Senior councillors to consider Storm Eva floods response report update

Leeds, Leeds Star

Senior councillors in Leeds will discuss an update report on the work carried out in response to the flooding caused by Storm Eva at a meeting next week.

The council’s executive board meeting at Civic Hall on Wednesday 19 October will consider the review of the actions taken since Boxing Day including lessons learned and how the council’s response systems could be improved in light of the issues caused by the impact of the flood emergency.

The board will also be asked to formally close the dedicated recovery phase of the work the council has carried out, with any ongoing work to be carried out as part of day-to-day council services and support.

In Leeds, a total of 3,368 properties were impacted by the floods across 14 electoral wards in the city, with 298 residential properties and 371 commercial properties being internally flooded.

To date Leeds City Council has given financial support worth over £1million to more than 700 residential properties to help with recovery and also improving future flood resilience and council tax relief. All of the residents affected have been able to return to their homes except for seven families who are continuing to receive support.

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

An example of how businesses were affected by the floods and the council’s support can be seen with a major high-tech manufacturer which lost two months of production and significant damage to machinery and stock.

In order to help keep the company with over 250 employees in Leeds, the council worked with the business to identify a potential site to relocate to whilst also providing financial assistance to recover and return to trading, as well as offering advice and guidance on the next steps.

On a smaller scale, the future of an online distribution business in Leeds was also in doubt as its premises were flooded under four feet of water and due to insurance issues suffered a significant loss to its stock and equipment as well as to its reputation because of the impact on its delivery capabilities.

Working with the business, the council provided support for clean-up costs and business rates relief along with a resilience grant. Due to ongoing insurance issues the business is now looking to relocate to new premises nearby, and the council assisted with a successful grant bid to the LEP to enable the relocation to proceed. This has enabled the business to continue trading, safeguarding 28 jobs, and in its new premises the firm is now looking to expand with the potential to create 30 new jobs over the next three years.

In terms of future resilience, building on more than a thousand volunteers who came out to help with the clean-up across the city, several community flood groups have been created. The existing Garforth Flood Action Group are advising a new community group which has been created in Methley and Mickeltown, while groups are also being created in Kippax and Allerton Bywater.

Collingham with Linton Parish Council has carried out a range of activities since the floods, as have Otley Residents Flood Group, Yorkshire Voluntary Flood Support and the Kirkstall Flood Clean Up group.

To minimise the impact of the closure of Linton Bridge, which has been closed since the floods and is schedule to reopen following a major repair project next summer, West Yorkshire Community Action is currently subsidising a free shuttle bus between Linton, Collingham and Wetherby. Talks are ongoing into the possibility of further extending this service.

Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Judith Blake said:

“As we near the one-year anniversary of the awful impact of Storm Eva on our city and region, it is important to look back and reflect on what happened, what we can learn from it and also how the city needs to keep working together to do everything we can to make sure it is never repeated.

“The response from the people of Leeds in terms of residents, businesses and community groups helping out working alongside the council and other agencies continues to be fantastic. We know some of our residents and businesses are still suffering almost 12 months on, and that is why it is vital we continue to offer support and to press for comprehensive flood measures to be put in place as soon as possible.”

In terms of infrastructure, the council is working closely with the Environment Agency on cleaning up the River Aire, while the first phase of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme on the river in the city centre is due for completion in late spring 2017. Planning work is continuing on the next phase, including measures for the Kirkstall corridor which was badly hit by the floods at Christmas.

Further downstream, a flood barrier scheme is being designed for Mickletown and other measures are being explored for Methley. On the River Wharfe, the council is working with the Environment Agency and local stakeholders to carry out a study on the catchment with a focus on Otley and nearby communities which also suffered due to the impact of Storm Eva.

As a Lead Local Flood Authority, Leeds City Council is also preparing a detailed Section 19 report on the flooding which is expected to be finalised in the next three months, while Leeds is also contributing to a regional report to be discussed by Leeds City Region leaders in December.

In terms of lessons learned, Leeds City Council has reviewed its emergency and on-call procedures, while it is also working to provide greater clarity on its sandbag policy. Greater use of social media and alternative communications channels in the event of a similar emergency is also being explored and put in place, along with ways to improve partnership working with multi-agency groups and government departments.