Call for £1bn to be spent on flood defences

FLOOD defence spending must rise to £1bn a year over the next decade to cope with the rising threat of flooding, insurers and campaigners have urged.

High water: Whitby's pier in rough seas
High water: Whitby's pier in rough seas

There should also be an end to building new homes in flood-risk areas, to prevent communities living in “constant fear of flooding”, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said, as it launched the Flood Free Homes campaign.

Despite planning rules, some 20,000 new properties are being built on the floodplain each year, including 4,000 in places where there is significant risk of flooding, the ABI warned as it called for a “zero tolerance” approach to the problem.

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Stopping housebuilding in the floodplain has high support, with nine out of 10 people believing residential housing developers should be completely banned from building in high-risk areas, according to a poll carried out for the launch of the campaign.

The Flood Free Homes campaign, which is supported by Friends of the Earth, the National Flood Forum, the Know Your Flood Risk campaign and the Property Care Association’s flood protection group, aims to raise the issues of long-term flood defence investment and land and water management.

It comes a year after parts of the UK were hit by devastating flooding as the country was battered by a series of storms.

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 per cent) saying it was the most important recipient of funding.

And almost three-quarters thought local authorities were primarily responsible for ensuring new homes are built in suitable locations, with an acceptable level of flood risk. The campaign calls for spending of £1bn 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.

ABI deputy director general Huw Evans 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.

“Without adequate long-term investment in flood defence protection that reflects the increasing threat, a zero tolerance approach towards building in flood-risk areas and political agreement, too many communities will continue to live with the constant fear of flooding.”

Friends of the Earth campaigner Guy Shrubsole said: “With climate change pushing up flood risk, it’s vital that the Government ramps up its investment in flood defences and stops building homes on floodplains. It’s not right that the human and economic costs of climate change are pushed onto those most vulnerable to flooding.”

Last year a cross-party group of MPs from Hull, East Riding and North and North East Lincolnshire delivered the findings of a report to Number 10, which set out measures needed to protect 110,000 homes and 20,000 businesses from the threat of future flooding after a tidal surge caused widespread flooding.