Having experienced some of its worst flooding in 50 years, deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, said that the UK needs to face up to climate change, and accept such extreme events will become more frequent.

At the height of the flooding in October a flood defence system upstream of Ashford, on the river Stour in Kent, performed as anticipated. Overtopping of the dam, however, attracted national media attention as local residents saw the spillway in operation for the first time. ‘This was the first time the facility did its job in anger,’ Ken Allison, regional flood defence manager for the Environment Agency’s southern region, explained. Contrary to reports, nothing failed or collapsed at Aldington reservoir. ‘It helped to reduce the rate, extent and duration of flooding downstream,’ he said. ‘It worked really well.’

Allison also spoke about another flood defence scheme in Kent, the Leigh flood barrier. ‘This was really the unsung hero,’ he said, paying tribute to the skill of staff who operated the facility which spared the town of Tonbridge and surrounding areas on the river Medway from large scale flooding.

‘There was a lot of flooding,’ Allison admitted. ‘An awful lot of damage occurred and livelihoods were wrecked, but this would have been a lot worse if the Leigh barrier had not been in place.’