Leeds sets date for flooding scheme go-ahead

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LONG-AWAITED plans to defend Leeds city centre from flooding are expected to be submitted by the end of August, the city council has revealed.

Councillors will be told next week about the latest developments on plans to protect the city centre from the River Aire which have been under consideration for four years.

Owing to funding problems, it is expected that the scheme will be delivered in phases, with the first phase being a stretch of the river in the city centre, which is expected to cost around £57m after being downsized from £190m.

A report to a meeting of the city centre plans panel, which meets next Thursday, says the plans will be submitted by the end of August and a decision taken by the end of the year.

The aim will be to protect the city centre from the kind of flood typically seen once in 75 years.

The first phase of the scheme will run from Leeds railway to Knostrop Cut and will be in place by 2015, according to a planning report.

The works will involve the creation of walls, embankments and terraces and the installation of moveable weirs which can be collapsed when the river reaches a critical level.

It is proposed that two existing weirs will be removed – at Crown Point and Knostrop. There is also an option to merge the canal and River Aire, although the exact details are still being worked up.

Crown Point weir is a Grade II listed structure which was built in stone and is medieval in origin, although it was probably rebuilt in the middle of the 19th century,

English Heritage and the council’s own conservation officer have not raised any objections to the removal of the listed weir.

The report says that planning and listed building applications will be submitted at the end of August with a decision from councillors by the end of the year.

The report adds: “To allow the flow of the river to be controlled at times of flooding, the existing weirs at Crown Point and Knostrop will be removed and replaced with moveable weirs that can be lowered when necessary.

“The moveable weirs would be lowered to maintain the regular water height when flood waters pass through the city centre.

“The planning submission will also include an option for the removal of Knostrop Cut. This area between the River Aire and canal could be difficult to achieve by 2015 therefore a scheme both with and without the cut will be considered. The heights of the defences are much lower with Knostrop Cut removed.”

The city council hopes that work on the flood defence system could finally begin next year.

A delegation of councillors and MPs recently held talks with a Government Minister over funding the project.

Depending on funding, two more phases could be implemented which would give the city further flood protection.

City councillors say the use of moveable weirs would make the defences cheaper than previous schemes. It also means that raised defences do not need to be quite so high.

The council is expected to provided £10m of the cost of the scheme but is looking to the Government to provide a further £15m.

It is hoped that the rest could come from European funding and contributions from businesses which will be protected by the defences.

The council is keen to put in flood defences as soon as possible because estimates suggest that a major flood could cause up to £500m of damage to the city’s main retail and business district.

There was some flooding in the city five years ago but it was nothing compared to the kind of flood which devastated Sheffield in 2007 and parts of Cumbria three years ago.

The initial flood defences in the centre of Leeds would protect over 250 businesses and almost 4,000 homes. In Leeds, pumping stations will be needed to ensure that there are no flooding issues caused by the walls that will be built to hold back the water.

The pumping stations will be funded and operated by Yorkshire Water and do not form part of the current planning proposals. Councillors will be briefed on the latest developments over the coming weeks.