Thousands of new homes in south east development plan face high flood risk

Thousands of homes planned for the South East face an unacceptable risk of flooding and will be uninsurable unless greater measures are taken to minimise risk, the Association of British Insurers has warned.

The Government has designated four main growth areas to address the housing shortage in the South East – the Thames Gateway, Ashford, the M11 corridor, and the South Midlands – each of which faces differing levels of flood risk (see related story).

However, the ABI report, Making Communities Sustainable, points out that one-third of these new developments are planned for floodplains and could increase annual costs of flooding by 74% in these areas, adding £55 million to the annual flood bill unless effective measures are taken.

The majority of the additional cost comes from the planned developments in the Thames Gateway, which accounts for £47.1 million per year, compared to £7.5 million for all the other growth areas combined. The Thames Gateway also has the greatest number (85,200) and the highest proportion (89%) of properties in the floodplains.

This is largely because the planned development is below the level of the high tide.

As many as 108,000 of the new homes in the four areas are located in floodplains, the report warns, with 10,000 facing significant risk.

“The Government’s plans for step-change in housing supply are essential to the economic and social well-being of this country. But, they present challenges. Our report shows that flood risk in the growth areas could be managed effectively by building on existing Government policies and plans,” said Nick Starling, the ABI’s Director of General Insurance. “Managing the flood risk properly will enable insurers to continue to offer competitively-priced flood insurance.”

The ABI report recommends measures such as moving properties off the flood plains and increasing the density in non-floodplain locations; adapting building design so properties are resilient to flooding through such measures as raising the ground floor above the likely flood level; and improving defence schemes to reduce the chance of flooding.

It also calls on Government to strengthen and clarify planning guidance to take account of current and future flood risk in allocating further areas for increases in housing numbers, and calls on local authorities to examine the most effective approaches to minimising flood risk in local plans, both through planning and building control.

The report comes shortly after the Environment Agency warned that most local authorities were repeatedly ignoring advice over flood warnings (see related story).

Keith Hill, Minister for Planning said that minimising flood risk was an essential part of creating sustainable communities. “Government is committed to working with the ABI and the Environment Agency to ensure we get this right,” he added.

By David Hopkins

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