Kirkstall Flood Information Centre opens

Leeds, Leeds Star

A public flood information centre officially opened in Kirkstall in Leeds this week to provide information and advice to homeowners and businesses at risk of flooding.

The Team Kirkstall Regeneration Hub, at 352-354 Kirkstall Road, has been set up by Phil Marken of Open Source Arts Ltd and Kirkstall Regen Ltd, the Environment Agency, Leeds City Council and BAM Nuttall, who are working in partnership to deliver a flood alleviation scheme for the city.

The centre was officially opened by Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Judith Blake. It will act as a focal point for residents and businesses in Kirkstall, giving them easy access to information on the flood scheme, flood resilience advice and provide an opportunity for them to share their local knowledge and aspirations for the area to help shape the future scheme.

Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Judith Blake said:

“It is very pleasing to see this new information centre open in Kirkstall, offering flood protection awareness and advice as well as helping local people and businesses engage with the planning for the next phase of the alleviation scheme which will directly benefit the Kirkstall corridor. The local community was very badly hit by the floods last Christmas, so their views and recollections will be essential to help us ensure future protection is put in place. I would again like to pay tribute to all of those affected for their patience and understanding as well as the amazing ‘Team Kirkstall’ and volunteers from across the city who gave up their time for free to help with the clean-up.”

Staff from the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme project team will be at the centre Monday 12pm – 5pm and Wednesday 9am – 2pm. However this may be revised depending on public feedback.

Rosa Foster, upper Aire catchment director at the Environment Agency, said:

“Last Christmas many businesses and residents in the Kirkstall area and other parts of the city centre were severely affected by the floods after record river levels on the Aire. We are very keen to hear about and learn from those experiences, and to understand what their future aspirations are. We want the Leeds flood alleviation scheme to be the best in the country – supporting and enabling as many other additional benefits as possible by doing things differently from the start.

“The opening of the centre is a really important step. I am so pleased that we will be able to share with the community what we are doing as we are doing it, and explore how they can further contribute and shape what will continue to be an innovative and pioneering scheme.”

On 26 December 2015, Leeds experienced significant and widespread flooding with some of the highest river levels ever recorded. The flooding affected more than 2,000 residential properties and over 600 businesses.

Philip Marken, owner of Open Source Arts on Kirkstall Rd, was responsible for setting up and running a Leeds flood volunteer centre at Open Source Arts in Kirkstall after the floods.

Over four months it has engaged hundreds of volunteers who have spent thousands of hours helping Kirkstall businesses and residents clean up after the devastation last December. Open Source Arts has also developed a programme of stewardship and resilience works, rooted in the community and working under the name ‘Team Kirkstall’.

Philip Marken at Team Kirkstall said:

“The Team Kirkstall Hub is the next step for Open Source Arts, to help regenerate Kirkstall after the floods. The Hub will be used to host a broad spectrum listening space, where the whole community are invited to come and share their thoughts about what makes Kirkstall a great place to live and work, and what would make it even better.

“Thanks to the volunteers and local people who helped clean up after Boxing Day, and who have got stuck in with the fortnightly clean-ups this summer, we are a much stronger and more active community than 12 months ago. This centre gives people the chance to have a real say about the future regeneration potential in their community – as well as information and giving input to the second phase of Leeds’ flood alleviation scheme.”

The opening of the centre comes as the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme has secured a further £3.8 million to help reduce the risk of flooding in the city centre by increasing the current standard of protection to phase 1 of the scheme. This will now see an increase from the original 1 in 75 year standard of protection to 1 in 100 years with an allowance for climate change up to 2069.

Costing in the region of £50million, the scheme, which is being led by Leeds City Council in partnership with the Environment Agency, has been given additional funding support. This has come from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Investment Committee on behalf of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to offer greater flood protection through enhancing existing defences, implementing measures to reduce the risk of surface water flooding, and increasing resilience and emergency response systems.

Councillor Blake added: “This additional support from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and the LEP to enhance flood protection and resilience measures in the city centre is also very welcome as we continue to work towards securing the comprehensive measures we need to put in place across Leeds as soon as possible.”

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

“It’s great that work to complete the current Phase 1 scheme continues at pace at the same time as work to develop Phase 2 upstream of the railway station providing increased confidence and reassurance to residents and businesses.

“The additional funding from the LEP is a result of very close partnership working and in recognition of the economic importance of reducing flood risk to protect jobs and support growth.”

Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of the LEP, said:

“The floods that hit Leeds City Region last winter had a big impact on our local communities and inflicted major damage to some business operations. Almost a year on and we have been working with local partners and national government to ensure measures are put in place to support those worst affected and mitigate damage in the future.

“I am delighted the LEP and Combined Authority have committed this additional funding to continue the vital flood alleviation activity in the region. We continue to stress the importance of investment in green infrastructure and flood alleviation measures to government to ensure we secure further long-term investment for our businesses and residents.”

The Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme is being developed through a partnership between Leeds City Council and the Environment Agency and is split into two phases.

While Phase 1 focuses on work in the city centre, Phase 2 of the scheme will adopt a catchment-wide approach which means the entire River Aire catchment area will be considered looking at combining natural flood management measures and engineered options. This could include options such as creating storage in the upper catchment, building woody debris dams to slow the flow and looking at land use and drainage. Engineered options could include raising and building walls and embankments, flood storage areas and bypass channels.

Preparatory planning on the second phase of the scheme is already underway after the Environment Agency and Leeds City Council recently awarded a contract for design and feasibility work to BMMjv (a joint venture between BAM Nuttall and Mott McDonald with support from Arup and Thomas McKay).

The primary aim of the second phase is to reduce the risk of flooding from the River Aire in Leeds including the areas of Kirkstall and Stourton.

As part of both Leeds City Council and the Environment Agency’s commitment to partnership working, an Upper Aire Catchment Network was launched in early November. The network will ensure that the options are developed with the very best information and most current thinking from across a range of sectors, interested stakeholders and potential delivery partners.

About Team Kirkstall

The Team Kirkstall clean-up programme has so far involved over 15 riverbank clean-ups, which have seen over 150 volunteers spend over 1,500 hours removing more than 12 tonnes of waste and flood debris from the River Aire – working together to become aware of their role as residents of this riverbank, making improvements, becoming better prepared and ultimately improving the local area for people and wildlife, whilst reducing future flood risk.

Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme project team

Is made up of staff from Leeds City Council, the Environment Agency and contractors, BMMjv (BAM Nuttall and Mott McDonald).