War is waged on developers who target sites with no flood defence

As crisis worsens, councils say budget cuts have left them exposed to private contracts
  • @adamsherwin10

Residents today described the “heartbreaking” damage heavy rain wrought on its flood-ravaged streets and homes - as the body of an elderly woman was pulled from a house.

Heavy rain continued to cause chaos across Britain today as anger turned against developers who target vulnerable sites for new housing developments without paying for the necessary flood defences.

As David Cameron visited the worst-affected areas in Devon, local residents complained that developers had won permission to build new homes on sites already at risk of flooding.

Properties in Feniton, East Devon, devastated by flooding in 2008, were once again evacuated as water cascaded from a field where developers Wainhomes have won a controversial ruling to build 50 new homes, despite evidence that new developments can exacerbate local flooding problems.

Roger Giles, Devon County Councillor, said: “Feniton has a long history of flooding and people are angry about this new development. It is on elevated land and the water is cascading down from it like a waterfall.

“Feniton is being targeted by developers but what we really need is the new flood defence scheme. But the cost is estimated at £1.6m and last year East Devon District Council cut its flood defence budget.”

The Planning Inspectorate approved the development, in the face of opposition from village residents and councillors, because the council had failed to meet a new Government obligation to provide suitable building sites to meet local housing needs. Building work is due to commence next month.

Mr Cameron promised to take a “tough approach” on negotiations with insurers over homes in danger of flooding after he met householders in the village of Buckfastleigh, which was struck by flash flooding at the weekend.

Up to 200,000 high-risk properties could be priced out of affordable cover when a deal struck in 2000 between the then Labour government and the Association of British Insurers ends next summer. The Government has been in talks for two years but as yet an agreement has not been reached.

“I’m sure we will do a deal,” Mr Cameron said. “We need to take a tough approach frankly and it’s important insurance companies do what they are meant to, which is provide insurance to households. We are going to make sure that happens.”

Dr Tim Harries, a research fellow in flood risk at Kingston University in London, said developers needed to do more to secure homes against extreme weather events. “They need to elevate homes and provide space below where water can drain,” he said.

Today the body of an elderly woman was found in a flooded home in north Wales and 500 residents forced to evacuate their properties after the River Elwy broke its banks.

Some residents were rescued by lifeboats and a pregnant woman was brought out the window of her property by British Red Cross volunteers.

In nearby Ruthin, residents prepared to flee after Denbighshire County Council warned that up to 400 properties are potentially at risk.

The Environment Agency said 191 flood warnings are in force across the UK, with 960 homes having suffered flooding since last Wednesday.

In North Yorkshire, more than 50 houses in Pickering were under threat whilst officials monitored levels on the River Ouse in York.

The Environment Agency warned that levels in the River Nene in Northamptonshire had “risen significantly” and added that “large, slow responding rivers” – particularly the Thames, Trent and Severn – would continue to rise over the next few days.