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Flooding hotspots to be targeted in 18-month trial after Kent County Council spends £5 million on drainage repairs in just 12 months

Storm and flood repairs have cost the Kent taxpayer £5million over the last 12 months.

Hundreds of trees fell across the county while several residential roads were flooded during eight severe weather events from June 2019 to March 2020, according to a Kent County Council (KCC) report published to County Hall's cabinet two weeks ago.

Flooding hit many roads across the county when Storm Dennis struck in February this year. Picture: UKNIP
Flooding hit many roads across the county when Storm Dennis struck in February this year. Picture: UKNIP

Intense rainfall has been occurring more frequently, particularly in parts of mid and west Kent, such as Culverstone Valley, Yalding, Snodland, Vigo, West Kingsdown and Tonbridge. This has caused many drains to burst from being overwhelmed.

Drainage repairs have cost County Hall's highways department around £5m in the last financial year, which was £2.1m over its original budget allocation. The estimated cost of each storm event varied between £150,000 to £200,000.

KCC's environment cabinet member, Cllr Susan Carey (Con) said: "These flood events are financially damaging for our residents, businesses and us as a county council."

Her comments came during a virtual cabinet meeting on Monday, June 22, where executives were told that an 18-month trial was being developed to target critical highways and residential hotspots.

According to KCC, the trial will involve a more "proactive" and "cyclical" cleansing of gullies and ditches. Many will not be attended to until the drain systems have been overwhelmed or in response to customer complaints.

The main road into Yalding could be used only with a 4x4 after flooding in March. Picture: Phil Lee
The main road into Yalding could be used only with a 4x4 after flooding in March. Picture: Phil Lee

County Hall officers are also seeking to work more closely with landowners, such as farmers and property developers, to formulate joint flood preventative measures.

A KCC report published to the cabinet on June 15 stated: "This will provide valuable data on how drainage performance varies under differing regimes and allow identification of faults earlier and allow capital improvements to be undertaken sooner.

"During this trial we will seek to publish the records of gully maintenance and issues, keeping residents informed of our activities and providing reassurance about the readiness of the drainage system."

More than 10,000 drain and flood enquiries, including 8,727 emergency calls,were made to KCC's highways department between April 2019 and February 2020. Customer demand has increased by 41% over the last four years.

Simon Jones, KCC's corporate director for highways, said: "We want to get ahead of the game."

A fallen tree on the road to Bridge, near Canterbury, as Storm Dennis swept across the county. Picture: Chris Davey
A fallen tree on the road to Bridge, near Canterbury, as Storm Dennis swept across the county. Picture: Chris Davey

He added: "We must make sure we have a sustainable system, not just on the highway, but our relationship with the surrounding areas so we cut out these problems at source rather than having to deal with responses."

On finances, KCC says it will continue to lobby the Department of Transport and the Secretary of State, Grant Shapps, for economic aid as the council seeks to recuperate escalating costs.

Cllr Roger Gough (Con), the leader at Maidstone County Hall, added: "This has had a massive impact on the county over a long wet winter and something we will have to contend with in the future."

A report on the drain cleansing trial will be presented to KCC's environment and transport cabinet committee later this month.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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