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Planning application submitted and funding pledged for flood defence measures in west Leeds and Apperley Bridge, Bradford

Ambitious proposals to reduce flood risk in the River Aire catchment have been submitted to Leeds City Council and Bradford Council.

The multi-million pound plans, developed by Leeds City Council, Bradford Council and Environment Agency, include a new flood storage area between Horsforth and Rawdon and flood defences at Apperley Bridge. The proposals are part of a series of measures to reduce flood risk to 1,048 homes and 474 businesses along the River Aire.

The flood storage area makes use of an existing flood plain and will be operated by a control gate system. This means that water can be held when the river levels are high and then released back into the river when it is safe to do so. As part of this work, new habitat and wildlife areas will also be created which will bring additional biodiversity and environmental benefits. The proposals at Apperley Bridge involve built flood defences including flood walls, embankments and a surface water pumping station.

Once completed in full, the scheme will reduce flood risk to a 0.5% probability of occurring in any given year (1 in 200 year probability), including an allowance for climate change. This level of protection will protect against a similar event to the Boxing Day floods in December 2015, an event which cost Leeds an estimated £36.8million and the city region over £500million.

Five years on from Storm Eva and the Boxing Day floods, the scheme has also received business case approval from HM Treasury. The business case justifies the additional spend required for the delivery of the second step of the project and will enable the recently announced £21m of government funding to be spent.

A decision on the planning application is expected in spring 2021 and, if approved, construction work will commence soon afterwards.

Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council said:

“This planning application is an important step in our commitment to building our city’s resilience to climate change and providing Leeds with the level of flood defences it needs.

“If it is approved, it would mean we move closer to expanding our work on the ground which is so vital for the residents and businesses that have already experienced the devastating effects of flooding.”

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Bradford Council’s executive member for regeneration, planning and transport said:

“We are committed to working together with Leeds City Council and other partners to assist with the progression of this flagship flood risk management scheme. The scheme will bring benefits to the Bradford district by raising the standard of protection to residential and business property owners of the Apperley Bridge area that have experienced the destructive impacts of flooding on many occasions. We will continue to work alongside the project team to support and assist with the next crucial stages of the scheme.”

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

“The joint project team have worked hard to get to this point, and the approval of the full business case by HM Treasury is a significant milestone that secures the remaining funding required to deliver the second step of the project, which is one of the largest flood risk management schemes in the country. The planning application is also another significant milestone for the project. We are keen, through this consultation process, to understand what the public think about this element of the scheme. If approved, it will enable our team to continue working at pace to provide a better standard of protection for people, homes and businesses in Leeds.”

Phase 2 of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme is split into two steps and features measures including natural flood management across the River Aire catchment including near Malham, in addition to new defence walls, embankments and a flood storage area. The work is being split into zones to simultaneously develop detailed designs in some areas and commence construction in others.

Step 1 of Phase 2, at a cost of £87 million, will reduce the risk of flooding to a 1% probability of occurring in any given year (1 in 100 year probability) and will run along an 8km stretch upstream of Leeds station including three key areas – Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills, Kirkstall Abbey and Kirkstall Meadows.

Construction on this first step began in January 2020, with flood walls being installed in locations along the River Aire corridor between Wellington Bridge and Kirkstall. Ground investigations in numerous sites across the route have also taken place to inform the detailed design.

Step 2 of the scheme increases this protection, reducing flood risk to a 0.5% probability of occurring in any given year (1 in 200 year probability), including an allowance for climate change. In full, the scheme is due to be complete in winter 2022/23 and will provide a consistent 1 in 200 year probability of flood protection to the River Aire between Apperley Bridge and Knostrop.

Alongside this, a flagship Natural Flood Management (NFM) programme – the first of its kind in the UK to deliver to such a scale- will include the creation of new woodland, leaky dams, moorland restoration and a number of other interventions.

300,000 new trees are expected to be planted by the end of April this year which will help reduce the flow of rainwater into the river, as well as bring additional benefits such as increased biodiversity, additional carbon storage and new habitat creation. This will play a significant role in the city’s response to tackling the climate emergency.

The project has also completed its pilot programme of works, having delivered sites in partnership with Bradford Council, the National Trust and others. The project is developing a number of geo-spatial tools to automate the process of site design and delivery. Once these tools have been tried and tested on the River Aire catchment, it is hoped that they can be rolled out to other areas.

The work follows completion of Phase 1 of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme in October 2017 where flood defences were installed along the River Aire in Leeds 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 moveable weirs at Crown Point and Knostrop to control river levels.

Advanced works have also been completed to deliver parts of the Phase 2 scheme early on. One such project in the completion of a 730 metre length flood wall in September 2018, protecting 88 businesses in the area of Stourton. The £1.4m works provide a 1 in 200 year standard of protection to 88 existing businesses in the Stourton Industrial Estate, safeguard over 4,000 existing jobs in the area and help to protect access to the M1.

Other advanced measures include the part removal of redundant structures at Milford Place and underneath Gotts Bridge along with a number of NFM works at various locations throughout the catchment.

The Leeds FAS Phase 2 is supported by a range of partners including BMMjv, Aecom, Network Rail, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Yorkshire Water and the European Structural Investment Fund (ESIF).

In July 2020, an additional £21 million was secured for the second phase of Leeds FAS which goes a considerable way to resolving the previous £23.7m shortfall in the programme to allow it to be completed in full. The West Yorkshire Combined Authority has contributed £3.9million towards the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme through the Leeds City Region Growth Deal – a £1billion plus deal with the government to transform the Leeds City Region economy.

Leeds residents and businesses can view and comment on the planning application by visiting www.publicaccess.leeds.gov.uk. The reference code is 21/00522/FU

Bradford residents and businesses can view and comment on the planning application by visiting www.planning.bradford.gov.uk. The reference code is 21/00249/FUL

Source Leeds City Council