DELUGE: The shocking scenes from last year’s floods in Kirkstall
DELUGE: The shocking scenes from last year’s floods in Kirkstall

Govt pledges £40m fix for flood defences in Yorkshire

The Boxing Day floods have cost Leeds City Region’s economy an estimated £365m, with some businesses still closed for the foreseeable future.

The cost of damage across Yorkshire to infrastructure alone was around £50m and councils have estimated the repair bill for bridges and roads at over £43m.

Among the issues to be considered in a Leeds City Region-wide review of the lessons learned from the Boxing Day storms will be anti-flood measures in major building and transport projects.

West Yorkshire council and neighbouring authorities are launching the review to look at whether there are measures they can take together to make the area more resilient and reduce the risk of the horrendous flooding ever happening again.

The review looks at the way land management across the area could play a part in cutting flood risk.

Analysis of the floods which hit the region on Boxing Day has shown that if they had struck on a working day around 27,000 people would have been marooned in Leeds.

The emergency services were also hit as torrents of water affected their communication networks.

The Environment Agency has inspected 8,000 of its assets in the area including flood walls, culverts and trash screens since the floods and completed repairs on 100, with 300 more underway.

Individual councils are already reviewing their own plans and performance in the light of the floods but also want to look area-wide at how they can work together to prevent and respond to flood events.

Last week’s Budget included commitments to fund flood defence work in Leeds, the Calder Valley and York from money generated from an increase on the tax consumers pay when they buy insurance.

The Government has committed to £3m funding for a feasibility study on expanding flood defences along the River Aire in Leeds, as well as a £40m fix for flood defences in Yorkshire and £280m over the next six years.

Leader of Leeds City Council, Cllr Judith Blake, said: “I’m pleased the government appears to have listened to demands for a Leeds flood defence scheme.

“However there are still many unanswered questions, not least when will it be delivered?

“Leeds residents and businesses will want a firm timeframe putting in place as soon as possible, especially as the current lack of certainty is seeing companies close and leading to the loss of jobs.

“There are also questions about how the initial £150million for Leeds, York, Calder Valley, Carlisle and Cumbria will be allocated.

“This figure contrasts with the £297million previously invested in the Thames Valley area alone, and the original estimate of £180m for the previously cancelled 2011 Leeds scheme.

“We will keep the pressure on government to make sure Leeds businesses and residents get the flood defences they need as soon as possible.”

Labour’s Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves said: “The thing to worry about is if they are talking about contributions from Leeds City Council and local businesses to flood defences.

“Leeds is of national significance – its protection is important for the overall economy.

“Small businesses are also struggling to get back on their feet. They shouldn’t have to pay a levy for flood defences.”