24 April 1998
Flood-plain building — told you so, says Environment Agency

By Jonathan Riley

FLOOD damage which left farm businesses with a £5 million clean-up bill would have been much reduced if planners had heeded Environment Agency warnings about building on flood-plain sites.

The agency has been warning local planners – who are under pressure to meet Government demands for 4.4m extra homes in the next 20 years – that too many applications for building work on flood-plain sites were being approved against Environment Agency advice.

Only last month it warned that severe flooding would be caused by the increased surface water run off from developed sites and costs of remedial engineering work to create flood defences.

An EA official said undeveloped flood plains were vital because they acted as a natural overspill for flood water which would slow the passage of water down, and allow some water to be absorbed before it reached sites downstream. The EA claimed that this would have dissipated some of the force of the water, and downstream flooding would not have been as sudden or severe.

Tim Price from the NFU Mutual insurance company backed up EA claims, saying that although rain fell in prolonged spells it still did not account for the suddenness with which waters rose.

“The speed of the flood gave people no warning and there was no time to move livestock and vehicles to higher land before the full force of the water struck,” said Mr Price.

He reckoned the £5m insurance bill for farms would continue to rise as producers were still assessing the extent of damage.

“Unlike storm damage – which is immediately obvious – flood damage takes time to assess because the water seeps into cracks and cavity walls in buildings, causing damage which may take time to appear,” he said.

  • For this and other stories, see Farmers Weekly, 24-30 April, 1998

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