Flood risk is increasing throughout the UK and Leeds is no exception. In recent years Leeds city centre has come very close to flooding several times.
At the moment there are no formal flood defences along the River Aire. The River Aire has a steep profile with over 25 tributaries upstream of the city and a fairly narrow flood plain. With high annual average rainfall and a rapid response to rain, this means that the City of Leeds is vulnerable to flooding.
There is also a significant risk of surface flooding from drains and sewers that cannot discharge when the river is high.
To protect businesses, homes, buildings, the transportation network and the city economy in the future, we need to put flood defences in place.
Flood records start in the mid 18th century and the worst recorded flood was in 1866 when a metre high wall of water ran down Kirkstall Road into the city. In 1946 there was flooding recorded all along the River Aire. The largest recent event was in autumn 2000 when water levels came within 10cm of flooding the city centre to the extent suffered in 1866. Since then, there have been smaller floods in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 causing disruption to those living, working and commuting into, out of and through the city including closure of the railway station.
It has been estimated that over 4,500 properties are at risk of flooding and approximately £450m of direct damage would be caused by a major flood from the River Aire in Leeds.
Previous Scheme Proposals
The Environment Agency previously considered a comprehensive scheme for the River Aire from Newlay Bridge in Kirkstall to Woodlesford using flood defense walls. This would have provided protection against a flood event that was likely to occur once every 200 years (such an event has a 0.5% chance of occurring in any given year). This scheme was estimated to cost over £190m and was deemed unaffordable.
Previous consultation to the proposed 200 year flood defence scheme had indicated that the flood defence walls were poorly received in some areas. This was due to the wall height required to achieve the 200 year flood event level of protection, some of which were 2metres high along the side of the river in the city centre.
New Scheme Proposals and Project Details
Now Leeds City Council, working alongside the Environment Agency, British Waterways and other partners, are planning proposals for protection against flood event likely to happen once every 75 years in Leeds City Centre between Leeds railway station and Knostrop Weir (such an event has a 1.3 % chance of occurring in any given year).
The new 1 in 75 flood event protection scheme would:
- Remove the existing weirs at Crown Point in the city centre and at Knostrop Cut and install moveable weirs that can be lowered when the river is high, causing the water level to drop.
- Construct landscape defences such as low embankments, terracing and riverside walls; at low points along the riverbank.
- Remove Knostrop Cut to merge the Canal and River Aire which will create additional flood water storage and help to lower water levels in flood conditions.
- Provide flood defences along a length of Hol Beck located on Water Lane.
- Provide defences to Woodlesford in the form of low level embankments to achieve a protection against a flood event that is likely to occur every 200 years.
Planning permission for the movable weirs has been granted. Details for this can be viewed by clicking here.
A planning application for the remaining works is due to be submitted in June 2013. A link to this information will be added to this web page at a later date.
The new scheme is being designed to be environmentally friendly, and by providing the moveable weirs and removing the cut it means that the walls will be considerably lower in height and the numbers will be significantly less than those originally proposed by the Environment Agency in the 1 in 200 year scheme. Many of the walls will be in the form of terracing/seating etc. to blend in with the local environment.
It will also include improved walking and cycling routes, promote biodiversity, and create a more attractive riverside environment.
Funding and Programme
The scheme is estimated to cost in the region of £50.5m and is being funded through a partnership supported by Defra and the Treasury, Leeds City Council and local businesses.
The works are due to commence on site in 2013/2014 and are projected to be completed in 2016.
Further details regarding the scheme can be found in the ‘Downloads’ section at the footer of this web page.