Photo: Lizzie Coombes

Kirkstall flood defences debated in House of Commons

23 May 2019

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Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves called on the Government to make more funding for upgraded flood defences along the Kirkstall corridor a priority.

At Treasury questions in the House of Commons Ms Reeves criticised the Government for not committing to funding a one-in-200 year scheme that would protect Kirkstall from the level of flooding experienced on Boxing Day 2015, when the River Aire broke its banks and left many businesses under several feet of water.

Aerial view of the floods along Kirkstall Road, Leeds, in 2015.

Council chiefs last year announced the city’s proposal to proceed with a “pragmatic two-step solution” to provide flood protection for parts of West Leeds. This came after the government said it would only fund £65 million towards the overall scheme which, when completed, would give one in 200-year protection against flooding.

Work is due to begin later this year to deliver an initial one-in-100-year level of protection.

This will then be upgraded to the full one-in-200-year level with a further phase of work after the remainder of the funding has been secured.

But Ms Reeves says there is now just a £23 million funding shortfall to deliver the one-in-200-year defences and is calling on the Government to offer the money in the next Comprehensive Spending Review.

At Treasury questions in the House of Commons earlier this week, Ms Reeves said:

“Climate change is increasing the risk of flooding and despite devastating floods in my constituency in 2015, the Government have not yet committed funding for the 1-in-200 year scheme that the Chief Secretary knows is needed to protect Kirkstall in my constituency.

“The gap now is just £23m, so will the Government now make it a priority in the Comprehensive Spending Review, even if that spending review is just for one year?”

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss, who in 2015 was the Environment Secretary, replied:

“I agree with the Honourable lady that Leeds does need flood protection. I remember visiting with her a few years ago to see the scheme. We have already achieved Phase 1 with the £32m for that and the Government is putting forward £65m for Phase 2. My understanding is that Leeds City Council are keen to work with us on that and we’re keen to make progress”.

Responding to the Chief Secretary’s remarks after the session, Rachel Reeves said:

“I am encouraged that the Chief Secretary is keen to make progress on this project – but actions speak louder than words and the Government must live up to the promises it made in the aftermath of the floods.

“There is now only a relatively small funding shortfall for this project. I will be keeping up the pressure on Government to ensure it provides the money needed in the upcoming spending review.”

Ms Reeves’ question came off the back of a warning from the Environment Agency’s earlier this month that rising temperatures will cause more frequent and intense flooding in the future. Heavy rainfall and high water levels were also recorded locally in Leeds in March.

Under the second phase of Leeds City Council’s Flood Alleviation Scheme, Leeds City Council is working with the Environment Agency to provide natural flood management techniques to help slow the flow of the River Aire.

Alongside engineering works such as flood walls and a flood storage area, it is aimed at cutting flood risk and provide better protection for 1,048 homes and 474 businesses.

Planning application split

Leeds City Council submitted a planning application for flood defences last December.

The proposals have recently been amended to split the application into a two-step approach. All works relating to the one in 200 scenario are removed from this current application and will come forward via a separate application
once the design work is more advanced.

Proposals removed includes the flood control structure at Calverley, and all flood protection measures located upstream at Apperley Bridge and Woodhouse Grove School.

National watchdog organisation Heritage England have raised concerns about the impact of the works on both Kirkstall Abbey and Armley Mills.

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves has this week urged the council to pass the plans.

The plans can be viewed in full here.

Read more of West Leeds Dispatch’coverage of the flood defences issue here.

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