Government pledge to back flood defences

The Prime Minister has given a strong indication that she will support the fight against flooding in Leeds.
Rachel Reeves: Said she will not rest until businesses in Kirkstall get support.Rachel Reeves: Said she will not rest until businesses in Kirkstall get support.
Rachel Reeves: Said she will not rest until businesses in Kirkstall get support.

The reassurance came following a meeting in London between the Leeds MPs, plus the leader of the City Council, and the new Floods Minister, Therese Coffey.

It had been feared that following the fall out of the EU referendum, the new government under Theresa May, might renege on promises made during David Cameron’s tenure to help residents and businesses be better protected from flooding.

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But those representing the city said they came away from yesterday’s meeting positive that extra funds are still going to be made available to help protect the city.

It means that work can continue on preparing a business case, set to be ready next autumn, enabling a project to progress on a new flood defence scheme upstream from the city centre to provide protection including in the Kirkstall area.

Other projects that are taking place across the city include the launch of some new insurance products over the coming weeks following pressure from businesses and MPs which Ms Coffey said the Government was happy to talk about again.

The Government has also agreed to talk to Leeds City Council and the Environment Agency about whether something can be done to make it easier for small businesses to access support and advice in making their properties more flood resilient.

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It will also look at piloting a scheme of tailored support in Leeds, particularly in Kirkstall.

Following the meeting, Rachel Reeves, MP for Leeds West, said: “It is encouraging that supporting Leeds and providing the protection against floods that is needed for business and homes is a priority for the new Ministers at Defra.

“It is 10 months now since the devastating Boxing Day floods and I won’t rest until I know that businesses in Kirkstall are getting the support they need – whether that be flood defences, insurance or building adaptations to better help them withstand heavy rainfall and a rising River Aire.

“Over the last ten months I have worked closely with businesses and government agencies and we have had a number of commitments.

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“Over the next few months we must ensure that those warm words are matched with action to give everyone in Leeds the confidence they need to stay and invest in our great city.”

Kirkstall was one of the worst affected areas during the Boxing Day Floods.

The road was turned into a river as water deluged the area and seeped into shops, businesses and homes.

Water levels in the River Aire are usually just under one metre but at the height of the floods they were recorded at 2.95 metres.

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Nearby areas such as Neptune Street, Sovereign Street, Asda House and Canal Wharf were also affected.

An exercise is taking place on Friday across Calderdale to test the response procedures for emergency services and flood relief teams in the event of another major disaster.

Flood warning sirens in Walsden, Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd will be sounded as part of the biggest ever live training exercise across the valley.

Joanna Arnold, Environment Agency said: “It is important we test the sirens to check they are working properly and can be triggered remotely from our incident room in Leeds. Although no action needs to be taken people need to be aware that if they hear the sirens at any other time, then this means that flooding is expected.”