Words: Richard Beecham, local democracy reporter
Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves has welcomed the Government rubber-stamping a long-awaited scheme to make Leeds more flood-resilient – meaning an extra £21m of safety work can now take place.
As reported last week, HM Treasury has approved the business case for plans which include a new flood storage area between Horsforth and Rawdon, as well as improved defences at Apperley Bridge.
The approval – just over five years on from Storm Eva and the Boxing Day floods – means the second step of the flood defences project can take place, and will enable £21m of government funding to be spent on works around the River Aire.
Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves welcomed the extra funding, which will lead to one-in 200 years flood defences being installed. She said:
“It is welcome that the Government has confirmed that the funding is finally on its way to allow these urgently needed flood defences to proceed.
“It has been five years of needless anxiety for people and business owners in Leeds West while they have waited for the Government to honour its promises to safeguard their homes and livelihoods.
“I hope that work will now proceed at pace so this scheme can be completed and people can be assured they are protected against a repeat of the catastrophic floods five years ago.”
According to the plans, the flood storage area will make use of an existing flood plain and will be operated by a control gate system, meaning water can be held when the river levels are high and then released back into the river when it is safe to do so.
The proposals at Apperley Bridge involve built flood defences including flood walls, embankments and a surface water pumping station.
Leeds City Council claims that, once the work is completed, the scheme will reduce flood risk to a 0.5 percent probability of occurring in any given year – more commonly known as a “one in 200 year” probability.
A decision on the planning application is expected in spring 2021, with construction hoped to start soon afterwards.
So what exactly is being done?
Phase two of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme is split into two steps and involves work across the River Aire catchment, including new defence walls, embankments and a flood storage area.
The work is being split into zones to simultaneously develop detailed designs in some areas and commence construction in others.
Step one of Phase two, at a cost of £87m, will reduce the risk of flooding to a one percent probability of occurring in any given year (one in 100 year) and will run along an 8km stretch upstream of Leeds station including three key areas – Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills, Kirkstall Abbey and Kirkstall Meadows.
Construction on this first step began in January 2020, with flood walls being installed in locations along the River Aire corridor between Wellington Bridge and Kirkstall.
Step two of the scheme increases this protection, reducing flood risk to a 0.5 percent probability of occurring in any given year (one in 200 year), including an allowance for climate change.
In full, the scheme is due to be complete in winter 2022/23 and will provide a consistent one in 200 year probability of flood protection to the River Aire between Apperley Bridge and Knostrop.