Published: 00:00, 25 November 2014
A significant hint that funding for a £35 million flood defence project will get government funding was announced in Yalding.
Formal approval for some flood defence projects across the nation is set to be granted as part of George Osborne’s Autumn Statement on Wednesday, December 3.
However, Lib Dem politician Jasper Gerard told an audience of around 120 people that the scheme to extend storage capacity at the Leigh Barrier, and build a new flood storage area on the Lower Beult, is likely to get the go-ahead.
“It’s really exciting that he rang me this afternoon and there’s something afoot and personally I’m very optimistic for some very good news next week.” - Jasper Gerard
The Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Maidstone and Weald said: “I had a call from Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the treasury, today and he did say that next week I think we will have some news that you will be very pleased with.”
After the meeting he told KentOnline: “It’s really exciting that he rang me this afternoon and there’s something afoot and personally I’m very optimistic for some very good news next week.”
The Environment Agency (EA) hopes 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.
Around half of the funding has been secured, largely thanks to Kent County Council’s pledge to provide the money.
“There’s no short term things that we can do to reduce the likelihood of flooding but there’s a lot of things we’ve been doing to decrease the impact of flooding.”
If the remainder of funding is secured the EA first has to come up with a suitable design before speaking with landowners.
Other bureaucratic hurdles, such as Environment Impact Assessments and planning applications, also need to go ahead.
Work on detailed design should start in 2019 with construction on both projects complete by 2022.
There are, however, no short term fixes to ease flooding.
In the past an option to build a wall around Yalding had been proposed but this is not thought to be feasible and was declined by the village’s parish council.
Neil Gunn, flood risk manager for the EA , said: “There’s no short term things that we can do to reduce the likelihood of flooding but there’s a lot of things we’ve been doing to decrease the impact of flooding.”
So far the EA has improved its flood warning service by redrawing boundaries, with changes brought in last month.
This means that different parts of the village will receive tailor made alerts instead of a generic one that covered the whole village and Maidstone.
Other schemes include the repair and renew grant, which has allowed residents to make their homes more flood resilient.
Commenting on the lack of short term protection Mr Gerard said: “I’m not happy with it at all because it means this winter people in Yalding are going to be thinking at the back of their minds, while they’re having their Christmas celebrations, blimey, are we actually going to be flooded?
“The flip side to that is that the government, potentially, along with other agencies, are going to be putting a heck of a lot of money into this and they have got to be sure that the project is right.
“I don’t think the people of Yalding, long term, will thank anybody if we just rushed ahead with a quick fix solution which cost a fortune and didn’t work.
“I think the process is bubbling under the surface is going quite successfully.”
Geraldine Brown, chairman of Yalding Parish Council, said: “There’s nothing else we can do. There’s no short term fix. If we want to do this it is major expenditure and major capital projects and this has to be done properly. There’s no quick way of doing it.”