Flood defence chiefs say the planting of 15,000 young trees in Keighley could help protect businesses and houses in the Kirkstall Valley from flooding.
The trees have been planted to mitigate climate change as part of a Natural Flood Management Programme which aims to reduce flood risk in the River Aire catchment.
The project, which is being led by the Environment Agency in partnership with Leeds City Council, is part of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme Natural Flood Management (NFM) project.
Environment Agency bosses say the newly planted trees will help reduce flood risk locally and downstream in places like Kirkstall, Burley and Leeds city centre, which bore the brunt of the 2015 Boxing Day floods which saw the River Aire burst its banks.
The news comes just days after concerns were raised by West Leeds campaigners over the proposed felling of 63 trees along the River Aire in Kirkstall. They encouraged the council to explore solutions which do not negatively impact biodiversity and which see trees as part of the solution, rather than the problem.
A mix of Birch, Beech, Oak, Aspen, Rowan, Hornbeam, Small-leaved Lime and Wild Cherry were planted on six hectares at Damems Lane and Guardhouse Allotments in Keighley.
Together with traditional engineering measures, between Leeds city centre and Apperley Bridge, it’s claimed 1,048 homes and 474 businesses will be better protected from flooding.
Fiona Sugden, The Environment Agency’s Leeds NFM Project Manager, said:
“The creation of the new woodland areas will have multiple benefits for people and wildlife. Not only will they reduce flood risk locally and downstream in Leeds – they will also benefit the environment by creating new woodland habitat, boosting biodiversity, mitigating climate change and creating new green spaces for people to enjoy.
“Tree planting provides so many benefits that we’ll continue to work with Keighley Town Council to identify opportunities in the future.”
Councillor Helen Hayden, Leeds City Council’s Executive Member for Infrastructure and Climate, stressed the importance of taking a catchment-wide approach to avoiding problems downstream. She said:
“Taking a catchment wide approach to flood risk management has meant we have looked at the whole of the River Aire catchment to provide cross cutting benefits.
“Planting trees in Keighley will not only bring environmental benefits locally but it will also make a big difference further downstream in Leeds as trees help to slow and store the flow of heavy rainfall and flood waters. This is critical if we are to build our resilience to climate change and reduce the risk of flooding to communities.”
Keighley Town Council Mayor, Councillor Julie Adams, said:
“We believe that reducing global warming is everyone’s responsibility and that the best way to help local people to make a difference is to set practical examples of good practice and support activities that involve local people in taking action within their own neighbourhoods.”
This natural flood management project forms part of the second phase of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme, which is being led by Leeds City Council, working with the Environment Agency. This phase got under way in 2019 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.
Natural Flood Management offers potential for climate mitigation, for example, creating wetlands, restoring our uplands and planting trees can help to capture tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere.
If you have land and would like to know more about how you could be involved in an NFM project, please get in touch with the project team at: LeedsFAS.firstname.lastname@example.org
The Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme Natural Flood Management Project is funded by Leeds City Council and aims to deliver natural flood management measures across the Upper Aire Catchment to help slow and store the flow of heavy rainfall and flood waters.