Councils join forces to learn the lessons from Boxing Day floods

Boxing Day floods - Mytholmroyd
Boxing Day floods - Mytholmroyd

Including anti-flood measures in major building and transport projects will be among the issues considered in a Leeds City Region-wide review of the lessons learned from the Boxing Day storms.

Councils from across the Leeds City Region – which includes West Yorkshire and neighbouring authorities – are launching the review to look at whether there are measures they can take together to reduce the risk of flooding and make the area more resilient.

The impact on the Leeds City Region economy from the Boxing Day floods could be as high as £365m this year.

The review will particularly consider the case for insisting on measures that reduce either the risk of flooding or the disruption caused by flooding being part of housing, transport and other infrastructure schemes.

It will also look at the way land management across the area could play a part in cutting flood risk.

Analysis of the floods which hit the region on Boxing Day has shown that if they had struck on a working day around 27,000 people would have been stranded in Leeds.

The cost of damage across the area to water infrastructure alone was around £50m and councils have estimated the repair bill for roads and bridges at more than £43m.

The emergency services were also hit as water affected their communication networks.

The Environment Agency has inspected 8,000 of its assets in the are including flood walls, culverts and trash screens since the floods and completed repairs at 100 with 300 more underway.

Individual councils are already reviewing their own plans and performance in the light of the floods but also want to look area-wide at how they can work together to prevent and respond to flood events.

Last week’s Budget included commitments to fund flood defence work in Leeds, the Calder Valley and York from money generated from an increase on the tax consumers pay when they buy insurance.

A plan for new flood measures in the Calder Valley will be published later this year while in Leeds the money will contribute to the next phase of flood defence work building on a project already underway in the city centre.

In York, work will be carried out at 15 locations around the city to reduce the risk of flooding to 2,000 homes.

Coun Robert Light, chairman of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s overview and scrutiny committee which will discuss the scope of the Leeds City Region review this week, said: “I am glad that the Combined Authority is helping out local businesses through the £5m Business Flood Recovery Fund, currently being managed by the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership that we established at the start of the year.

“The funding announced in the Chancellor’s Budget last week is welcome news but it is clear a coordinated and strategic long-term approach by the Leeds City Region councils and partner bodies such as the Environment Agency, Canals and River Trust, Yorkshire Water, Highways England and Pennine Prospects, is needed.

“Through this review we can make sure we minimise the risk and damage of future flooding while at the same time ensuring that through our regional approach that any measures taken are based on river catchments and not simply shifting problems downstream or creating new ones elsewhere.”