Flood insurance cover does not protect thousands of new homes

Thinktank says 70,000 new builds in high risk areas are not covered by government-backed scheme

Josh Halliday www.theguardian.com  

Tens of thousands of families who bought new homes in flood-risk areas are facing “crippling” financial costs, as they are ineligible for cover under a government-backed insurance scheme, a study has found.

Research by the liberal conservative thinktank Bright Blue found that 70,000 homes had been built on land at the highest risk of flooding in England since 2009, including 20,000 that were not protected by flood defences.

Homes built after 1 January 2009 are not eligible for insurance under Flood Re, a government scheme launched in 2015 with the aim that about 350,000 homeowners would have access to affordable cover.

However, the scheme has been criticised – not least because tens of thousands of people who bought new homes in flood-prone areas in the past decade are not covered. The government ordered a review into flood insurance following the storms over Christmas.

The study found that about £31bn worth of properties had been built after 2008 on land in England at the highest risk of flooding. The vast majority of these properties are protected by the Thames Barrier in London, it said, although £5bn worth of buildings remain unprotected.

Of the 70,000 new homes built in these at-risk areas since 2008, 20,000 are not protected by flood defences. Lincolnshire had the greatest concentration of undefended at-risk homes, according to the report.

The thinktank said the government had not done enough to inform new-build homebuyers of their flood risk over the past decade and should step in to help. Helen Jackson, the author of the report, said: “Government policy over the past decade has seen individuals as entirely responsible for finding out their flood risk, but obviously many are simply not aware.

“Many of those seeing their communities deal with flooding would view this onus on them as individuals to have understood how flooding could affect them as a bit heartless.”

The National Planning Policy Framework, which guides local planners on the government’s housebuilding policies, states that “inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding should be avoided” by directing development away from areas at highest risk. It adds that where development is necessary, it should be “made safe for its lifetime without increasing flood risk elsewhere”.

However, experts say that any housebuilding on high-flood-risk land risks exacerbating the problem elsewhere because it involves paving over green space that would otherwise help soak up rainwater.

A government spokesperson said: “Local authorities have a responsibility to assess the number of homes their communities need and have the final say on planning permissions for new developments. However, flooding risk should always be a consideration to ensure building takes place where this risk is lowest.

“Where development in a risk area is absolutely necessary, sufficient measures should be taken to make sure homes are safe, resilient and protected from flooding.

“To better understand if some households are not receiving sufficient insurance cover, we have announced an investigation into this issue.”  [Owl might have to ask the weasels what the last few paragraphs mean]

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