Helen Grant MP with Julie Foley, Environment Agency
Member of Parliament for Maidstone and The Weald, Helen Grant attending the launch of the Medway Flood Action Plan, at the Gardens in Yalding this week. Brought forward by The Medway Flood Partnership the action plan outlines how the group will together reduce the risk of flooding to 9,000 properties in communities along the River Medway in Kent.
The plan is owned by the Medway Flood Partnership and outlines how the members will work with communities to manage the risk of in the Medway catchment, which covers all land draining into the Rivers Medway, Beult, Teise, Bourne and Eden, as well their tributaries. During the December 2013 flood event, over 900 homes were flooded across the Medway catchment, devastating people and livelihoods.
Over the next 5 years, we will be investing at least £19 million in the Medway catchment on projects that help to manage and reduce flood risk. Measures include increasing the capacity of the Leigh Flood Storage Area and providing property level resilience measures to homes in Yalding, Collier Street and Laddingford. The Environment Agency will be spending about £1 million each year on maintenance of river channels and flood defences - such as flood walls, sluices and weirs - to ensure they remain in good condition.
Many organisations have a role in managing and responding to flooding – from parish councils, local authorities, national agencies, landowner representatives to local businesses. Reducing the risk of flooding in the Medway catchment is a complex problem, which can only be solved by working in partnership.
The Medway Flood Partnership was established in January 2017 to bring these organisations together to coordinate these activities. We have also developed a Medway Action Plan that sets out our shared objectives and priorities for the next 5 years and a vision for the next 25 years.
Together we are looking at where we can build defences to better protect communities as well as where we can slow the flow of floodwaters and reduce flood levels through natural flood management. Where it is not possible to prevent flooding, we are working with local communities to help them be better prepared and resilient to flooding so that they can recover more quickly after a flood.
Julie Foley, Environment Agency Area Manager, said: "The launch of this plan demonstrates our commitment to finding practicable solutions to manage flood risk. Over the next 5 years, fully funded schemes within the Medway Flood Action Plan will reduce the risk of flooding to over 1,700 homes along the River Medway. With our partners, we will also be exploring further opportunities for schemes that help to reduce flood risk and improve the local environment."
Helen with Cllr Fran Wilson and Cllr Steve McLoughlin, Maidstone Borough Council
Matthew Balfour, Cabinet Member at Kent County Council, said: "I'm delighted that the Medway Flood Action Plan has been launched and that we can finally get to work on flood defences in the area. During the Winter 2013/14 floods, over 900 homes and businesses in Tonbridge, Yalding, East Peckham and other smaller communities were flooded from the River Medway. We are determined to reduce the risk of flooding to these communities. This is tremendous news for those communities affected and goes to show that the hard work we have put in with our partners has helped us secure the funding and draw up a robust plan to help manage and reduce flood risk."
Local MP Helen Grant said, "I was pleased to attend the launch of the Medway Flood Action Plan. This gathering of stakeholders was to mark the important work that has been done thus far and set out a plan for the next five years.
It hardly feels like 4 years ago that devastation struck Maidstone and The Weald. I vividly recall wading through the water and visiting my constituents by dingy. Since that time I have worked closely with local communities to ensure that as the local MP I do all I can to help. This included securing funding from central Government, with match funding guaranteed by Kent County Council in 2014.
We know that we can't stop the water from coming and these areas will probably flood again but what we can do is limit the damage it causes. I am a big believer in partnership working, particularly in situations where the solution is not immediately obvious. The Medway Flood Partnership is unique because it brings together the work of a number of organisations for the first time and they are able to consider a wider range of measures such as natural flood defence schemes. I am glad that community representatives have also been invited to offer their local insight.
Unfortunately there is often no "quick fix" or "one solution" for this complex issue but I will continue to hold the Environment Agency to account on the plan that they have produced for my constituents and I am on hand to provide support to those who need it."
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