A soldier with 36 Royal Engineer Regiment helps a local resident in the flood hit Surrey town of Egham in 2013. Photo: Crown Copyright / Sgt Russ Nolan RLC
£1billion a year essential for new flood defences
£1billion a year must be spent on flood defences over the next decade to cope with the rising threat of flooding, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and campaigners like Friends of the Earth. In a new initiative, they argue for an end to building new homes in flood-risk areas, to prevent communities living in “constant fear of flooding.”
The Flood Free Homes campaign says that despite planning rules, some 20,000 new properties are being built on the floodplain each year. This includes 4,000 in places where there is significant risk of flooding. The ABI called for a “zero tolerance” approach to the problem.
Quite how any government committed to further immediate deep public spending cuts can match this call is unclear. Defra says it will be “making record levels of capital investment, spending £2.3 billion over six years in improving defences right up to 2021.”
Flooding is a fact of life in the UK. Environment Agency data shows around 2 million homes in England and Wales are now at flood risk from rivers and sea. With that risk deemed ‘moderate’ or greater for over 500,000 of these, and a further 2.4 million homes at risk of surface water flooding, this is a serious problem facing the country.
Climate change and other factors like increased building and higher population density population mean the problem is getting worse. Without action to reduce flood risk, the effect on our homes, businesses, infrastructure and way of life is potentially devastating
The ABI says that stopping house-building in the floodplain has high support, with nine out of 10 people surveyed for the launch of the campaign believing residential housing developers should be completely banned from building in high-risk areas.
The survey of 2,500 people by YouGov for the ABI found that flood defences topped the list of environmental issues that should attract Government spending, with more than a third (36%) saying it was the most important recipient of funding.
And almost three-quarters (73%) thought that local authorities were primarily responsible for ensuring new homes are built in suitable locations, with an acceptable level of flood risk.
The campaign is calling for spending of £1billion a year on flood defences by 2025, a zero tolerance approach to inappropriate new developments in flood-risk areas and cross-party political consensus on long term solutions for tackling flooding.
Huw Evans, deputy director general at the ABI, said:
“The need for this campaign to address the UK’s rising flood threat has never been more important. No action is not an option. Last winter’s floods highlighted the trauma and devastation flooding brings. How we manage our land and water has to become central to government decision-making across the UK, whoever is in power.”