Leeds City Council issues update on Otley Flood Alleviation Scheme: Ground investigations at Billams Hill in Otley

16 Sep 2020

Leeds City Council issues update on Otley Flood Alleviation Scheme

Flooding Otley Flood Alleviation Scheme Coronavirus Climate change

Leeds City Council has today given an update on progress with the scheme to protect homes and businesses in Otley from flooding.

The Otley Flood Alleviation Scheme managed by Leeds City Council, the Environment Agency and engineering consultants WSP, and delivered by principal contractor BMMjv, will see a range of measures carried out to protect the town from the risk of flooding from the River Wharfe.

These measures will see more than £3million of works undertaken, including the creation of a new flood embankment running along the west of Billams Hill as well as vegetation management on the islands downstream of Otley Weir.

Together, the measures will reduce the likelihood of flooding from the River Wharfe from a 20 per cent (1 in 5 year) chance to a four per cent (1 in 25 year) chance of occurring in any given year. This level of protection would help protect the town from a repeat of the devastation caused by the Christmas floods of 2015 and the impact of Storms Ciara and Dennis earlier this year.

After receiving planning approval in March, work was scheduled to begin with the engineering works on site shortly. A key factor in the schedule has been the need to not impact on the local ecology, with key species needing special consideration being nesting birds, roosting bats and spawning fish. In order to avoid disturbing these species at their most vulnerable times of year, as these periods overlap that leaves only small windows of opportunity to undertake certain construction activities.

For working in the river near the bridge, which is one of the first activities needing to take place, there are just two windows of opportunity in a year, the month of September and the month of April.

The aim was to start engineering work in October, but the impact of Covid-19 has unfortunately resulted in a delay which means that is no longer possible. The next available window for this element of the work to begin is April 2021.

Other work is still continuing on the project, with the elements which do not affect native wildlife such as the detailed design work and some ground investigations able to be progressed as planned, with engineering work not directly in the river scheduled to start in March.

A Leeds City Council spokesperson said:

“We remain fully committed to completing this important scheme to protect Otley from the threat of flooding as soon as possible. Unfortunately, given the unforeseen issues caused by the coronavirus and the small window of opportunity given the need to respect and not impact on the local wildlife, we will not be able to start the engineering works now until March.

“We would ask everyone for their understanding and patience and would like to thank the community of Otley for their ongoing support as we look to deliver this vital scheme to benefit everyone.”

John Woods, flood risk advisor at the Environment Agency, said:

“We have worked hard to keep the scheme on track for an autumn start but the impact of current circumstances means that unfortunately this is no longer possible. While this news will undoubtedly cause some uncertainty for residents and businesses that were flooded in 2015, we will continue to work with them to ensure that they are as protected and resilient as possible over winter. Preparatory work will continue so that we can hit the ground running in spring. This will also increase our confidence of a swift construction phase so that the area gets the protection it needs as soon as possible.”

Funding for the Otley Flood Alleviation Scheme has been provided by the government, the Regional Flood and Coastal Committee and Leeds City Council. Detailed research and survey work was carried out to develop the chosen scheme, which was consulted on with local residents, businesses and landowners.

To sign up to receive updates on the Otley Flood Alleviation Scheme, email FRM@leeds.gov.uk

Notes to editors:

BMMjv is a joint venture between BAM Nuttall and Mott MacDonald.


For media enquiries please contact:

Roger Boyde,

Leeds City Council communications and marketing,

Tel: 0113 378 9164

Email: roger.boyde@leeds.gov.uk

For media enquiries contact:

Roger Boyde
Leeds City Council