Work underway on major element of flood protection and regeneration project in east Leeds

Work is now underway on a key part of a major project to improve flood protection and greenspace as well as promoting new housing, regeneration and growth in an area of Leeds.

Improvements have started at Killingbeck Meadows Local Nature Reserve, which is one of three connected local nature reserve projects which together form the £4.75m Wyke Beck Valley Programme in east Leeds.

The aim of the programme is to provide improved flood risk management through engineering works in an area previously vulnerable to flooding, as well as enhanced landscaping for wildlife and creating welcoming public greenspace.

By carrying out the work, the scheme will also support and promote the development of new brownfield housing, job creation, regeneration and growth in the area.

The Wyke Beck Valley Programme is being delivered by Leeds City Council working with the Environment Agency and partners. The programme has received £2.6 million funding from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), delivered by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, through the Leeds City Region Growth Deal – a £1 billion package of Government investment to accelerate growth and create jobs across Leeds City Region.

Wyke Beck is a river which starts at Waterloo Lake in Roundhay Park and flows through the east of the city before joining with the River Aire south east of the city centre. The Wyke Beck Valley river catchment has a long history of flooding and drainage issues, and this project aims to reduce the risk of such events occurring.

Killingbeck Meadows is the largest of the three local nature reserve elements, with engineering works now underway including the creation of a flood defence wall and embankment which will allow the reserve to be used as a controlled flood storage area in the event of a severe rainfall event. This will reduce the risk of flooding to properties downstream, with the water then being released back into the Wyke Beck in a controlled way after the extreme weather event has passed.

The biodiversity at the reserve will also be enhanced with a range of new habitats created including seasonal wetlands, ponds and reed beds. Native woodland and wildflower planting will also take place, together with a network of new paths for public access. The project will improve water quality in Wyke Beck, which supports a population of endangered white-clawed crayfish, a UK Biodiversity Action Plan species.

Work at the nearby Arthur’s Rein Local Nature Reserve was the first element of the construction programme to be carried out at the end of last year, with a previously underground storm drain turned into an open channel at the surface and two small water storage areas created to improve capacity and water flow. Alongside the channel, new trees have been planted together with native aquatic and marginal plants including the installation of more than 2,000 plants in November by staff and volunteers from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Leeds City Council, Buglife and Lloyds Bank.

The third element of the programme is at Halton Moor Local Nature Reserve, where work to be undertaken includes new trees, plants and wildflowers as well as improved footpaths and interpretation panels to offer enhanced access and visitor experience.

The construction work at Killingbeck Meadows is scheduled to be completed by October this year, supporting the council’s Brownfield Land Programme which sees it working with developers Strata and Keepmoat to build 969 new houses on 13 sites in east Leeds, creating around 900 new jobs and promoting the economic regeneration of the area.

The Wyke Beck scheme has received planning contributions from these Brownfield Land Programme sites to support its development.

Leeds City Council executive member for regeneration, transport and planning Councillor Richard Lewis said:

“This project is about regeneration, it’s about flooding, but it’s also something quite visionary. I think in 50 years’ time, people will look back at this choice and think it was a sensible step to take.

“It’s also important to note that this project isn’t just creating green space, it’s turning it into a real feature of the landscape. It’s creating new amenities for the people of Seacroft and Gipton, and indeed Leeds as a whole, out of something that could otherwise end up as something quite featureless. Through this project we saw the potential to do something better here, and I’m proud that we have taken that challenge on.”

Roger Marsh, OBE, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), added:

“I am delighted to see the progress of this Growth Deal funded project that will help to protect local homes and businesses from future flooding events. These works will also create new brownfield sites for housing development, regeneration and growth in the area, supporting new jobs and building the local economy.”

Mark Wilkinson, West Yorkshire Programme & Partnerships lead from the Environment Agency, said:

“It is great to see that we are making considerable progress with these major projects. These initiatives show what we can achieve by working in partnership as they provide not only increased resilience to flood risk, but also improved habitats for wildlife and a better quality of life for residents through improved public spaces and catchment management.”

Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Jake Berry, said:

“We are committed to boosting economic growth across the whole of the Northern Powerhouse and building a country that works for everyone.

“This £2.6m investment from the Local Growth Fund, will go towards the creation of new embankments and flood storage areas to help reduce the risk of flooding to homes. It will also make the development of over 900 new houses in east Leeds possible, lead to the creation of around 900 new jobs and improve the environment for local people and wildlife.”