Council chiefs set to approve plans for next phase of Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme
Senior councillors in Leeds will be asked to approve proposals to proceed with the next phase of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme at a meeting next week.
At its meeting at Civic Hall on Wednesday 13 February, the council’s executive board will be asked to formally endorse a two-step plan which aims to provide Leeds with a one-in-200-year level of protection against the threat of flooding from the River Aire, as occurred with the Christmas floods in 2015.
With phase one of the scheme already completed offering protection for the city centre and downstream to Woodlesford, phase two offers a range of complementary measures to protect the Kirkstall Corridor which was badly hit by the impact of Storm Eva together with further measures up to the upper catchment of the River Aire.
With government funding of £65m confirmed, Leeds City Council working with the Environment Agency is keen for works to begin this summer on the first step of the plan to offer 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 element of work after the remainder of the funding to reach the full cost of £112.1million has been secured.
A key element of the plan is to use Natural Flood Management (NFM) measures alongside landscaping and engineering works to minimise the threat of potential flooding. This includes land management and the planting of hundreds of thousands of trees along the river catchment, on a scale comparable with any such tree planting scheme in Europe.
Work has already been carried out on pilot sites along the catchment to test the implementation of possible measures and approaches as well as positive engagement with landowners and stakeholders along the river.
Advanced works have also been carried out with a new flood wall installed to protect businesses in Stourton, the removal of a platform underneath Gotts Bridge which could be blocked by debris, and river stewardship to clear debris and invasive species to improve water flow. The council has also worked with Yorkshire Water to install a valve to control water levels around Kirkstall Bridge retail park, as well as offering advice to businesses on flood protection and improving warning messages when there is a risk of a possible flood event.
Once successfully completed in full, the one-in-200-year scheme would offer enhanced protection to 1,048 residential properties and 370 businesses, as well as unlocking housing land for 1,613 new homes, helping to create 1,669 new jobs and an estimated economic benefit of £774million.
The first part of phase two would include the use of Natural Flood Management alongside defences in the form of embankments and walls, together with measures to prevent the erosion of the banks of the river.
To offer protection to Kirkstall and the surrounding area, river control measures will be installed to reduce the risk of flooding impacting on the historic Kirkstall Abbey, while part of the adjoining Kirkstall Meadows will become a wetland habitat for kingfishers, otters and fish together with significant tree planting.
Along Kirkstall Road and Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve, landscaping and access improvement works are proposed including a new cycleway, footpath and two new footbridges.
Further downstream at Armley Mills, the phase two works would see two new floodgates installed to control the water flow and protect the Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills.
In all aspects of these works, all efforts would be made to prevent or limit any impact on the local environment.
Consultation has been carried out with stakeholders and landowners along the phase two planned works, and this will continue throughout the scheme’s delivery.
Two further drop-in events are to take place with a focus on the plans for Kirkstall at Milford Sports Club, Beecroft Street, LS5 3AS, between 2pm and 8pm on Wednesday 13 February and Tuesday 26 February. All are welcome to attend to find out more and discuss the plans with officers from Leeds City Council and the Environment Agency.
The second part of phase two which will be able to proceed only when further funding has been secured is the planned flood storage area at Calverley. Making use of an existing floodplain, the plan is to increase the water retaining capacity of the area and to widen the river to allow for two new moveable weirs to be installed to control the flow of water. These would work in the same way as those already in operation at Crown Point and Knostrop which are the key features of phase one of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme.
Leeds City Council executive member for regeneration, transport and planning Councillor Richard Lewis said:
“These plans are an imaginative, ambitious and innovative solution to arguably the biggest threat we continue to face in Leeds, that of a repeat of the horrendous flooding of Christmas 2015. Until we have the best possible level of protection in place we will not stop pushing to deliver the reassurance our city, communities and businesses deserve as quickly as we can.
“Some concerns have been raised about the potential impact of some of the work we want to carry out, but we are committed to letting nature do the job for us as much as possible and looking to not only limit the impact on local environments but where we can to enhance them for everyone to be able to enjoy. This is a pragmatic two-step solution to get us to where we all want to be – as protected as we possibly can be in Leeds against the increasing threat of flooding.”
To see the report to be considered by the executive board go to https://bit.ly/2D8EpPA (agenda item 22).
Notes to editors:
The impact of Storm Eva in Leeds at Christmas 2015 affected 3,355 properties in Leeds, of which 672 were commercial businesses. The direct cost to the city was an estimated £36.8million, with the cost to the wider city region being more than £500million.
The first phase of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme has seen formal flood defences installed along the River Aire for the first time. The £50million project began with works completed downstream in Woodlesford which proved effective during the Christmas 2015 flooding, before moving into the city centre with measures featuring the introduction of state-of-the-art mechanical weirs to control river levels.
Phase two of the scheme, put forward by Leeds City Council after carrying out extensive survey and modelling work after the 2015 floods, proposes a further £112millon investment in a range of measures along the River Aire including to its upper catchment to offer a one-in-200-year level of protection for Leeds against the threat of flooding. This includes an allowance for the impact of climate change up to the year 2069.
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