Floods review report calls for ‘critical’ additional investment for Leeds to help prevent Storm Eva repeat

Leeds, Leeds Star

A new report stressing the ‘critical’ need for further significant investment in flood alleviation schemes to help prevent a repeat of the devastation caused by Storm Eva in Leeds will be discussed by senior councillors next week.

At its meeting at Civic Hall on Wednesday 8 February, Leeds City Council’s executive board will consider the detailed Section 19 investigation report carried out into the impact and lessons to be learned from the floods caused by Storm Eva which hit the city and wider region from Boxing Day to 29 December 2015.

The Section 19 report is a requirement for lead local flood authorities to produce under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 following a major flooding event. The Leeds report is the result of more than 12 months’ work by the council who, with input from the Environment Agency and other partners, looks at all aspects of the flood in terms of its causes, impact and future recommendations. It includes extensive analysis of environmental and infrastructure data, reported incidents and discussions with the communities and businesses directly affected.

At the meeting, executive board will be asked to approve sending a copy of the report and its recommendations directly to the Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Andrea Leadsom.

The recommendations include the need for comprehensive flood protection measures for the whole River Aire catchment area, as well as for the catchment areas of the River Wharfe and the River Calder confluence.

The recommendations state ‘That secured future investment for flood alleviation schemes is critical to reducing the likelihood of a repeat of the devastation experienced in December 2015 across Leeds’.

Phase one of the Leeds Floods Alleviation Scheme, which includes moveable weirs, the first time they have been used in this country, and other measures along the River Aire from Woodlesford to the city centre in a £45million project, is due for completion this summer. Design and feasibility work is currently being undertaken on the next phase of the scheme upstream from the city centre to include the Kirkstall corridor, which was badly hit by the floods.

Confirmation of full funding for phase two or any further investment in Leeds has yet to be received and the report continues ‘It is also evident that there needs to be absolute clarity about funding of this work…until it is confirmed and the associated work undertaken, a repeat of the Storm Eva event cannot be ruled out’.

Reflecting on the report, Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Judith Blake said:

“This exceptional report reiterates what we have been saying since the terrible events of Christmas 2015 that Leeds needs and deserves comprehensive flood alleviation measures to be funded and put in place as quickly as possible. It calls for a full catchment and three rivers approach with measures to protect all communities and businesses vulnerable to flooding, which is the only way people across Leeds will ever be fully reassured that everything has been done to reduce the chances of flooding like that ever happening again.

“It sends a very clear message to the Secretary of State, and we are very keen to continue our discussions with the government over speeding up the process to get these protective measures in place as quickly as possible.”

The review follows DEFRA measuring criteria for the number of properties in Leeds impacted by the floods, stating a figure of 4712 for all internal and external flooding incidents reported. This is higher than the previously-stated figure of 3368, which followed a different criteria set down by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The major disruption and damage caused by the floods included:

  • Closure of the A65 Kirkstall Road a major route into the city centre;
  • Structural damage and closure of Linton Bridge linking Collingham to Linton and Wetherby;
  • Closure of Network Rail, Airedale Line at Kirkstall;
  • Northern Power Grid electricity sub-stations at Kirkstall with the electricity supply to 27,000 properties being temporarily disrupted from 20:11 hours on the evening of 26 December 2015;
  • Information Technology, communications and data centres.

The report confirms the severity of the flood with the River Aire reaching its highest-ever recorded level on December 27, with water rising 1.2metres higher than during the Great Leeds Flood of 1886. Such levels were caused by Storm Eva adding to already-saturated ground across all three river catchments due to heavy and prolonged periods of rainfall throughout November and December 2015, with the result seeing river systems and drainage networks being overwhelmed.

Among the lessons learned is the need for catchment-wide measures to help protect communities. Aside from the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme on the River Aire Upper Catchment, a range of measures are also being assessed including the introduction of natural flood management for the River Aire Lower Catchment and the River Calder around Methley and Mickletown. An assessment is also being carried out for the River Wharfe, for possible measures to be introduced in and around Otley, which was also badly affected by the floods.

For more information on the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme visit www.leeds.gov.uk/fas

LEP recently allocated £3.8m

Leeds City Council has provided financial support worth over £1million to more than 700 residential properties to help with recovery since Boxing Day 2015 and also to improve future flood resilience.

For over 250 affected businesses the council and the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) offered more than £3million of assistance and guidance including business support, business rate relief and property resilience grants.