Insurers call for tougher planning controlsSome flood-risk homes could become uninsurable

14 February 2008

A flooded street with houses

Houses damaged by flooding

Tougher planning controls are needed if flood insurance is to remain widely available for new homes, an insurance trade body warned today.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said a third of the 3 million new homes the government planned to build by 2010 would be on a flood plain.

It added that during the past year alone, 13 major developments had been given the go-ahead despite advice from the Environment Agency that they would be at risk from flooding.

High risk

Around seven of the sites are deemed to be at high risk from flooding, including a new caravan park and a development of bungalows.

The group warned that unless tougher planning laws were put in place, increasing numbers of homes would become unsaleable, uninsurable and uninhabitable.

Speaking at the Architects' Journal conference, the ABI's assistant director of property Justin Jacobs said: 'The government's ambitious housing plans are in jeopardy unless we reduce the flood risk.

'In the last year, 13 major developments have been given the go-ahead despite Environment Agency advice on the flood risk. Where a local authority plans to ignore flood risk advice, the government should step in and review the proposals and be compelled to publish their decision.

'Insurers want to continue to provide flood cover, but poor planning decisions will lead to more homes becoming unsaleable, uninsurable and uninhabitable.'

Planning permission

The group said that despite it now being a statutory requirement that the Environment Agency be consulted on new developments, planning permission was still being given despite the agency highlighting flood risks.

At the same time it said some new developments were displacing flood risks to other areas.

The ABI warned that unless flood risk was taken into account for new developments, the cost of insuring new properties would continue to get more expensive, while some homeowners could find it increasingly difficult to obtain cover at all.

Stronger controls

The group has repeatedly called for stronger planning controls, and it has also urged the government to develop a 25-year strategy to manage the UK's growing risk from floods, with an investment programme that reflects climate change and the real risk of flooding from rivers, the sea and drainage systems.

Last year's floods in Yorkshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire will cost the insurance industry more than £3 billion, and, combined with other events, they helped make 2007 the worst year ever for weather-related claims.

The ABI said insurers had so far paid out £1 billion of claims as a result of last summer's floods.

Review

It added that more than half of the 15,000 households that were in temporary accommodation have now been able to return home, while three-quarters of people are expected to be back in their own homes before Easter.

Insurers have pledged to continue offering flood insurance to existing policyholders where the risk of floods is being managed.

But following the floods in 2007, and in the light of the increasing number and extent of floods linked to climate change, the industry is reviewing the issue.

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