31 Jan 2023
An update on the progress of flood alleviation works in Leeds
Leeds City Council can today provide an update on its multi-million-pound work to reduce local flooding risk – and has reminded residents of the steps they can take to protect themselves and their homes during the wettest months of the year.
The last three months of 2022 saw higher-than-average rainfall and high river levels across Leeds. Figures for January 2023 are also on course to be wetter than average.
Whilst the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme has not yet been used in 2023, the Leeds City Council flood risk management team has been readied to operate it sixteen times since January 1.
Since the Boxing Day floods of 2015, Leeds City Council and the Environment Agency, have made significant investments in schemes to improve the flood resilience of the city.
Examples include the multi-million-pound Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme Phase 1 (Leeds FAS1) in Leeds city centre, which reached its fifth anniversary of completion in 2022 (video below), as well as flood alleviation schemes at Otley, Killingbeck, Garforth, and Mickletown.
As the land around Leeds and the wider catchment is still wet, further rain could cause rivers to react quickly, increasing the risk of flooding. Despite the effectiveness of the works to alleviate flooding in Leeds, flooding remains a threat and there are steps that everyone can take to better protect themselves from the impact of flooding. This winter, Leeds City Council encourage all Leeds residents and business owners to consider the following steps:
- Create a flood plan for your home or business using the template from the Environment Agency
- Sign up for flood alerts in your area for free on gov.uk
- Read guidance on the different types of flood warnings, and what they mean for your home or your travel plans
In 2022 there were significant developments on a range of flood alleviation works, increasing resilience across Leeds. Leeds City Council has reflected on these successes and what is to come in 2023 and beyond.
In 2022 the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme Phase 2 (FAS2) continued to progress at pace, with construction work officially underway across each of the 12 zones.
Ground has been broken at the Kirkstall Bridge Inn, Kirkstall Meadows, the area around Kirkstall Abbey and Apperley Bridge. Significant 2022 milestones also include the installation of floating vegetated riverbanks near Leeds City Station to aid biodiversity in the area. Carefully moving historical artefacts at the Leeds Industrial Museum to enable the start of works there. The reopening of Milford Place footbridge in Kirkstall to reinstate pedestrian access across the river, and the completion of the first flood cell at Redcote Lane in Kirkstall, protecting a substation responsible for the power of thousands of homes.
Another important milestone is the completion of concrete works at the flood storage area near Calverley, which allowed for the removal of the Cofferdam (dry working area), resulting in water flowing over the structure for the first time (video below).
Leeds FAS2 is due to complete in late 2023, protecting 1,048 homes, 474 businesses and key infrastructure along a 14km stretch from Leeds City Station to Apperley Bridge. Once complete, the scheme will reduce the risk of flooding to a 0.5% chance of occurring in any given year, including a climate change allowance. The area currently protected by Leeds FAS1 will also have its level of protection upgraded to the same standard.
Alongside the more traditional engineering work on Leeds FAS2, there is a catchment-wide natural flood management scheme. A range of nature-based flood alleviation solutions including tree planting and soil aeration are in the process of being rolled out throughout the entire Upper Aire Catchment, including near to the source of the River Aire in Malham. These measures will enhance the effectiveness of the flood alleviation scheme in Leeds by further reducing river levels over time, mitigating the impact of climate change up to 2069.
The works will also provide a range of benefits to the local environment and bolster the response to climate change. So far 288 hectares of soil aeration have been successfully carried out, with a further 218 hectares currently being delivered, or in the pipeline. Over 410,000 trees have been planted in the catchment and there is an ambitious target of over 100,000 trees to be planted between October 2022 and March 2023, with a further planting season to start in late 2023.
The Leeds City Council flood risk management team works year-round to identify areas at risk of flooding and develop schemes of all sizes to reduce the risk for homes, businesses, and key infrastructure. The highlights of 2022 include the success of the Otley FAS during storms Dudley, Eunice, and Franklin in February (video below) as well as winning the prestigious Smeaton Award at the ICE Yorkshire and Humber Awards.
There was also the completion of works at the edge of St. Aidan’s RSPB site near Swillington utilising environmentally friendly techniques, the beginning of the Farnley Wood Beck FAS near Cottingley, and ongoing consultation and modelling for new schemes in Wortley, Thorner, Wharfedale and Meanwood, all of which will continue to develop in the coming years.
Councillor Helen Hayden, Leeds City Council’s executive member for infrastructure and climate, said:
"We are proud of the progress made in 2022 to increase flood resilience for everyone who lives, works, or travels through Leeds. The progress made on the Leeds FAS2 is impressive, there have been some amazing feats of engineering, as well as many examples of the team working with landowners and residents to complete the scheme with minimal disruption. These successes have attracted the attention of authorities across the country, we have recently hosted Newcastle City Council and Shropshire Council to share the learning from such an ambitious project. The innovations in Natural Flood Management and other green methods including the floating riverbanks and massive amount of tree planting and soil aeration are a great example of our dedication to tackling the climate emergency.
"In Winter 2023, the completion of FAS2 will have an enormous impact on the flood resilience for thousands of people in Leeds. Our work will not stop there, we have a programme of works that will continue to address flooding all over the city for years to come and ensure that we are increasing our resilience in ways that also adds value to people and wildlife across the city.
"Despite all the progress we have made, it is important to remember that we must all stay vigilant, and make plans to protect ourselves from flooding, be that in our homes, our place of work or when travelling."
For media enquiries contact:
Leeds City Council