Gloomy news from the Environmental Agency suggests that one in six homes in the UK is in danger of flooding. It says that 500,000 properties face ‘significant’ chance of flooding from sea, river or surface water in any year and that the figure could rise to 830,000 by 2035 if investment in flood defences continue at current levels. Coinciding with the two-year anniversary of the 2007 floods which hit cities and towns such as Sheffield, Doncaster, Kingston-up-on-Hull and Tewkesbury, the Agency has published its long-term investment strategy. The document sets out the scale of investment needed to combat climate change over the next 25 years.
A recent report by Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) shows that the UK is more likely to experience extreme weather events in addition to hotter, drier summers and warmer, wetter winters. It also states that global warming in the UK is inevitable even under a ‘low emissions path’ but the goal is to keep this increase to under 2.C as opposed to the predicted ‘high emissions path’ increase of 5.5.C. Worrying statistics indeed, when taking into account that global temperature is currently only 5.C higher than during the last ice age.
The Environment Agency offer information about flood plains on their website and home owners can see if they are at risk by entering their postcode to view a flood map. The Agency also recommends certain steps that can be taken by those affected to protect their properties. These steps include:
The report from the Environment Agency is its first national assessment of flood risk for England and it highlights the fact that major investment is needed, after the graphic demonstration of just how much damage major floods can do, in the summer of 2007. By October of that year, total insured losses were estimated to be in the range of £2.25 billion to £3.25 billion – making it the UK’s biggest insurance flood loss. The agency states that government investment levels in flood risk and coastal management will increased from £600m in 2007-2008 to £800m in 2010-2011. It also says that it has reduced the flood risk for 156,000 households in the last six years with its flood defence improvements.
It is reassuring to note that local planning authorities must now consult the Environmental Agency on planning applications where the proposed development is at risk from flooding or is likely to increase the risk of flooding elsewhere – something that has clearly not happened in the past. The agency offer a flood warning service and have set up a National Flood Forecasting service with the Met Office to give central control over emergency services and local responders – a facility that will surely save lives in the future. Ever more increasingly, householders are finding that flood defence is something that can no longer be ignored and protective steps must be taken – even if it is only to keep the insurance company happy.