Chancellor George Osborne has announced he will allocate £150m for Yorkshire and Cumbria to build flood defences, which will be funded by increasing insurance premium tax for rate payers by 0.5 per cent.
The measure announced in the Budget formed part of Mr Osborne’s pledge to make the Northern Powerhouse ‘a reality’ and will eventually bring in £690m for national flood defences and resilience spending by 2020.
Of the £150m specifically for Yorkshire and Cumbria, £35m will to go towards the £65m overall cost of Phase 2 of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme to protect 500 homes and businesses.
In York, £45m will be invested in two schemes on the Rivers Foss and Ouse to better protecting 3,390 properties.
However questions have been raised over whether the money will be enough, considering a flood defence scheme proposed for the River Aire in 2011 was originally forecast to cost £180m.
Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves. who met Environment Secretary Liz Truss earlier this year to try and get the larger defence plan off the ground, said the city still needed something of the scale of the 2011 plan.
She said: “The flood scheme that was cancelled was £180m, so £150m for Yorkshire and Cumbria is not enough.
“Their £150m barely covers what’s needed on the River Aire let alone the other rivers in the city, or the rest of Yorkshire.”
Work on the £45m Phase 1 of the Leeds flood scheme which will protect the city centre is ongoing at the moment, and Phase 2 will defend homes and businesses upstream from the city’s central train station to Newlay Bridge near Kirkstall.
The Government will commit £35m of Phase 2’s cost as part of its capital expenditure programme on flooding for the six year period between 2015/16 and 2020/21.
Capital budgets have not yet been set for the period after 2020/21, but it is likely the Government will look favourably on completing the scheme.
Phase 3 will include work at Allerton Bywater on the far outskirts of Leeds, and the Government also intends on supporting this element of the project.
However both phases are currently subject to a £3m feasibility study – the results of which are not due for at least 18 months.
Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, 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 time frame 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 £150m for Leeds, York, Calder Valley, Carlisle and Cumbria will be allocated. This figure contrasts with the £297m previously invested in the Thames Valley area alone, and the original estimate of £180m for the previously cancelled 2011 Leeds scheme.”
York is to get £19m for the Foss Barrier and a further £26m for defence work to be carried out on the River Ouse.
Like the investment in Leeds, the money will only be available once it has been raised by the 0.5 per cent insurance premium rise, which brings in £80m in its first year.
Further changes to the Government’s flood investment plans are also possible following the release of the National Flood Resilience Review by Minister Oliver Letwin, which is due out later this year.