Flood defences secured after new money flows in

Dr Bob Bowes

A MULTIN-MILLION pound project which will give Tonbridge even more protection from flooding and safeguard thousands of homes is being backed by government funding.

Central government has announced that it is committed to spending £4.65million on improvements to the Leigh Flood Storage Area (FSA), ensuring that a £23.6million expansion plan can go ahead.

The project will increase flood storage capacity by 30 per cent and will include the building of embankments along the River Medway in Hildenborough and East Peckham.

The reduced likelihood of flooding in areas around the River Medway also means land that was previously deemed too high a risk. can now be developed on.

The bulk of the funds (£15.5million) for the work will be provided by the Environment Agency. Kent County Council (£2.5million) and Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council (£0.5million) are also making contributions.

Construction can get under way once the project has been approved by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). It is hoped the works will be finished by 2022.

MP Tom Tugendhat said he was ‘delighted’ by the arrival of a ‘fully funded, viable option’ for flood defence. He estimates that it could also deliver more than 13 hectares of employment land by 2031, which roughly equates to a creation of 2,900 potential jobs.

The announcement will come as welcome news to those who were hit by the devastating floods of Christmas 2013 when the region experienced the wettest December in more than 100 years. Approximately 80 homes in the Barden Road and Danvers Road area were flooded as a result.

The increased capacity is anticipated to make a ‘huge difference’ according to Tonbridge Flood Warden Carl Lewis.

“This will significantly increase the town’s flood resilience. Hopefully now Tonbridge will get the flood protection it deserves,” he said.

The news has been roundly welcomed by the town’s elected representatives, who have been lobbying government since 2014 for funding for the project.

Leader of Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council (TMBC) Nicolas Heslop said: “I have been single minded on this issue since the terrible flooding that was experienced.

“In terms of getting the funds, we’ve held our line, we’ve been purposeful and we have been working tirelessly behind the scenes because we knew it was the right thing to do.

Cllr David Cure, whose Judd ward was worst hit by the floods said TMBC had ‘been pressing for this for a long time’ after the ‘very serious damage’ that his constituents suffered three years ago.

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