Kirkstall floods: Leeds Council boss criticises Bradford planning decision

kirkstall road viaduct flood
Flashback to 2015's flooding along Kirkstall Road.

Leeds Council has written to the Secretary of State to raise “significant concerns” that a decision by their Bradford counterparts could increase the risk of floods in places like Kirkstall and Burley.

As reported in June, Leeds has criticised the decision to approve the building of an industrial park off Royd Ings Avenue, next to the River Aire in Keighley.

And their letter calls for the decision to be “called in” – meaning the decision by Bradford Council could be reversed by the government.

The application, by PH Holdings, was approved by Bradford Council’s Regulatory and Appeals Committee in June. That decision was made despite the Environment Agency and the Council’s own officers suggesting the plans be refused.

Because the land is on a floodplain and partially in Greenbelt land, a final decision has to be made by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government James Brokenshire.

Now a letter has been sent to Mr Brokenshire by Tom Riordan, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council and former Chief Executive of Yorkshire Forward – the group responsible for a number of regeneration projects in Bradford.

The plans will see nine new commercial units built on the site – with the developers saying the park would bring up to £60 million of investment to Keighley and create hundreds of jobs.

The Environment Agency had argued that building on a flood plain would increase the risk of flooding further downriver, including Shipley, Bingley and Leeds. Council officers had also urged that the scheme be refused.

But members of the committee decided that the industrial park was such a key part of Keighley’s regeneration, and that this should override flooding concerns. Members claims flood alleviation work due to take place up river meant there was less chance of this development causing flooding.

The applicants had also said their design for the site, including building the units on stilts, would still allow the site to store flood water.

The same day the plans were approved, Leeds City Council approved plans for a £112 million scheme to reduce the risk of flooding further down the River Aire, although that scheme is yet to win Government support.

The letter from Leeds Council says the committee had underestimated the impact that building on the flood plain would have downstream. In it, Mr Riordan says:

“Leeds City Council has significant concerns with regard to the application which give rise to matters that are more than of local importance.
“The wider strategic implications of the development for flood risk downstream, within the Leeds Metropolitan District, will not be mitigated in the way envisaged by the Committee. Leeds City Council has fundamental concerns regarding the impact of this development upon managing flood risk in Leeds and the costs and other implications that could arise should it occur.
“Leeds City Council is working actively with Bradford to promote its positive economic ambitions and is fully supportive of several joint initiatives such as a new Bradford station as part of the Northern Powerhouse rail proposals. However, whilst the City Council fully understands the need for development which promotes economic growth, in this instance, it is of the view that the Secretary of State needs to be fully aware of the significant detrimental effects that the development would have, beyond its immediate locality.”

Councillor Mike Ellis (Cons, Bingley Rural) was on the committee that approved the plans, and also represents Bradford on the Yorkshire Regional Flood & Coastal Committee.

He said Leeds had underestimated the impact of the planned works across Yorkshire, including in North Yorkshire. He said:

“Perhaps Leeds haven’t taken into account all the work that is being done further up river. Work in North Yorkshire and near Skipton has been able to unlock land that can now be built on.”

Taking about the plans to build on the site, he added: “You have to bear in mind, this sort of development has gone on for years in places like Holland. We need to take a new way of looking at building on flood plains. You also have to consider the necessity of us finding new industrial sites in the Bradford District.

“I supported the application, but it has gone to the Secretary of State now to have his experts look at it, and I’m sure he’ll take into consideration the whole position, ignoring council boundaries.”

A spokesman for Mr Brokenshire’s office said: “The application is still under consideration by the Secretary of State.”


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