Housing Specification Blog

Homeowners Left High and Dry

June 27, 2012 Alexandra Blakeman Planning & Legislation

Flooded street in Carlise. Clink on image for original source.

Planning applications for building on flood plains are on the rise. With the surrounding environmental and financial issues, where does that leave the current legislative position?

Local authorities are under pressure to find the room for new housing developments. We are heavily oversubscribed as a country, hence the need to build on unsuitable ground.

We’ve recently experienced a month long period rain, with little respite. Climate change, together with overcrowding, will mean that developers are forced to consider ways in which to adapt.

UK government policies discourage building on areas at risk of flooding. Where housing is absolutely necessary, there are certain guidelines in place to ensure suitable maintenance and safety of the property.

Flood resistance is the manner in which the build is able to prevent the invasion of flood water. To prevent water from damaging the building fabric, flood guards will be fitted to the property.

To minimise flood damage, if the event occurs, flood resilient materials will be employed to protect and reduce impact to the building.

Sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) mimic natural drainage processes. These systems attenuate surface water runoff and provide biodiversity benefits. Used across all sorts of applications, SuDS are the most practical and effective defence against flood damage.

By building on flood plains, we’re effectively masking a problem, rather than dealing with it. Earlier this year the government said that homeowners at risk of flooding should take responsibility for flood prevention, even though it wouldn’t necessarily guarantee them a reduction in insurance costs.

The Statement of Principles, an agreement between the government and insurance companies, which allows homeowners to purchase flood cover, will come to an end in June 2013.

The end of this agreement could leave millions of homes uninsured by next summer. By these standards, it seems that building on flood plains is an acceptable risk. Insurance companies certainly seem to think so. As long as they’re getting paid, who cares? In flood risk areas abroad, especially around Asia and Australia, houses are built on stilts, yet we continue to build at ground level.

Is there a reason for this? Flood risk shouldn’t be an acceptable fate.

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