Flood Defences (Leeds)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:15 pm on 27th January 2016.

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Photo of Rachel Reeves Rachel Reeves Labour, Leeds West 7:15 pm, 27th January 2016

I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention. He speaks with great authority on these matters, and of course the constituency of Leeds Central was badly affected by the floods. I agree wholeheartedly with what he says and I will come now to why it is so important that we have a full and comprehensive flood defence scheme in Leeds.

As my right hon. Friend said, in 2011 there were plans on the table for a £188-million flood defence scheme. This would have provided a one-in-200-year standard of flood protection for our city, yet the decision was taken to split the defence scheme into three phases and funding was available only for phase 1. This phase, which has the aim of defending the city centre against a one-in-75-year flood event is under way with additional funding from Leeds city council.

Phases 2 and 3, which would cover the 12-mile stretch from Newlay bridge through Kirkstall and the city centre to Woodlesford to provide a one-in-200-year standard of protection, was cancelled in 2011. I recognise that the scheme is expensive, but let me also say this: the costs of inaction exceed the costs of investing in infrastructure. A full flood defence system does not come cheap but, according to previous estimates, if the flood had happened on a normal working weekday the cost would have been about £400 million, twice as much as the cost of investing in the first place.