Tonbridge's £15m flood defence takes a step closer

Homeowners whose properties were devastated by the Christmas flooding of 2013 may feel a little safer at the news their town is set for a new £15 million barrier thanks to the latest round of funding.

Flood defences for Tonbridge and the surrounding area are to be improved following a decision to award more than £2 million of government cash.

It will go towards improvements to the Leigh Flood Storage area and local embankments in the Hildenborough area.

The money comes from the national £1.4 billion Local Growth Fund has been awarded to the project by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) at its September accountability board meeting.

This will allow the Environment Agency to increase the flood reservoir water level from 28.05 metres to 29 metres at Leigh, upgrade an existing embankment near Hawden Farm in Hildenborough, and install a new control structure and pumping station to prevent water from the Medway backing up into the village.

The accountability board heard that when the project is completed in 2023, 1,475 homes and 200 businesses will be better protected from flooding, while 50 jobs will be created or safeguarded, and 100 associated jobs will be created through the unlocking of commercial sites.

Geoff Miles, chair of the accountability board and Kent vice chair of SELEP, said: “While the current Leigh Flood Storage Area provides some flood protection to Tonbridge and the surrounding area, in the winter of 2013/14 its capacity was breached and the area suffered serious flooding that affected 311 homes and more than 100 local businesses.

“This LGF investment will offer greater protection for existing homes and businesses and will unlock sites for residential and commercial developments.”

Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat, who has been calling for better flood protection measures for the area, welcomed the funding decision.

He said: “I’m very pleased this investment in our flood defences at Leigh and Hildenborough is now confirmed.

"Since the floods at Christmas 2013 we have needed everyone to step up and do their bit to make sure we’re prepared should it ever happen again.

“This money will safeguard hundreds of jobs and create many more, and protect over 1,500 homes and businesses from future flooding. I’m delighted we have achieved this result for our community.”

The total cost of the project is estimated at £15.5million, with contributions also coming from the Environment Agency Flood Defence Grant (£10.141m), Kent County Council (£2.5m), Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council (£0.5m) and Southern Regional Flood and Coastal Communities (£0.085m).

Julie Foley, Environment Agency Area Director said: “We welcome the £2.3m in funding from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership. It means that we can progress our scheme to increase the capacity of the Leigh Flood Storage Area and construct an embankment to reduce flood risk in Hildenborough.

“This will improve the level of flood protection to over 1,500 homes and businesses in Tonbridge and the surrounding area.”

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Flooding between Wateringbury and Tonbridge in 2000
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