Leeds City Council is advancing various flood alleviation schemes to safeguard residences, businesses, and infrastructure throughout the city from the repercussions of the climate emergency. As the storm season persists, the council is encouraging all Leeds residents to acquaint themselves with measures to prepare for potential flooding.

Following the floods of Boxing Day 2015, Leeds City Council and the Environment Agency have executed numerous initiatives to enhance the city’s flood resilience. Notable examples include the multimillion-pound Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme Phase 1 (Leeds FAS1) in Leeds city centre, along with projects in Otley, Killingbeck, Garforth, Mickletown, and Cottingley. Initiatives to mitigate flooding from Meanwood Beck, Wortley Beck, Sheepscar Beck, Thorner Beck, and Potternewton are currently in progress.

Construction is underway for the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme Phase 2 (Leeds FAS2), scheduled for completion in Spring 2024. The scheme aims to protect an additional 1,048 homes, 474 businesses, and key infrastructure along a 14km stretch from Leeds City Station to Apperley Bridge.

Upon completion, the scheme is anticipated to reduce the risk of flooding to a 0.5% chance per year, factoring in climate change considerations. The level of protection for areas covered by Leeds FAS1 will also double from a 1% to a 0.5% chance of flooding per year. While recent protective measures were implemented in Kirkstall and Newlay during Storm Babet, the comprehensive safeguarding will be realized only upon the scheme’s full completion.

Despite notable progress in citywide flood schemes, the concentration of named storms, coupled with high rainfall, strong winds, and wintry conditions towards the year’s end, raises concerns.

Since July 2023, monthly rainfall in Leeds has consistently exceeded the national 30-year average, particularly in July, October, and November. Leeds FAS1 was activated for the ninth time during Storm Babet, and the threat persisted during storms Elin and Fergus.

The Met Office’s alphabetical list of named storms, released annually in September, indicates an unusually rapid progression this autumn and winter, with the UK already reaching Storm F after Elin and Fergus. The frequency of storm clusters exacerbates conditions, given the persistent wet ground and insufficient time for river levels to recede between rainfall events.

Due to these circumstances, residents are urged to revisit their flood preparedness. This includes developing flood plans, signing up for local flood alerts, understanding various flood warnings, avoiding travel through floodwater, and familiarizing themselves with reporting procedures for flooding and related issues to the Council and relevant organizations.

Councillor Helen Hayden, Leeds City Council’s executive member for sustainable development and infrastructure, said; “We have seen some important milestones on the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme this year, and I would like to thank everyone working on the scheme for their hard work, as well as all the landowners and residents who have worked with us to ensure that this state-of-the-art feat of engineering becomes a reality. It is a vital part of the plan to ensure that thousands of people and livelihoods in Leeds are more resilient to the increased threats of the climate emergency.”

“Many of us remember the events of Boxing Day 2015, and it is important to say that with the Leeds FAS1 fully operational, we are far more resilient to flooding than we were then. However, we have experienced a lot of rain this year, with more on the way – which further highlights the necessity of the work we continue to do on Leeds FAS2, as well as the other schemes across Leeds. It also serves as a prompt reminder that there are steps that we can all take to increase our own resilience should the worst happen. Please take the time to review the actions listed above so that you can be as prepared as possible.”