POLITICAL leaders have hailed a £4.2 million scheme to boost flood defences in York as the project nears completion.

Four hundred homes in the Leeman Road area will be protected from flooding by the River Ouse throughout the 21st century, thanks to the Environment Agency's upgrade of existing defences.

York Central MP Hugh Bayely and Holgate councillors James Alexander, Sonja Crisp and Joe Riches spoke out yesterday as they visited the project, which received £1 million in funding from City of York Council.

The scheme has included raising a flood embankment by about a metre and extending it by an additional 200 metres, and the embankment has also been strengthened undergound through the installation of plastic sheet piling down to four metres below ground level.

There have also been improvements to penstocks in local drains, which prevent floodwater backing up through sewers and drains and flooding on to local streets.

The area was last at risk of being inundated by the Ouse in autumn 2012 after heavy rainfall in the Dales.

Mr Bayley said he had been campaigning for improved flood defences for many years, working together with the councillors. "I have argued for funding in the House of Commons, written repeatedly to the Minister responsible for flooding, and in 2011 I organised a public meeting to allow Leeman Road residents to raise their concerns," he said.

He praised the council and agency for pooling their budgets to strengthen the defences.

Cllr Alexander, leader of the council, said he was 'thrilled' to see the defences come to fruition.

"It will no doubt put a lot of local residents' mind at ease," he said. "Holgate Labour councillors have been campaigning on this issue for many years and we took a large local petition to Downing Street.

"Labour promised before being elected to lead the council to increase the council's contribution to flood prevention and this has been delivered."