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Insurers in call for tighter building rules at flooding hotspots
Planners and developers have shrugged off new warnings by insurers against building homes in flooding hotspots such as York.
The head of Aviva, the UK’s biggest insurer and one of York’s largest employers, has called for houses to be given a flood rating so buyers are aware of the risks.
Mark Wilson, the company’s chief executive, is also demanding a house-building freeze on what he calls “defenceless” flood plains.
The insurance boss spoke out in the wake of the devastating floods swamping much of southern England.
But his concerns will also be seen to reflect on schemes such as York's Germany Beck development.
Mr Wilson wants business to work with the Government to reform the house buying system so flooding becomes a “critical factor” in the decision to purchase.
He said: “Better quality, more accessible data should be made available to house purchasers.”
The UK insurance industry has paid out more than £5bn to homes and businesses hit by flooding since 2000, compared to just £1.5bn in real terms for the previous decade.
However, Steve Turner, floods expert for the industry trade body, the Home Builders’ Federation, said: “Very few homes are now built on flood plains or areas of flood risk.
“In recent years, the number has dropped such that we are now building fewer than at any point since records began – less than five per cent in terms of land-use stats. Indeed we are only building in total in this country each year just over 100,000 homes, very few of which are on flood plains.
“There are 23 million existing homes in this country of which over five million are on flood plains.” In the few instances that homes are built on flood plains, extensive mitigation measures are put in place, he added.
“For the last decade to obtain a planning permission housebuilders have been required to produce a Flood Risk Assessment,” he said.
“This will have included mitigation measures against the risk of flooding, both of the development and any impact on the surrounding area.
“Ultimately it is local authorities that decide where development takes place, and, in conjunction with the Environment Agency, decide on the suitability of a site in flood risk terms, and what mitigation measures are required.”
Darren Richardson, of City of York Council environmental services, said: “We work closely with all applicants through the planning process to ensure that all new homes and buildings that may be proposed to be built in areas where there is a flood risk are suitably protected.
“Equally, we seek that each development does not increase the flood risk through appropriate sustainable drainage solutions.
“The Germany Beck development follows this process and the developer has provided appropriate flood mitigation measures as well as wider improvements on the A19 that will improve York’s flood resilience.”