Record breaking rainfall has seen flooding sweep across the UK, and yet according to the Committee on Climate Change, we are building “faster in the floodplain than anywhere else”.

So why are we building on floodplains and what can be done to protect these new homes?

Why are we building on flood plains?

Increasing pressure for land has resulted in developers seeking permission in areas considered ‘at risk’ of flooding. The Environment Agency can approve developments in areas ‘at risk’ of flooding if they are behind existing flood defences. Alternatively, developments can be granted planning permission despite objections from the Environment Agency. Other homes are being built without any opinion from the Environment Agency as they are in developments of less than 10 homes.

Ultimately the planning decision lies locally, in contrast the cost of protection and clean up measures are largely subsidised by the government. It has been argued that the combination of high housing demand and flood protection subsidised by the government actually encourages housebuilding on floodplains. More information can be found in this Financial Times Article.

What does this mean for home buyers?

Many home insurers are reluctant to cover home owners in areas at high risk of flooding. As a result Flood Re (a not for profit reinsurance scheme) has been established to ensure these homeowners are able to access affordable protection. BUT, and it is a big but, Flood Re offers no protection for new homes built from 2009. With Greenpeace reporting 9000 new homes planned in government housing zones are in areas of flood risk, meaning they are potentially uninhabitable and uninsurable.

What is the solution?

This is a complicated problem involving climate change, a central approach to planning, construction and housing design… too much to consider in detail here. However, it is clear that with increasing demand for housing, more wet winters to come and limited protection for home buyers, this issue is not going to go away. Some of the short term solutions include developers and planners carefully considering the risk of flooding and development design to limit the impact of any potential flooding.

By Craig Ross