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How planting 300,000 extra trees could help prevent flooding in Kirkstall and Burley

More than 300,000 more trees will now be planted in the River Aire catchment area to help reduce flood risk in places like the Kirkstall Valley.

Extra government funding of £700,000 has been awarded to Leeds City Council’s Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS), which includes natural flood management as a major element to help protect people and businesses near the River Aire from the risk of flooding.

The bid, which will fund 333,333 trees, was made to the Partnership Innovation Fund (PIF), a programme managed by national charity Woodland Trust to enable the creation of new woodland in the Northern Forest through the planting of one million trees by March 2022.

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PIF is part of a £5.7m grant awarded by Defra to the Woodland Trust in 2018 to help kick-start delivery of the Northern Forest.

The first few thousand trees in the Leeds City Council project were planted last winter, a further 75,000 are planned by 31 March 2021 and 253,333 by the end of March 2022.

At least 148 hectares of new woodland near the River Aire will be created through the project.

It’s hoped the scheme will help prevent a repeat of the 2015 Boxing Day floods which saw the River Aire bursting its banks in places like Kirkstall and Burley.

Holly Radcliffe, project manager with the Environment Agency, said:

“We are delighted to receive this extra government funding. Our programme for the River Aire catchment and the Northern Forest are clearly connected and will not only provide greater opportunities for reducing flood risk but also have much wider environmental benefits alongside a positive impact on health and wellbeing.

“These trees will be planted on both public and private land and provide direct benefits to local communities living near the River Aire. We would like to work with local landowners who are willing to support the project by allowing us to plant trees on some of their land.”

judith blake
Cllr Judith Blake

Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Judith Blake said:

“This additional funding is very much welcome as tree planting is a key part of tackling the climate emergency. Planting of this scale has been proven to help reduce flood risk and can bring a wealth of other benefits such as storing carbon, better air quality and increased biodiversity.

“Natural Flood Management has a key part to play in protecting communities in Leeds that have previously suffered flooding from the River Aire, which is why we continue to call for the Government to provide funding so that phase two of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme can be completed in full.”

Councillor Jonathon Taylor (Cons, Horsforth Ward), welcomed the investment. He said:

“This is very welcome and follows through from discussions I had with Government ministers at the end of last year about the cost of purchasing the trees.

“The council needs to work harder to bring forward land in North West Leeds and across the city to get these trees in the ground to get us to a greener Leeds with better air quality and enhanced flooding protection.”

A flagship Natural Flood Management (NFM) programme, alongside traditional engineering, forms part of the second phase of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme. This phase got under way this year and aims to invest £112.1 million in flood prevention measures for areas upstream of Leeds city centre, to better protect 1,048 homes and 474 businesses.

The Leeds FAS is led by Leeds Council working alongside the Environment Agency.

For more information about the LeedsFAS visit

If you have land and would like to know more about how you could be involved in an NFM project, get in touch with the project team via


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