New flood defence plans submitted for River Aire


Ambitious proposals to reduce flood risk along the River Aire catchment have been submitted to both Leeds City Council and Bradford Council.  

The multi-million pound plans, developed by Leeds City Council, Bradford Council and Environment Agency, include a new flood storage area between Horsforth and Rawdon and flood defences at Apperley Bridge.

It’s hoped the flood defences will help reduce the risk of flooding downstream in places like Kirkstall and Burley, which were badly affected by flooding when the Aire broke its banks on Boxing Day 2015.

kirkstall road viaduct flood

The proposals are part of a series of measures to reduce flood risk to 1,048 homes and 474 businesses along the River Aire.  

The flood storage area makes use of an existing flood plain and will be operated by a control gate system so water can be held when the river levels are high and then released back into the river when it is safe to do so. New habitat and wildlife areas will also be created which will bring additional biodiversity and environmental benefits.

The proposals at Apperley Bridge involve flood walls, embankments and a surface water pumping station.

Once completed in full, the scheme will produce 1 in 200 year protection against flooding

A decision on the planning application is expected in spring 2021 and, if approved, construction work will commence soon afterwards.

Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council said:

“This planning application is an important step in our commitment to building our city’s resilience to climate change and providing Leeds with the level of flood defences it needs.

“If it is approved, it would mean we move closer to expanding our work on the ground which is so vital for the residents and businesses that have already experienced the devastating effects of flooding.”

Five years on from Storm Eva and the Boxing Day floods, the scheme has also received business case approval from HM Treasury. The business case justifies the additional spend required for the delivery of the second step of the project and will enable the recently announced £21m of government funding to be spent.

Adrian Gill, area flood risk manager at Environment Agency said:

“The joint project team have worked hard to get to this point, and the approval of the full business case by HM Treasury is a significant milestone that secures the remaining funding required to deliver the second step of the project, which is one of the largest flood risk management schemes in the country.

“The planning application is also another significant milestone for the project. We are keen, through this consultation process, to understand what the public think about this element of the scheme.

“If approved, it will enable our team to continue working at pace to provide a better standard of protection for people, homes and businesses in Leeds.”

Phase 2 of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme is split into two steps and features measures including natural flood management across the River Aire catchment including near Malham, in addition to 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 1 of Phase 2, at a cost of £87 million, will reduce the risk of flooding to a 1% probability of occurring in any given year (1 in 100 year probability) 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. Ground investigations in numerous sites across the route have also taken place.

Step 2 of the scheme increases this protection, reducing flood risk to a 0.5% probability of occurring in any given year (1 in 200 year probability), including an allowance for climate change.

In full, the scheme is due to be complete in winter 2022/23 and will provide a consistent 1 in 200 year probability of flood protection to the River Aire between Apperley Bridge and Knostrop.


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