Flood cost could top £2bn


The Association of British Insurers (ABI) is warning that the current floods could cost the industry over £2 billion.

Claims for floods in June, when large parts of the north including Sheffield and Hull were affected, are thought to be around £1.5 billion, while the current flood most severely hitting Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire could result in bringing total claims to over £2 billion.

A spokeswoman for the ABI told ITN: "With June and July combined, we could see losses in excess of £2 billion. It could well be our biggest year so far.

"At the moment it isn't but we are only in July."

The eventual cost is expected to surpass that of the last major flooding to affect the UK in 1990, which resulted in claims of £2 billion.

Professor Sir David King, the government's chief scientific adviser, has now warned that the threat of flooding is getting worse with climate change.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's The World at One, Sir David explained that since 1988 there has been a global increase in rainfall.

"What is happening there is that as the oceans warm up we're getting more water vapour in the air and of course that can lead to more precipitation," he said.

Sir David added that the overall increase in rainfall means that "if we have a severe flood now it's likely to be more severe than 50 years ago and equally if we have a severe flood in 50 years time it would be more serious than today".

He went on to call on long-term planning for better flood defences.

This week the government has published its housing green paper outlining plans for home building with the key target of three million new homes by 2020.

With the floods, the issue of building on flood plains has been raised.

Housing minister Yvette Cooper has said that building on flood plains will continue where sufficient defences exist. The head of flood risk policy at the Environment Agency, Phil Rothwell, also told BBC Two's Daily Politics that building on flood plains was feasible, although he admitted previous mistakes.

He said: "You can build on flood plains in certain circumstances and Holland is a good example where two thirds of the country is four metres below sea level.

"In the Thames Basin and the surrounding area we protect the area to a one in 2,000 year standard so it is possible to build in certain places."

Mr Rothwell concluded: "As a whole, and as we have seen from this event, a lot of the houses flooded are relatively recently built and since the Second World War we have put a lot of houses probably in the wrong place."

ABI director of general insurance and health, Nick Starling, called for a fresh look at building to take flooding into account.

He said: "We need new homes. But they must be built in the right place and to the right design. The devastation caused by the recent floods shows the importance of planning for the future.

"We need a fresh approach to house building to take account of the increasing risk of flooding and to ensure sustainable communities. New homes should not be built in high-risk areas of the floodplain. They must be planned and designed with flooding in mind, with greater use of flood-resilient building materials."