UK extreme weather: Government in perfect storm over climate change gaffe as floods render homes uninsurable

Ministers accused of hugely underestimating number of households rendered uninsurable by repeated flooding

Environment Editor

The Government was on Friday night accused of hugely underestimating the number of households rendered uninsurable by repeated flooding after admitting that it had not taken into account the effects of climate change when allocating money to protect them.

The oversight was raised as thousands of people prepared to spend another night away from their homes after the worst tidal surge in more than 60 years.

Families in Norfolk and across much of the East Coast were sheltering in evacuation centres while shopkeepers took stock of the damage to their goods.

As thousands began clearing up after record-breaking high tides, many were unable to return to houses rendered uninhabitable by the floods, while authorities warned people to prepare for further high tides on Friday night and Saturday.

Seven families have lost their homes to the sea in the Norfolk village of Hemsby, with the damage being felt from Scotland and East Anglia to the South Coast and Wales.

Steven Connelly, 54, and his wife Jacquie, 65, told of how they were out drinking at their local pub when a friend came to warn them that their beachside home in Hemsby was about to fall into the sea.

“I just got in there in time to get my two cats. People from all over the place then turned up and formed a human chain to help remove our furniture,” said Mr Connelly.

Although floodwaters were said to be receding on Friday, the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, warned that “this is not over” and that there were still “exceptionally high tides to come”.

Two men have died so far as a result of the storm. Robert Dellow, 54, from Lowestoft in Suffolk died when his lorry was blown on top of two cars in West Lothian and the other after being struck by a falling tree during the storm. The second man was named by police on Friday as John White, 83,  who died in Retford, Nottinghamshire.

Mr Paterson paid tribute to Britain’s flood defence systems, which he said had saved hundreds of thousands of homes. “Conditions like this only occur in some places every 500 years, so it’s good that over 800,000 properties were protected,” he said.

The Thames Barrier closed on Thursday night and was due to close again last night.

The storms sweeping across northern Europe cannot be directly attributed to climate change. However, scientists agree that global warming will increase the frequency and intensity of floods as a result of rising sea levels and an increasing number of storms.

Ministers agreed a deal with insurers three months ago that would protect 500,000 households in areas now deemed to be at such high risk that their owners are unable to get cover. The £180m raised each year – which would be managed by a not-for-profit fund known as Flood Re – ensures that properties remain insurable through a £10.50-a-year levy on all residential premiums due to be introduced in 2015.

But an impact assessment published by the Government last week admits that its numbers don’t cater for any rise in flooding as a result of climate change – despite a separate piece of Government research estimating that 800,000 residential properties could be exposed to a significant risk of coastal or river flooding by the 2020s.

“The analysis of the baseline scenario assumes that flood risk remains the same over time,” said last week’s impact assessment, adding that it does not “take account of changing flood risk due to deterioration of existing flood defences, climate change or development in flood-risk areas”.

“As a working hypothesis we assume that the effects of climate change and investments in flood defences are broadly offsetting,” the report added. Guy Shrubsole, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Following the devastating damage caused by the biggest storm surge in the past 60 years, its unforgiveable that the Government’s future flood insurance plan excludes consideration of climate change.”

“Its own figures show that global warming will put hundreds of thousands more British homes at risk of flooding in future – yet ministers’ policies fail to reflect this.”

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute, added: “To say that the effects of investment in flood defences  balances out the effects of climate change is a joke – especially given that the Climate Change Committee [the government’s independent advisory body] has already pointed out that current investment is not in line with what is needed to take account of climate change.”

What is a storm surge?

A storm surge occurs when a number of factors come into play – a low pressure system, strong winds, high tides and the geography of land and sea. All these played a role in the storm surges on the east coast of England this week.

The air rising at the centre of the intense low pressure system that has passed over the north of Scotland into the North Sea had the effect of lowering the weight of air sitting on the water, causing the sea surface to rise and form a slight bulge.

Strong northerly winds have blown this bulge of water south, at the same time push- ing it higher. This, combined with the high spring tide (related to the Moon, not the season), has forced the storm surge down the coast, causing it to rise even higher as it is squeezed into the narrow channel of sea between England and the Continent.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
i100(More than you think)
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
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

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Recruitment Genius: Development Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected