Leeds business owners frustrated over flood defence plan decision

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Leeds Business owners whose livelihoods were threatened by the Boxing Day floods in 2015 have voiced frustration after preferred plans to protect the city from future downpours were thrown into doubt.

The Environment Agency last week made an alternative proposal to the council’s ideal plan for Phase Two of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme, which Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves said falls £47m short of what is needed.

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The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)has responded that it has already spent £33m on flood defence in Leeds and has committed a further £65m to the cause.

But businesses such as Tyrannosaurus Pets, a specialist reptile shop in Kirkstall Road which was forced to ship its stock of animals to nine different homes across the city when the flood hit, are angered over the wait for assurances.

Owner Matthew Pedder, 45, said he was not surprised by the decision of an “incompetent UK Government”.

He said: “If they had done this three or four years ago it would’ve have [saved] more than that [£47m]. This was all supposed to be done last year. I’m sure it was last year, to be finished this summer. This summer is now almost gone and they’ve not started it.

“They’ve done the businesses in the city centre.”

He urged ministers to “pull their finger out” and get the works done. While Phase One of the city’s flood scheme has been completed, opening last year, the second part is due to place more infrastructure around Kirkstall and further up the River Aire.

Besnik Imeri, 38, lost £40,000 worth of stock from his Cash Planet store in Kirkstall Road following the deluge. He said: “We don’t have insurance - we can’t be insured as soon as you tell them [a company] you are from this area.”

However Michael Swaine, of RCI Workplace Facilities Services over the road, which was hit with £80,000 of damage and had to write off its stock after the flood, thinks the floods are not likely to happen in the same way again.

Environment Minister Therese Coffey said: “Our commitment to provide better flood protection to Leeds remains unchanged.

“We have already spent £33m to better protect properties in Leeds as part of the Phase 1 scheme and have currently committed £65m towards Phase 2; that’s almost £100m that has been or will be invested in Leeds flood management.

“The Environment Agency continues to work in partnership with Leeds City Council to find the best way forward for flood defences in Leeds.

“Across the country the government is investing £2.6bn to fund 1,500 flood defence schemes to better protect 300,000 homes.”