A rising tide lifts all the houses: Floating homes being seriously considered at sites across the UK

As the Big Thaw brings more flooding, Tom Peck investigates if  floating homes can meet housing need in age of increased rainfall.

If we can’t hold back the tide, why not rise with the river level?

They may sound like something out of Kevin Costner’s widely-panned Waterworld film, but floating homes are being seriously considered at sites across the UK as a solution to the country’s housing crisis.

With flooding set to become more common as climate change worsens, floating developments – which are  already common in low-lying regions of the Netherlands and Indonesia – offer the prospect of secure, eco-friendly housing on marginal wetland sites.

There are several different technologies, but the one attracting the most attention is a potential development of 64 homes in Surbiton, south east London.

The houses, which will be built alongside a restaurant and marina, will sit on metal stilts and a buoyant pontoon above a river. In essence, the driveway and the front door are on the first floor. Large habitable basements are to a varying extent, underwater. If the water level rises, the entire house rises with it. When the water dissipates, it sinks back down again.

“In the last five years, flooding has become a major problem,” said Philip Wallis, the Managing Director of Hydro Properties, the company behind the proposed development. “We think this scheme can be the ultimate demonstration site. To show how man and nature can be developed together in a highly sustainable way.”

That the scheme will indeed allow man and nature to live harmoniously together is a notion on which there is a far from universal agreement. Like  similar projects, notably one near Norwich, that would see 670 homes built at the confluence of two rivers, the Surbiton sanctuary has met ferocious local opposition. The Surbiton Filter Beds, where the homes are planned, is a recognised  hibernation and feeding area for the rare Daubenton’s bat, and there is concern that the development  may affect them. There are also fears over the area’s historical sites. Waterworks at the filter beds allowed Dr John Snow to prove cholera was water-born and helped end outbreaks of the disease throughout the world, around 200 years ago. But the site  has lain all but derelict for more than  a decade.

There is also disagreement over the extent to which the development might block view of nearby Hampton Court Palace for residents in the area. Objections to development are hardly unusual, but this scheme has drawn criticism on ecological grounds from the local MP, the Energy and Climate Change Minister Ed Davey, and the ecologist Zac Goldsmith, MP for neighbouring Richmond. “Surbiton’s filter beds are simply too special to sacrifice to flats, car parking, a marina and restaurant. It is a “blue lung” for our riverside, with precious birds and bats and a unique and world important history.” Mr Davey said recently.

For now, local opposition has won out. Last week, Kingston council’s planning committee unanimously rejected the plans, after receiving 915 letters of objection and 315 letters of support. Mr Wallis is considering an appeal.

But even if the Surbiton plan never gets off the drawing board, amphibian housing is on the way.

In April, construction will begin  on Britain’s first flood-proof  floating house, on an island on the River Thames in Marlow.

Other schemes would involve deliberately flooding low lying area at Littlehampton in West Sussex to create lagoon style development.

Met Office scientists predict Britain will only get wetter in the years to come, and the Government estimates the cost of flooding in England alone is already more than £2bn. According to the Environment Agency estimates as many as 2.8m homes in Britain are at risk of flooding.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL DBA (2005/2008/2012, projects, storage requirements)

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

Copywriter - Corporate clients - Wimbledon

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Copywriter - London As a Copywrite...

Horticulture Lecturer / Tutor / Assessor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: As a result of our successf...

Retail Lecturer / Assessor / Tutor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are succ...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried