End the dither and delay over flood protection in Leeds, MP Rachel Reeves urges Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers

Millions of pounds worth of damage was caused by the flooding in Leeds on Boxing Day 2015
Millions of pounds worth of damage was caused by the flooding in Leeds on Boxing Day 2015
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A senior MP has urged the new Environment Secretary to prioritise the flood alleviation scheme protecting Yorkshire's biggest city in the next spending review after what she describes as "three-and-a-half years of delay and dither".

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves said in a letter to Theresa Villiers that residents and businesses in the Kirkstall area of the city are no better protected now than they were at the time of the devastating Boxing Day floods of 2015.

The chair of the Commons Business Select Committee said warnings about the dangers of climate change had been "brought into sharp focus" by the intense flash flooding that wrought havoc in the Yorkshire Dales and the partial collapse of the Whaley Bridge dam in Derbyshire.

She wrote: "These extreme weather events are a timely reminder that we need to urgently upgrade our key infrastructure and improve flood resilience to cope with the climate emergency."

Read more: True scale of floods devastation laid bare in the Yorkshire Dales

Read more: Rachel Reeves: How the women of Westminster are showing the way forward 100 years after election of first female MP

In Leeds, civic leaders say only a one-in-200 year level of protection would defend Kirkstall from the flooding seen in 2015, which damaged 700 commercial properties and nearly 3,000 homes at a cost of £36.8m.

Properties flooded included the Industrial Museum in Armley, Leeds Rhinos' training facilities in Kirkstall and the Rodley Nature Reserve.

Although historical flood events have been recorded along the Aire since 1866, they are becoming increasingly common. There have now been four significant flood events in Leeds since 2000.

The Government has committed £65m in funding towards Phase Two of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme but £25.3m remains to be found, meaning Leeds City Council is trying to find another source of funding.

Work is due to start on part one of the plan, which would protect against a one-in-100 year protection against flooding, while design work is continuing on measures that would provide extra protection.

Ms Reeves wrote in her letter: "I am grateful for the support that the Government has already committed to the LFAS. I am also pleased that on May 21, 2019, the then-Chief Secretary to the Treasury [Liz Truss] made clear in the House of Commons that the Government are 'keen to make progress' on this project.

"However the sad truth is that homes and businesses in Kirkstall are still at high risk of flood damage because of the ongoing delay in delivering this scheme."

The Labour MP urged the Tory Minister to lobby Chancellor Sajid Javid for the extra funding needed ahead of the next Comprehensive Spending Review.

Writing that the council was working to secure the necessary funds, she added: "The Government must also deliver on its commitments. The consequences of further delay and dither are all too predictable."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been contacted for comment.