Flood support is ‘not enough’
Empty promises continue to disappoint Leeds traders
With many businesses in Kirkstall still shut after the devastating floods of Storm Eva on Kirkstall road in December 2015, those who have suffered first-hand remain unhappy with government proposals to halve additional funding for the next phase of the flood defence scheme.
Azram Chaudhry, from Sheesh Mahal on Kirkstall Road, was forced to shut his restaurant for over a year after the Boxing Day floods.
He is still waiting to turn his ‘closed’ sign around on his beloved restaurant’s door.
He said: “I was going to open up again in June, then that turned to July. Now it’s September and we don’t even know now if we will be open by Christmas.”
Describing the ordeal as a nightmare, Azram’s restaurant was just one of many premises to be submerged in filthy water last year.
Upon hearing the latest plans to cut proposed flood defence scheme funding, the experienced restaurateur added: “It’s the politics. What does it mean?
“A string of empty promises without any action taking place.
“If we get flooded again, businesses will go bankrupt and then those people will have to go on the dole.
“It will take more than a few million pounds to sort that out. Life since the floods has been devastating. I don’t know who to blame anymore.”
The Environment Agency says it is progressing with work on a £17 million upgrade to ensure Yorkshire will be better protected from floods this winter, alongside the £33 million River Aire flood alleviation scheme.
Leeds has also been allocated an additional £35 million up to 2021 towards the cost of another project to further protect the city.
Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Judith Blake, said more still has to be done.
“The comments this week from the Secretary of State [Andrea Leadsom] were a little disappointing as they offered no new reassurance or commitment to our residents and businesses that the city will get the comprehensive flood defences it urgently needs,” she said.
“The reference to additional funding for the next phase of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme is approximately half of what it is expected to cost, and the timescale of up to 2021 is too long and will leave parts of the city vulnerable to flooding for many years.”
Last week, Ms Leadsom and Emma Howard Boyd, from the Environment Agency, visited Leeds to see the development of the new flood defence scheme in the city, which will see the introduction of moveable weirs in the UK for the first time.
The weirs can be lowered in flood conditions to reduce river levels and the threat of river flooding.
The River Aire flood alleviation scheme is intended to protect more than 200 homes and businesses once completed in May next year. It will also reduce the likelihood of flood disruption to more than 3,000 city centre apartments.