Skip to page content
Projects Map


Leigh flood storage area expansion scheme: Approval given for works to start in 2023

  • Approval given for works to start in 2023
  • Scheme increases number of homes better protected from flooding to over 1,400
  • Completed scheme will hold over 7 million cubic metres of floodwaters

The Environment Agency scheme to build a flood embankment and pumping station in Hildenborough has received planning permission from Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council.

The works planned at Hildenborough include a new embankment, pumping station, kiosk and flood defence wall. This will form part of the larger flood protection scheme involving increasing the capacity of the Leigh Flood Storage Area (Leigh FSA) by approximately 25%. Once completed the overall scheme will reduce the risk of flooding for 1,430 homes.

At a cost of around £21.5m, construction is due to start at the Leigh FSA in spring 2023, and is expected to begin at Hildenborough in 2024 (to be confirmed). The full scheme is expected to be completed in autumn 2025.

Tom Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge and Malling said:

“Expansion of the Leigh Flood Storage Area and the Hildenborough expansion scheme will help defend thousands of residents from flooding. I am pleased this crucial landmark has been passed and construction can start next year.

“This project will help protect us from flooding caused on the River Medway and its tributaries, and I look forward to the works starting.”

Sally Harvey, Environment Agency Area Director, Kent, South London and East Sussex, said:

“Securing planning approval for the Hildenborough embankment element of the scheme enables us to press ahead with construction works which will improve flood protection to more than 1,400 homes in Tonbridge and Hildenborough.”

Cllr Robin Betts, Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council Cabinet member for environment and climate change, said:

“Approval of these proposals is a crucial milestone in this major project, enabling work to start and the risk of flooding to homes and businesses to be significantly reduced. This is especially important as we confront the increase in extreme weather we are all experiencing due to climate change.”

Tony Hills, Kent County Council Deputy Cabinet member for the Environment, said:

“Kent County Council is pleased that the Hildenborough Embankment scheme has been approved. Together with the Leigh Flood Storage Area, the two schemes will significantly reduce flood risk in Tonbridge and Hildenborough, helping the county to be resilient to climate change and reduce the disruption flooding causes to lives and livelihoods.”

Christian Brodie, South East Local Enterprise Partnership Chair, said:

“We are delighted that work can begin to improve the Leigh Flood Storage Area and local embankments in Hildenborough. This vitally important investment will help to further reduce the flood risk for more than 1,400 homes and businesses.

“It will also unlock new sites in the future, allowing Tonbridge and Hildenborough to attract new businesses and residents, creating a culture of growth that will benefit the whole local community.”

The scheme is being delivered by the Environment Agency in partnership with:

  • Kent County Council
  • Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council
  • South East Local Enterprise Partnership

Funding is through the government’s Flood Defence Grant in Aid (FDGiA), with contributions from Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, Kent County Council and the South East Local Enterprise Partnership.

The investment is part of government plans to invest £5.2 billion in flood defence over the next 6 years.

More information – please visit the scheme’s GOV.UK

How the Leigh Flood Storage Area works – watch the animation

You can find out more about how the flood storage area works by watching our YouTube animation.

Notes to Editors

Works at the Leigh FSA will involve refurbishing the three flood gates on the River Medway at Leigh; raising parts of the of existing flood embankments, and constructing a new eel pass to the south of the Leigh FSA control structure.

The project will increase the maximum stored water level in the flood storage area from 28.05 metres Above Ordnance Datum (AOD) to 28.60 metres AOD. It will also build a new flood embankment in Hildenborough.

The Environment Agency’s proposal to increase the maximum stored water level was approved by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2021.

The Leigh flood storage area currently better protects 1,200 properties from flooding. Once the expansion is complete, 1,430 homes and businesses in Tonbridge and Hildenborough will be better protected from flooding.

The flood storage area sits between the villages of Leigh and Penshurst in Kent. When full, it covers approximately 278 hectares. It is formed by a 1.3 kilometre long, 5 metre high earth embankment across the Medway valley. The River Medway itself passes through 3 steel gates built into the embankment. These gates control the amount of water flowing downstream by either letting the river flow normally, or regulating the flow to hold water in the storage area.

The storage area is an ‘online’ reservoir, which means that the river is always flowing through it.

Will the FSA still be operational during construction?

Yes, the works are planned so that most of the work on the flood storage area will be during the summers when there is a lower risk of flooding. We will have robust contingency plans in place for these periods so that we can use the FSA if needed.

All media enquiries: 0800 141 2743
Follow us on Twitter at @EnvAgencySE