Careful planning was needed to ensure residents were not inconvenienced and properties fronting the water, including many thriving businesses, were not needlessly demolished to make way for the new defences.
Strong engagement with the community, including open days where specially produced videos were shown, helped to convince residents of the necessity of the scheme. We assessed the capability of waterfront buildings to act as part of the defences themselves by establishing whether they could withstand flooding and offer protection to the streets, homes and businesses behind them. The owners of these properties were only too happy to see them saved, and this innovative use of existing assets has cut costs. Besides linear defences, the scheme includes the installation of moveable weirs that can be lowered in flood conditions to reduce river levels, which will be the first of their kind to be used for flood defence in the UK.
Phase one opened in October 2017, The scheme provides 1 in 75 year flood protection for Leeds city centre, 3000 homes, 500 businesses and 120ha of development land. It gives confidence to future investors in the city, opening up key regeneration opportunities in south Leeds, help safeguard 22,000 jobs over the next 10 years, and creates 150 jobs and apprenticeships among other community benefits.
We are now working on phase two, extending protection upstream to areas such as Kirkstall, which endured the worst of the 2015 flooding. It involves a combination of flood barriers, actively controlled storage, and natural flood management measures designed to reduce runoff from the upstream catchment.