Planning permission for vitally important flood defence measures along the Kirkstall Valley were today given the go-ahead at a planning committee meeting in Leeds.
As a result of the councillors’ unanimous decision, Leeds City Council will be able to begin work this year on ‘Step One’ (Phase 2) of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme. New flood defence walls and embankments will be constructed; providing a 1-in-100 year level of flood protection.
Councillors at the Civic Hall this afternoon warmly welcomed the proposals.
Cllr Elizabeth Nash (Lab, City and Hunslet) said:
“I am sure I speak for everybody who lives or works near the embankment of the River Aire when I welcome these proposals. People are living under a cloud at the moment.
”The scheme doesn’t just protect communities, it enhances them with new walks and wetland environments.”
Cllr Neil Walshaw (Lab, Headingley) labelled the plans ‘comprehensive and ambitious’ While Farnley and Wortley Green councillor praised the planting of more tree upstream and said the plans would be ‘attractive’.
He said that the council had missed a trick by not incorporating water powered electricity generators at Armley Mills.
A letter from Kirkstall councillors Fiona Venner and Hannah Bithell was read at the start of the meeting. They thanked officers for attempting to allay residents’ concerns over a lack of consultation by putting on extra public meetings and for extending the deadline for public comments.
They said people found issues surrounding the impact on local ecology and wildlife important and hope a dialogue between them and the council will continue.
Kirkstall councillor John Illingworth said that he hoped the issues with consultation would change the way major applications like this were dealt with by the council in future.
Step two of the scheme – which is yet to be approved – would offer an additional 1-in-200 year level of protection and would defend Kirkstall against the level of flooding experienced on Boxing Day 2015. The Government have not yet committed the funds necessary to move forward with this part of the project.
Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves welcomed the news. She said:
“This decision is great news for Kirkstall and the whole of Leeds more widely. Nearly 3 and half years after the devastating Boxing Day Floods, the council can finally start putting in place important flood measures that will protect homes and businesses.
“But this is far from the end of the story. The Government must now match the ambition shown by the council and provide the additional funding still needed to upgrade the project to a scheme which provides a 1-in-200 year level of protection. Only a 1-in-200 year scheme will protect Kirkstall from the severity of flooding experienced on Boxing Day 2015.”
The scheme also includes a flagship natural flood management programme which will help reduce and control the flow of rainwater into the river. This will reduce the impact of climate change up to 2069.
The scheme is due to go out to tender later this month.
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