Tens of thousands of houses are still being built in high flood risk areas against the advice of the Environment Agency and many more are being built without the necessary flood protections. Emma Hardy, MP for Hull West and Hessle, an area which knows the dangers of flooding only too well, hosted a roundtable event in partnership with Aviva, the UK’s largest home insurer, to discuss how these deficiencies could tackled – particularly through the forthcoming National Development Management Plans.
The event was held in Parliament on July 5, and was attended by representatives from the insurance industry, national bodies involved in planning, flooding and adaptation to climate change, Ruth Jones MP, Shadow minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and a range of other experts.
Opening the roundtable, Adam Winslow, CEO of Aviva said, “Our homes are at risk like never before. The climate crisis is bringing more extreme heat, subsidence, storms and floods, and we know there is more in store. One in every four homes in the UK is at risk of flooding and at Aviva all too often we see the impact this has.”
“National and local government need to work hand in glove with the construction and insurance industries to find practical solutions to ensure we build the right homes in the right places – not just for today, but long into the future too.”
Currently, developers are allowed to sell properties before they have put agreed flood mitigations in place. It was felt that this practice should be ended, and that building regulations should be updated to require all properties at risk of flooding to include property flood resilience measures.
Speaking after the event, Emma Hardy said “I am glad that the government is making the requirement for Sustainable Drainage Systems on new developments mandatory, but we need to make sure they are being done properly and continue to function. That means proper resourcing of Local Authorities to enforce regulations and monitor effectiveness.“
Prevention of flooding in one area very often requires work and adaptions elsewhere and the consensus was that a more integrated approach to water management needs to be adopted. Where water goes after a new development is created is as important as where the water might be coming from.
At the moment, this wider view is not feeding through to local planning and decisions are being made which might have local benefit but create more problems elsewhere.
There were a number of contributions on the important role water management can play in increasing biodiversity and in meeting net zero targets. For example, bogs and salt marshes store water and slow the flow of water, but are also carbon traps and rich habitats for a diverse range of plants and animals. There was agreement that developing a truly integrated approach to water management could not be done without considering its role in improving nature and reaching net zero.
Increased enforcement of regulations and developing new approaches to managing water will require further recruitment and training. This should be seen as an opportunity for growing new skills and expertise.
Although there are considerable problems to face as climate change begins to bite, tides continue to rise and extreme weather events become more frequent, there is reason to be optimistic. There is a concerted will in the UK from all those involved to tackle this problem and continue to ensure home owners are financially protected. Contrast this approach to California, where two of the biggest insurers recently pulled out of the market, leaving millions without cover.
Adam Winslow concluded “Although change can be contentious, we have a fantastic opportunity to help the UK to build sustainably for the future, while still meeting the pressing demand for new houses. I was energised by the discussion, and believe we have strong support for reforms that deliver these goals.”
Emma Hardy agreed “It was encouraging to hear such close agreement around the table, both on the problems and the best solutions. We’re looking forward to contributing to the NDMP consultation, to help government produce a plan with clear and straightforward standards which also gives Local Planning Authorities the powers to go above and beyond them.”