Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme: A Groundbreaking Initiative to Enhance Flood Resilience in the UK

Posted on 24 August 2022

In the coming weeks, we will delve into an in-depth analysis of the UK's most notable infrastructure projects to ascertain their current status. Our comprehensive investigation will encompass Crossrail, Tideway, Hinkley Point C, the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station, the Stonehenge Tunnel, HS2, the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme, and Birmingham's Big City Plan.

Our next project of interest is the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme, designed to safeguard the city of Leeds from potential flooding.

What is the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme?

The Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme stands as a groundbreaking and trailblazing endeavour within the United Kingdom. It holds the distinction of being the first-ever large-scale Natural Flood Management (NFM) program to be implemented at a catchment level. This revolutionary scheme was conceived and designed as a direct response to the devastating flooding incidents that severely impacted the city of Leeds, both in 2015 and 2020.

Recognising the urgent need for proactive measures to protect the city and its inhabitants from the destructive forces of flooding, the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme combines a multifaceted approach. It synergizes traditional engineering techniques with innovative natural flood management methods, aiming to comprehensively mitigate the risks posed by future flooding events.With a specific emphasis on the safeguarding of the River Aire, a majestic waterway stretching an impressive 92 miles and flowing directly through the heart of Leeds, the scheme tackles the critical task of fortifying this vital lifeline against the perils of inundation. By leveraging a combination of strategic engineering interventions and nature-based solutions, the scheme strives to strike a delicate balance between harnessing the benefits of human ingenuity and working harmoniously with the inherent resilience of the natural environment.

Phase 1

The implementation of Phase 1 marked a significant milestone in the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme, as it initiated the project's comprehensive flood management strategy. The commencement of this crucial phase was made possible with the granting of planning permission in early 2015, setting the stage for a series of transformative actions aimed at enhancing the city's resilience against flooding.

The primary objective of Phase 1 was to create a substantial increase in floodwater capacity along the Aire in Leeds city centre. This ambitious endeavour was undertaken with the explicit goal of safeguarding the well-being and livelihoods of more than 3,000 residents, 500 businesses, and numerous critical infrastructure elements that form the backbone of the city's functionality.

One of the standout features of Phase 1 was the construction of strategically positioned movable weirs at Crown Point and Knostrop. These innovative hydraulic structures were purposefully designed to dynamically adapt to varying water levels, offering unparalleled flood control capabilities. By deploying these movable weirs, the project aimed to significantly reduce floodwater levels by an impressive meter, thereby mitigating the potential impact of future flood events in the city centre.

The completion of Phase 1 in October 2017 marked a major accomplishment in the project's timeline. This milestone represented the successful culmination of years of meticulous planning, rigorous engineering efforts, and the dedicated work of a diverse range of stakeholders. Through their collective commitment and collaboration, Phase 1 not only delivered on its objectives but also laid the foundation for subsequent phases of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme.

Phase 2

Phase 2 of the project comprises two distinct steps, each with its own specific objectives. The initial step concentrates on safeguarding the 8-kilometre stretch of the river that encompasses Leeds Station, as well as significant landmarks such as the Industrial Museum, Kirkstall Abbey, and Kirkstall Meadows. This critical phase, successfully completed in Winter 2022, ensures enhanced flood protection for these vital areas.

The subsequent step within Phase 2 centres around the creation of flood storage facilities at Calverley, utilising an existing floodplain. The forthcoming work will commence at Apperley Bridge, a strategic location that will substantially elevate the level of protection against flooding events, reducing the probability of a one-in-200-year flood occurrence. By implementing this aspect of Phase 2, an additional 1,048 homes and 474 businesses will benefit from the enhanced flood resilience measures.

The completion of Phase 2, anticipated to occur in Autumn 2023, will mark another significant milestone in the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme. This phase represents a continued effort to further bolster the city's flood defences, significantly reducing the risk faced by numerous households and businesses within the affected areas. As Phase 2 nears its conclusion, the comprehensive flood protection measures put in place will help foster a greater sense of security and resilience within the community.

Contractors Involved in Phase 1 & 2

Leeds flood alleviation scheme map

History of the flood scheme

2011- Arup is appointed to develop the scheme with the Environment Agency

2014- Work begins on phase 1 of the project

2015- Planning permission approved

2017- Two movable weirs are installed and phase 1 is completed

2019- Funding is approved for phase 2

2020- Work begins on phase 2

2023- Engineering works due to be completed

2025-NFM works due to be completed

Where is the flood scheme currently?

The current focus of the flood scheme lies within Zone 13, where construction is in progress after the completion of planning submissions and flood risk assessments. Zone 13 encompasses a significant area, starting from Kirkstall Bridge and encompassing notable landmarks such as Kirkstall Bridge Inn and the retail park. The construction efforts extend through Kirkstall Meadows and the Abbey, reaching up to Newlay Bridge.

The ongoing construction activities in Zone 13 primarily involve the establishment of a robust flood defence wall. This critical infrastructure will provide enhanced protection against flooding events, bolstering the resilience of the affected areas. Additionally, the construction efforts include the restoration of gardens that were impacted by previous flooding incidents. Measures are also being taken to block underground seepage paths that have proven vulnerable to floodwater infiltration.

By implementing these comprehensive construction initiatives, the flood scheme aims to significantly reduce the vulnerability of Zone 13 to future flood events. This proactive approach seeks to ensure the long-term protection of the area, safeguarding the well-being of residents, businesses, and the surrounding environment.

What's next?

The Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme is now gearing up for the next crucial stage in its progression. The immediate focus lies on the seamless continuation of Phase 2, which is projected to reach completion in 2023. This ongoing phase represents a significant milestone in the scheme's overall timeline and demonstrates the steadfast commitment to enhancing flood resilience in the region.

As Phase 2 nears its culmination, a concerted effort is being made to ensure the timely and efficient execution of the remaining tasks and objectives. This includes finalizing construction projects, implementing flood protection measures, and completing any necessary enhancements to the existing infrastructure. By diligently carrying out these critical activities, the scheme endeavours to further strengthen the city's defences against flooding, delivering increased protection for residents, businesses, and essential infrastructure.

The numbers

  • The project has a predicted cost of £112 million

  • The scheme will supply a 1 in 200 year level of protection against floods

  • Over 4,000 homes and 4700 businesses will be protected

  • The project will protect the city all the way to 2069

Last week we took an in-depth look at the Battersea Power Station Redevelopment. Please click here to find out more about this project!

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