Julian Knight: We cannot keep soaking up the threat of flooding
Whether caused by climate change or home building, the tide will not be turned by insurers
Sunday 30 December 2012
This Christmas introduced a completely new experience – driving in my wellington boots. In order to get to friends and family around the country I had to ford several rivers, avoid fallen trees and cope with zero visibility and that was just on the M6.
But a miserable and soggy journey is nothing compared to the experience of those who have been flooded out of their homes or business. It seems that each year around this time we have a fairly catastrophic weather event, although the perception that things are getting worse is in part because of 24-hour news we see much more of floods that have always happened. There is nothing more appealing it seems to rolling news producers than to have a reporter clad in North Face standing solemnly by a swollen river, it's the cheapest of cheap television.
Without wishing to get into the minutiae of climate change there is, from the evidence of my own eyes, something going on with the weather here in the UK. For instance, I heard of one restaurateur based in the Severn valley who has had his business flooded out no fewer than four times in a year. You wonder whether or not some locations in the UK are becoming uninhabitable, reclaimed by the sea, the river or even the high water table.
And we are making things worse by building on flood plains. A few years back I was walked through a leading insurer's most advanced flood mapping technology – much more in depth than publicly available through the environment agency at the time. The scenarios for large swathes of the country to be regularly inundated were frightening.
Yet we are living in denial it seems still. All and sundry seem to believe that the insurers will just continue to cover property which frankly is becoming or will soon be a write-off. Which insurer, for instance, in their right mind would offer cover for the restaurant flooded four times this year alone?
Of course, the insurance industry realises that telling the truth would cause huge damage not just to its reputation but to the wider economy. Although we love to bash insurers, they have been trying to reach an accommodation with the government since 2000 – namely “We will continue to cover homes and businesses at risk – funded through higher general premiums as well as hiked costs to the worst affected – provided more is spent on flood defences.”
As I have reported several times in recent months these negotiations have not gone well and there is only six months before the present entente expires. For people such as the restaurateur, I hope they come to an agreement soon. However, if the models that I have seen are right – or an underestimate – then this will only be a temporary fix.
Perhaps in reality we shouldn't be cossetted in this way and we should truly gauge the costs of climate change. I'm particularly worried that this Government's desperate attempts to get the private sector to build more houses will just put more lives in harms way of the flood waters. Maybe it's time we looked at where we live on these small isles rather than rely on an insurance sleight of hand?
False housing market
A Halifax press release slipped down my inbox chimney the other day proclaiming that first-time buyer numbers are now at their highest level since 2007.
Greater mortgage availability, slightly looser lending criteria and softer prices in many parts of the UK are given as the reasons. But in the small print Halifax admitted there are still 50 per cent fewer first-time buyers than in 2006 – an insight into a greater truth about the UK housing market. Transaction levels are so low compared to the norm that you can't draw many conclusions. The market hasn't had a normal trading day since 2007 and won't have one until the prop of artificially low interest rates is taken away – and guess where prices will go then?
There is no rush of first-time buyers, just a tiny shift in numbers in a distended and false market.
The FTSE 100 is inching closer to its record high but can it maintain these levels?
MPs call for Equitable Life policyholders to be paid £2.8bn owed by government
Fuel poverty could claim 100,000 lives over next 15 years, warns energy charity
Bank-beating exchange rates on your international payments
Weekly Money: Round-up of the personal finance stories you may have missed 23-27 February
- 1 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 2 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 3 What color is The Dress, white and gold or blue and black? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
- 4 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 5 Fearne Cotton quits Radio 1 after ten years for 'family and new adventures'
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
iJobs Money & Business
£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...
£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...
£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...
£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...
Day In a Page
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads