, as well as £1.3m for natural flood management projects including an increase in woodland cover along the River Aire.
It is part of a £170m funding package the Government says will kick-start flood defence projects across England to protect homes, businesses and jobs.
The extra funding comes after months of lobbying by city leaders for government to give the city the one-200-year protection it needs to avoid a repeat of the devastating 2015 boxing day floods, which damaged businesses and homes when the River Aire broke its banks.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
Last winter I saw for myself the misery and upheaval that flooding can bring to lives and livelihoods and I said we would do more to help people.
This long-term plan will help push back the flood waters and protect hundreds of thousands of homes, businesses and livelihoods.
Our record investment will also stimulate economic growth across the UK as we build back better.
Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves welcomed the extra funding and said:
“It is fantastic news that after almost five years of dragging their feet that the Government have finally approved the vital funds needed to properly protect Leeds from future floods.
“The floods on Boxing Day 2015 had a catastrophic impact on businesses in Kirkstall and Burley. I’m glad the Government has listened and that Leeds will get its flood defences at last.
“I will continue to keep the pressure up to ensure these defences are in place as swiftly as possible.”
Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said:
“This commitment by the government to allocate additional funding towards flood schemes in Leeds is welcome news and a huge endorsement of the tenacity and determination shown by all those who have continued to work so hard to ensure our city and communities are protected from the devastating impact of flooding.
“We are still working to understand the details of the funding being made available but this announcement will be particularly significant for the next step of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme Phase 2 and we look forward to working with our local partners and central government towards delivering the scheme in full.”
Leader of the Conservative group on Leeds City Council, Cllr Andrew Carter said:
“This brings the total Government funding to £100 million pounds, the most for any scheme in England since 2015.
“On top of that, and of particular interest to local residents is that a further sum of £1.3 million pounds is to be allocated by the Government to Leeds for natural flood defences, i.e. tree planting and wash lands. This is particularly important as a lot of that work will be in the Aire Valley between Apperley Bridge and Rodley.
“It has long been my concern that unless we provided the natural flood defences, then residents of Rodley could continue to face flooding issues. This whole scheme is ‘shovel ready’, and now the Council must crack on.
“I am delighted that the lobbying from our MP, Stuart Andrew, and myself has paid dividends. I raised the urgency of this scheme with the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak in a face to face meeting some months ago.”
Announcing the funding,
Environment Secretary George Eustice said:
The devastating impacts of last winter’s flooding were an important reminder of the need to continue to invest and accelerate action to reduce the impact of flooding on our communities.
Our record investment and ambitious policies will better protect homes, schools, hospitals and businesses, but we also recognise that we cannot prevent flooding entirely, which is why we will ensure that communities at high risk are more resilient.
Working closely with the Environment Agency, local authorities, business and the third sector we will create a better protected and prepared nation.
The Government says the new funding will protect more than 370 businesses and 3,300 jobs. It will also enable the development of land for homes and jobs, subject to a business case approved by the Environment Department and Treasury.
The announcement brings the government’s total investment in Leeds to more than £100m to help prevent a repeat of the 2015 Boxing Day floods. The area suffered a ‘near miss’ in terms of flooding as recently as March this year.
The Government’s full funding announcement can be read here.