Editorial: Flood risks cannot be ignored

 

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The Independent Online

Some may deny that we are experiencing climate change, but there can be little doubt we are in the midst of extreme weather conditions. It is five years since the disastrous floods of 2007, and, since then, every year has brought more than its fair share of deluges, burst banks and whole streets and villages under water – many of them for the second or third time.

It would be unfair to say that nothing has been done since the 2007 floods left hundreds homeless and cost billions of pounds in damage. The Government sought to improve both councils' and water companies' preventative measures, with the Pitt Review of 2008 and the consequent Flood and Water Management Act of 2010. It also made a deal with insurers to ensure cover for homes in high-risk areas.

New building guidelines and greater investment in flood control, however, will take time to make a real difference. In the meantime, talks between the Government and the insurance industry on a replacement Statement of Principles – due in June of next year – have stalled in the face of the Government's reluctance to take on any financial burden itself, and the reluctance of insurance companies to take on an open-ended commitment.

The new Secretary of State for the Environment, Owen Paterson, needs to tackle the issue. However irresponsible developers and councils may have been in building on floodplains and ignoring dangers, and however careless home and shop owners may have been in considering the risk, it is clear that the frequency and scale of extreme weather conditions have become too great for councils to manage without help, or for insurance companies to act on traditional measures of risk.

The Government must be prepared to increase its support to councils and to impose on the insurance industry a levy to guarantee cover for high-risk clients (as it did with the travel industry). We cannot go into next year without a resolution. It would be disastrous, for individuals and businesses.

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