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Leigh Flood Storage Area expansion scheme: Secretary of State agrees Environment Agency plans to increase reservoir capacity

The Environment Agency’s proposal to increase the maximum level of water that can be stored in the Leigh Flood Storage Area has been approved by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The Environment Agency can now start work to enable the Leigh Flood Storage Area to store more water, increasing its capacity by nearly a quarter. Enlarging the reservoir also means that a new flood embankment can be constructed in Hildenborough. Once complete, over 1,400 homes and businesses in Tonbridge and Hildenborough will be better protected from flooding.

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

“We are pleased to confirm that the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has approved our application to increase the maximum stored water level in the Leigh Flood Storage Area.

“This decision means that we will now be able to proceed with the Leigh expansion and Hildenborough embankment scheme which will reduce flood risk to over 1,400 homes in Tonbridge and Hildenborough.”

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

“This project is an important step in response to climate change and the increased risk of flooding in the coming years. We know only too well that many homes and businesses have been seriously flooded in the past and the fear of this happening again still exists for many. Once complete the new flood defence measures will offer reassurance to communities and considerable improvement to reduce the risk of flooding in the future.”

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

“Kent County Council is proud to support the Leigh Flood Storage Area, which will reduce the flood risk on the River Medway and help the county to be resilient to climate change. We are pleased that the Secretary of State has agreed to these plans and that the project can now progress. Once it is complete, this scheme will significantly reduce the risk of flooding in Tonbridge and surrounding communities and the disruption this causes to lives and livelihoods.”

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

“It is always immensely gratifying to see the capital funding that we invest in our area start coming to fruition. This project is incredibly important to Tonbridge residents and businesses – it will mitigate a very real worry of homes and business premises being flooded in the future.

“This is a complex scheme, which has taken time to design, and a strong partnership has been developed with a range of funding sources and key partner agencies. We are pleased to invest in protecting existing homes and businesses, especially Tonbridge high street which is the life blood of the community. But crucially, this scheme will unlock new sites for homes and businesses in strategically important locations for the area and create new jobs and employment space, which is vital for the future economy.”

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 & Malling Borough Council, Kent County Council and the South East Local Enterprise Partnership.

Next steps

The Environment Agency expects to appoint contractors in spring 2022. Works are expected to start on site in summer 2022 and the scheme completed in autumn 2024.