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Leeds City Council – Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme

Jonathan Moxon

Flood Risk Manager at Leeds City Council

Leeds City Councils Flood Risk Management team work across the city in a range of ways to reduce both the risk and impact of flooding on people, communities and infrastructure. We are set up to have a focus on 4 main areas – Asset management, Development Control, Strategy & New Works and Technical Systems.

In Leeds we have 3 major river systems albeit one, the Calder having only a small appearance in the south West of the city. The rivers Aire and Wharfe are the major catchments covering most of the city but we them have around 1000km of watercourses across the district and although thousands of properties have become better protected from flooding as a result of schemes in recent years we still have around 17,000 properties at flood risk. With major road and rail infrastructure and the busiest train station (pre-covid) outside of London it’s important we also look to protect regionally important assets from an economic and strategic perspective.

We look to influence development across the city through advice, consultation and standards and we regularly assess in excess of 150 planning applications per month. In the past few years some of our largest flood schemes to date have been completed reducing flood risk and creating improved green space in areas of the city that have seen repeated flooding over the years in places like Garforth, Allerton Bywater, Halton and Seacroft to name a few.

As seen during the Boxing Day floods of 2015 there are a large number of businesses affected by flood risk in Leeds. We continue to work with businesses from independent traders through to large multi-national companies to offer support and advice on how to make their premises and operations more flood resilient. We are working with local universities to engage businesses to better understand the challenges they face and we are keen to develop our knowledge and capacity in this area. In recent years we have helped schools and businesses by surveying their onsite drainage, advising on flood flow routes, helping to register them with the appropriate flood warning information and develop their own flood plans.

Our flagship scheme Leeds FAS Phase 1 was delivered by our Highways Major Schemes team in partnership with the Environment Agency and completed the installation of £50m of hard defences, river channel realignments and innovative moveable weirs that are the first of their type in the UK. As a result we now operate a 24/7 on call team that will monitor and operate the scheme when needed to protect around 3500 properties from flooding in events up to 100 year SoP plus an allowance for climate change to 2069.

As a council we are now delivering the second phase of the Leeds FAS in 2 steps the first already being on the ground that will see hard defences built through the Kirkstall area that was devastated by floods on Boxing Day 2015. The second step is almost fully funded and will hopefully proceed in the very near future to install defences further upstream around the border with Bradford and a large storage area with a further moveable weir that will raise the standard of protection across the whole of the Leeds FAS 1&2 areas to protect against a 1 in 200year flood so that’s a 0.5% chance of flooding in any given year plus climate change to 2069.

To ensure the allowance for climate change can be met without the need for extremely high hard defences that would separate us for our river in Leeds we are also embarking in partnership with the EA a massive Natural Flood Management programme that will see measures installed across the upper Aire Catchment including large scale tree planting schemes, land management changes and storages areas.