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Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg visits Yalding after government announced £17 million funds for flood defences in Yalding and Tonbridge

Nick Clegg has arrived in Yalding this afternoon after the government pledged £17 million for defences.

The funding, which will be matched by Kent County Council, will enlarge the Leigh flood defences on the Medway and build a new facility on the River Beult.

It comes after close to a year of campaigning by residents, councils and politicians. 

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Nick Clegg with Yalding resident Jane Bird and prospective Lib Dem candidate Jasper Gerard
Nick Clegg with Yalding resident Jane Bird and prospective Lib Dem candidate Jasper Gerard

The Deputy Prime Minister said: "Over the past few decades, flood defences in many areas have been neglected, and local people left to fend for themselves.

"Those days are coming to an end.

"There is no quick solution, but we are making a lasting commitment to Yalding, and other areas hit by chronic flooding, that as the economy grows stronger, we will make sure they get their fair share."

Yalding parish council chairman Geraldine Brown with Jasper Gerard, Maidstone's Lib Dem candidate in the general election and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg
Yalding parish council chairman Geraldine Brown with Jasper Gerard, Maidstone's Lib Dem candidate in the general election and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg

The Environment Agency (EA) wants to add one metre to the existing Leigh Barrier.

This will allow it to hold 8.9 million cubic metres of water instead of the current 5.5 million.

It also hopes to build a second flood storage area on the Lower Beult, although a potential location has not been announced as it is commercially sensitive.

Yalding was one of the worst-hit by the floods. Picture: Matthew Walker
Yalding was one of the worst-hit by the floods. Picture: Matthew Walker

Around half of the funding had previously been secured, largely thanks to Kent County Council’s pledge to provide the money.

The EA now has to come up with a suitable design before speaking with landowners.

It is currently carrying out a detailed modelling and feasibility study for the schemes on a powerful computer and this is due to be completed next year. 

Other bureaucratic hurdles, such as Environment Impact Assessments and planning applications, also need to go ahead.

Last week the EA said detailed design should start in 2019 with construction on both projects complete by 2022.

However, today it was announced they hope the work can be completed by 2020. 

The floods of late 2013 have left a mark on residents.

Lib Dem leader with Jasper Gerard, Maidstone's Lib Dem candidate in the general election and Yalding Parish Council chairman Geraldine Brown
Lib Dem leader with Jasper Gerard, Maidstone's Lib Dem candidate in the general election and Yalding Parish Council chairman Geraldine Brown

Trisha Oyler, of Acott Fields in Yalding, said after the visit: "Every time it's raining, I look at the river. I can see it from my window and you always think the worst. 

"Now that this has happened I am hopeful. The government has made a promise and it's something we really need."

There are, however, no short term fixes to ease flooding.

Helen Grant in Yalding during the floods
Helen Grant in Yalding during the floods

Helen Grant, MP for Maidstone and the Weald said: “This is fantastic news for Kent.

“I visited flood-affected areas on Boxing Day and the ensuing week and experienced for myself the devastation caused. I resolved to do everything I could to tackle the issue of flooding going forward.

“I want to pay tribute to everyone involved in securing this crucial investment.

"First of all to those families that continue to rebuild their lives, but also to the volunteers, the businesses, parish, borough and county councillors, key agencies and emergency services.

“We have all worked together to achieve this Government commitment."

The Leigh Barrier
The Leigh Barrier

Jasper Gerard, the Lib Dem's Parliamentary candidate for Maidstone and the Weald, said: “The victims of the floods have been incredibly stoical and I am overjoyed that a solution has been found.

“It has taken time but local people have understood that if government is to invest a lot of money, it had to be sure the scheme would protect our communities."

Nationally more than 1,400 flood defence projects will get funding to better protect communities and this will come from a £2.3 billion kitty.

Video: Nick Clegg in Yalding

Major investments will take place on the Humber Estuary, where £80 million will be spent, and £196 million for a programme in the Thames Estuary.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: "We all saw the destruction and heartache caused by flooding last year and that is why this investment is vital to build up Britain's defences for the future.

"The projects we are announcing today will protect some of the country's most at risk locations ensuring that we will be as prepared as possible for future severe weather."


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