Insurers Call for 25-Year Flood Strategy
Author: Jennifer Hill
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) urged the government to embark upon an investment programme that reflects climate change and the "real" flood risks from rivers, coasts and drainage.
It follows the worst flooding in Britain in 60 years in some parts of the country this summer -- and warnings from insurers that they might not be able to provide cover in flood-prone areas unless the government puts more money into defences.
In its report, "Summer Floods 2007: Learning the Lessons", the ABI said a single national body should be responsible for flood management, and called for stricter planning controls to ensure new developments are not built in high flood-risk areas.
Stephen Haddrill, the ABI's director-general, said: "This summer's devastating floods highlight the urgent need for a long-term strategy based around more investment, national coordination and better land-use planning.
"Insurers want to continue to provide flood insurance. The right decisions from the government will ensure that flood insurance remains widely available and affordable in the UK."
An ABI poll of 1,000 people in Yorkshire, Humberside, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire -- the areas affected by this summer's flooding -- shows that almost two-thirds believe their area will be hit by flooding to the same extent in the future.
Insurers put the estimated damage of this summer's flooding at 3 billion pounds and some of Britain's biggest companies subsequently hiked their premiums.
The ABI said in October that the government has let down millions of homeowners and businesses after failing to commit sufficient money to flood defences in its comprehensive spending review.
Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said spending on flood management would increase to a minimum of 650 million pounds in 2008/9 and a minimum of 700 million pounds a year later, rising to 800 million pounds by 2010/11.
But Haddrill said these sums were less than the ABI had been asking for even before the floods.
Responding to the ABI's latest call for action, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said spending on flood and coastal erosion risk has almost doubled in cash terms in the past 10 years to an estimated 600 million pounds in 2007/8.
"Our record levels of investment accompany a national programme of prioritised work that takes account of the changing climate to improve protection for future generations," a spokeswoman said.
The government is working with the Environment Agency to produce a 20-year flood management strategy, she added.
(Editing by Steve Addison)