Homes could be built on stilts to stop them flooding, suggest Yorkshire peer Lord Kirkhope as government is urged to end building on flood plains

A Yorkshire peer has called on the Government to "end the practice of building inappropriate houses in inappropriate places" as she highlighted the number of homes at risk of flooding.

Baroness Anne McIntosh of Pickering urged Ministers to take steps including using more natural defences such as 'Slow the Flow' pilot scheme introduced in North Yorkshire following severe floods in 2007.

And she called for an end to the automatic right to connect surface water drainage of new properties to the sewer system, a recommendation from a government review which has yet to be adopted.

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My message to Yorkshire flooding victims – George Eustice
Flooding at Beck Isle Museum, Pickering. 21st January 2020. Picture Bruce Rollinson

In a debate on housing developments and floods plains in the Lords, Conservative Lady McIntosh highlighted how some 5.2 million properties are at risk of flooding and there are fears that may double.

She told Minister Lord Greenhalgh: "The floods of 2007 brought substantial damage to Pickering and other parts of North Yorkshire, and the new phenomenon of surface water flooding.

"It is not generally understood that it is impossible to obtain insurance for houses built after 2009.

"Developers are meant to build houses that are not subject to flooding; if the houses then flood, the householders are ineligible for insurance. I hope that my noble friend will commit to keeping this under review and holding the developers to account."

And she added: "It is not just North Yorkshire, Pickering and the Vale of York as well as the whole region of Yorkshire that has suffered these substantial floods; it is also the case with Gloucestershire, Lincolnshire and other parts of the country.

"Therefore, I end with a call to my noble friend and the Government that, based on the experience of floods that we have seen in successive years, we should build appropriate houses in appropriate places and end the practice of building inappropriate houses in inappropriate places."

Other Yorkshire peers also took up the topic of homes being built on flood plains, with former Leeds City Council leader Baroness Blake of Leeds describing the devastating effect of flooding in Leeds.

She said: "The issue remains that so many people are still at real risk of flooding in future. It is not an accident that there are so many voices from Yorkshire here today."

Lady Blake added: "It is now over a year ago that the chief executive of the Environment Agency, Sir James Bevan, gave a very stark warning about the risks of housebuilding on flood plains.

"We are very disturbed to see that the Government have failed to take any action that we can see up to this point. All the comments today go further to get across just how serious the situation is.

"We have heard about the number of properties at risk of flooding, which equates to one in six properties, and the projections into the future are very stark indeed, if serious action is not taken."

Meanwhile Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate, a Conservative, said that in other parts of the world where flooding is a threat, "there are clear requirements that any construction must be undertaken in a way that minimises the effects of flood-water".

He said: "We need the same approach here. Flood doors, airbrick covers and non-return valves should be part of regulations; underground tanks for excess water or houses on stilts should be part of the architects’ thinking; and sharing knowledge and experience should be more encouraged."

Responding, Minister Lord Greenhalgh said the Government "are committed to reducing the risk that flooding poses to our communities".

He added: "We acknowledge that climate change will increase the risk of flooding.

"We have strong protections in place to ensure that inappropriate developments are not given permission to go ahead in areas of high flood risk, especially new homes.

"We are working hard to go further via our planning reforms, investing £5.2 billion in flood defences and reviewing flood policy."