New funding method 'will delay' flood defences in Kent

A new method of calculating flood defences funding will delay some schemes in Kent, according to the Environment Agency.

The agency said the county had the highest flood risk in the country.

From April 2012, each scheme's government funding will be determined by the benefits it would bring and how many people it would protect.

When this figure is less than its actual cost the agency will need to find additional funding.

A Kent County Council (KCC) report published on Monday said contributions to funding for flood defence schemes in Kent may come from council tax, charities or private companies.

£2m shortfall

The strengthening of sea defences in Hythe, where a large part of the town is below sea level, is estimated to cost £8m but the new method of calculating government funding values it at £6m.

Therefore, £2m additional funding needs to be found which could delay the scheme until 2014 or 2015.

Ian Nunn, an Environment Agency flood defence engineer in South Kent, said: "What the government is asking us to do is to try and squeeze money out of places that benefit from our defences, where that money might exist."

'Reducing costs'

Mr Nunn added: "Places like Hythe and most of the south Kent coast we've got to look at ways that we can reduce the cost because that will reduce the priority score and look at where contributions may exist."

Mr Nunn said additional funding from Pfizer and KCC had already been secured for work in Sandwich.

"Pfizer has put in £6.5m, KCC are putting in £3.5m-4m and that makes a massive contribution.", he said.

The new funding calculation method replaces the current model of schemes being funded in full by the government or not at all.

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