LV= GI, think tank urge government to ban home developments in flood-risk areas

Top five local authorities at risk of flooding identified

LV= GI, think tank urge government to ban home developments in flood-risk areas

Catastrophe & Flood

By Mark Rosanes

LV= General Insurance (LV= GI) has urged the government to restrict the development of new houses in flood zones after a study it conducted with independent think tank Localis revealed that more than 5,000 homes have been approved to be built in England’s flood-risk areas this year.

The researchers analysed more than 16,000 planning applications between January and September and found that about 200 planning permissions had been granted for 5,283 new homes in local authorities already facing a significant risk of flooding.

Yorkshire and the Humber and the East Midlands are the most affected regions, with nearly half of the approved homes situated on a major new development on a floodplain in North Lincolnshire.

The report also identified South Holland, Boston, Fenland, Runnymede, and King’s Lynn and West Norfolk as the top five local authorities at risk of flooding, with these areas accounting for almost a third, or 31%, of approved planning permissions for new residential buildings on floodplains that did not come with a flood risk assessment.

“Flooding is an extremely traumatic event, which has a devasting impact on a person’s life, both physically and mentally,” said Martin Milliner, claims director at LV= GI. “This research highlights a concerning amount of current and future development in high flood risk areas.”

According to the report, almost 20% of all properties across England are at risk of flooding. The figure is equivalent to 5.2 million people. The study also found that about 2.4 million properties are on floodplains but development in these areas has risen 12% in the last decade as the country’s population grows, pushing the need for new homes.

The researchers predicted that the number of properties built in areas at high risk of flooding would nearly double in next 50 years, rising from 2.4 million to 4.6 million.

“Climate change will increase the UK’s exposure to weather-related hazards such as flooding, and it’s vital we prepare for this,” Milliner said. “Whilst we welcome the government’s commitment to increase housing, we have concerns about the UK’s resilience to future flood events, and in particular, the number of new housing developments in flood risk areas that are still receiving approval. With those involved in the planning process ignoring the current guidance, this runs the risk of putting an ever-increasing number of communities at risk.”

“To tackle this, we need to come together and develop a holistic approach to flooding for the long term, with property developers, insurers and government – both nationally and locally – tackling the issue of building on floodplains,” he added.

LV= GI and Localis also laid down several policy recommendations in the report, including:

  • Planning reforms: Floodplain development should be avoided wherever possible and should be accompanied by appropriate flood defences, constructed alongside new developments, where unavoidable.
  • Funding recommendations: Specific funding should be made available to establish a new cross-departmental task force to look at flood-risk development. A new ministerial post, between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), should be set up to oversee and provide accountability for this task force.
  • A future risk-based approach to development: The insurance industry should work with the government, local authorities, developers, and other key stakeholders to help inform what measures might be needed in the future to help mitigate against climate change and ensure that homes are and remain insurable.

Read more: AXA UK puts forward flood risk recommendations in response to Parliament inquiry

“There is a clear need to reset government policy and regulation to prevent an otherwise unavoidable 50% uptick in the numbers of houses being built on floodplains over the next half-century,” said Jonathan Werran, chief executive officer at Localis. “At the same time, with climate change another unavoidable reality, we need to strengthen communities to become resilient in adapting to, living with and responding to flood pressures.”

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