Insurers warn of rising flood risk

British insurers are driving home the flood risk message as insurance in areas threatened by flooding becomes prohibitively expensive or even impossible to obtain.

Flood managers should take climate change into account, and high flood risk areas where no investment is made to improve flood protection will not be covered, the Association of British Insurers warns.

In areas where with annual flooding probability greater than 1.3% – or worse than 1 in 75 years – insurers “cannot guarantee to maintain cover” for properties they already insure as well as new customers, Helen Clark, the Association of British Insurers’ policy adviser on climate change, told the Rising Flood Risk conference in London this week.

“We cannot say that insurance will always be available just as the sun always comes out. The reason for that is that insurers need to get re-insurance,” she said, adding that insurance issues will strongly affect property prices.

She also expressed concerns over the Government’s commitment to build at least 50% of new “affordable” homes in the Thames Gateway using “modern methods of construction.” The government must guarantee that these homes are not only cheap, but also flood resilient, she said.

Lower income households should be kept out of high flood risk zones as 50% of them are not insured at all, she said: “Land at high risk of flooding should not be allocated for new development and certainly not for homes for lower income groups.”

Bob Sargent, head of hydrology at Hyder Consulting, agreed that the financial message is getting through to householders at risk from flooding where others have failed: “People don’t care about flooding until they either get flooded or until they can’t get insurance. The insurance industry is driving a lot of the changes in awareness,” he told edie.

“People tend to divorce the media coverage of climate change and rising flood risk from issues of safety in their own homes,” he said.

Climate change is already increasing flood risk as mean sea levels rise and wave heights increase, David Ramsbottom, technical director at HR Wallingford told the Newzeye conference.

Combined with deteriorating flood defences, climate change will render even low flood risk sites vulnerable to flooding within 100 years, he said.

Goska Romanowicz

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