Thousands of new homes are at significant risk of flooding and could be uninsurable, an investigation has found.
Almost most half of the areas earmarked for a £200 million government development scheme are at real risk of flooding, and insurance companies could therefore be likely to refuse cover.
Residents survey the aftermath of Storm Desmond
Up to 9,000 new homes are scheduled for development by local councils on land the Environment Agency says is at either “serious” or “significant” risk of flooding, according to Greenpeace.
Nine out of the 20 schemes were fully or partially exposed to serious risk of flooding from rivers or sea, Greenpeace found. Of the nine, six areas overlapped with high probability flood risk zones meaning they had a 1 in 100 or greater annual probability of river flooding; or a 1 in 200 or greater annual probability of sea flooding.
Councils were advised by the Government to consult with the Environment Agency over any proposals, but are under no obligation to accept their recommendations.
At least 1,000 houses are planned for Hinkley, near Bridgewater, where villages on the Somerset Levels were completely cut off for more than two months last winter.
Before and After: Keswick, Cumbria Photo: Alamy/National Trust
Sedgemoor district council paid out more than £280,000 pounds in grants and council tax relief following the “major incident”, but has earmarked a development in a flood plain.
The council, which carried out tests to determine how flooding affected the area as part of its application for funds, agreed new flood defence measures to be built by 2035.
Parts of Hamworthy, Dorset, are expected to be submerged by up to four metres of water within the next 125 years, according to Poole borough council’s own estimates. Plans to build on the site of a former power station – in a high risk zone – were also accepted by the Government.
However the scheme now appears to be in chaos, after an application to build 1,350 homes was suddenly withdrawn. It was replaced with a “core strategy” involving 1100 dwellings, from which the power station site was excluded.
The Government has also backed Wakefield Metropolitan district council’s plans for 1,200 new homes to be constructed close to the Aire River, near Castleford, Yorkshire. Other flood-affected schemes include Slyfield Area Regeneration Project in Guildford, Surrey, Derby City Housing Zone and and Gloucester City.
The House of Lords committee on the built environment will today hear evidence from the Environment Agency, experts and campaign groups on the issue of building on recognised flood plains.
Those who do buy one of the new homes will be unable to safeguard them under the Government’s flood -insurance scheme Flood Re, which comes into force next April. It funds a cap on the costs of insurance for houses in high risk areas but is restricted to properties built before 2009.
Dr Doug Parr, Greenpeace’s UK chief scientist, said: “Rushing to build thousands of new homes in flood-risk areas whilst at the same time cutting flood protection staff is a recipe for disaster.”
A Government spokesman said: “This Government takes flood risks extremely seriously and we are investing £2.3bn in flood defences over the next six years, as well as protecting flood maintenance spending in real terms over this Parliament.
“We have put in place strong safeguards to stop inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding, and are delivering the homes this country needs by taking forward plans to build homes on suitable brownfield land.
“The Environment Agency provides advice on whether or not to grant permission, but final decisions rest with local authorities.”