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Senior minister Danny Alexander promises funds will be provided for flood defences during visit to Yalding

A senior minister has rejected claims that the government has blocked funding for flood defence schemes in Kent.

Speaking on a visit to Yalding (Feb 18), Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, said the complaint was “absolute rubbish.”

But he acknowledged more had to be done to ensure residents and businesses got the help they needed.

Government minister Danny Alexander visits Yalding.
Government minister Danny Alexander visits Yalding.
Neil Gunn
Neil Gunn

In a separate development, the leader of Kent County Council Paul Carter indicated the council would be prepared to jointly fund the flood defences needed.

Mr Alexander was challenged by several residents during his visit about the difficulties they continued to face with insurance companies.

Asked about reports the Environment Agency had been unable to go ahead with £200,000 of defence work in the village, he said: “It is absolute rubbish.”

“The Environment Agency (EA), working with the community, has taken the view that what are needed are large scale schemes to protect all homes because domestic defences are not sufficient.

“The EA is working up two schemes and I will be pressing for the work to be done as soon as possible. I will make sure there is no Treasury barrier. I will certainly take back to Whitehall the importance of these schemes.

“In an echo of David Cameron’s pledge that “money was no object”, he added: “There is plenty of money there to build new flood defence schemes. Clearly the Environment Agency has to work out how to deliver them.”

Andrew Pearce
Andrew Pearce

There are two long term schemes being considered that could improve flood defences, particularly around Yalding.

The first is to increase capacity at the Leigh Barrier, three miles upstream from Tonbridge, by about 15% and the second is to create a second flood storage area further downstream.

Speaking at a public meeting in Yalding last night the Environment Agency’s Neil Gunn, who works in its partnerships and strategic overview department, says potential locations on the latter are commercially sensitive but said it would be somewhere on the Lower Beult.

Environment Agency area manager Andrew Pearce hopes that firm proposals for these schemes can be presented to central government for funding within 18 months.

More immediate plans include training community wardens, improving the Environment website

Another is to create a separate flood warning area for Maidstone and it is expected this can be done before next winter.

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