Councillors support Leeds city centre flood defence plan

A full River Aire in Leeds city centre The defences would protect the city between Leeds Station and Knostrop Weir

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Leeds City Council has agreed to contribute towards a new £75m flood defence scheme on the River Aire.

The scheme, which would protect the city centre, replaces a more expensive project shelved after government cuts to flood defence budgets in 2011.

The new plans are for smaller defences, which would be in place by 2015.

The council will contribute £10m towards the defences. Its executive board has committed £500,000 to be spent on a feasibility study.

The authority and Environment Agency hope to gain further funding from the government, the private sector and through the European Regional Development Fund.

The scheme would see existing weirs at Knostrop and Crown Point removed and replaced with moveable weirs.

'Great disappointment'

The Environment Agency later hopes to gain funding for further works to expand and improve the defences.

A delegation of local councillors and MPs is set to meet Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, in the near future to discuss the proposals and try to secure funding.

Richard Lewis, executive member for development on Leeds City Council, said: "This is good news, bringing flood defences for the city centre a step closer.

"In recent years, the city centre has come close to flooding on a number of occasions. This scheme is therefore vitally important.

"It was a great disappointment to us that the previous and more comprehensive scheme was not affordable.

"We hope that these pragmatic proposals will be supported by government to enable progress as soon as possible. This change of direction signals our clear intent to protect residential properties and businesses on the waterfront."

Sue O'Neill, of the Environment Agency, said the scheme proposed several ways to guard the city centre with a view to protecting the rest of the riverside when "funds become available".

Ms O'Neill said a flood in the centre of Leeds could cause £400m of damage.

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