Flood risk is one of the biggest environmental risks that affects the UK.
Currently, 1 in 6 properties are at risk of flooding, and it is not always obvious to know which ones are. Too often we falsely believe that just because we’re away from a river or the coast, we’re not at risk.
With climate change, the risk of flooding is only going to increase. It is projected that by 2050, properties at risk will increase to 1 in 3. This corresponds to over 10 million properties.
Despite the scale of risk, too often flood risk is ignored during the conveyancing process. Reliance is heavily weighted towards risk screening as opposed to understanding flood risk through a property specific assessment such as Landmark's Flood or RiskView Residential reports.
In this, the first of three articles, we got together with Landmark Information's Channel Manager and environmental consultant, Mark Taylor to help us debunk the three common myths that are often used as reasons by conveyancers as to why they don't get a flood report for their clients despite them existing since the Law Society Practice Note was issued in 2013.
Flooding would have affected villages, towns and cities across the UK since we decided to settle. It is not a new or recent phenomenon. It is though something that we have exacerbated through how our relationship with the water environment has evolved. Instead of allowing water courses in urban areas to naturally flow, we have shortened, channelised and engineered water courses at our will to make room for development without necessarily understanding the repercussions.
To manage the increasing risk the traditional way of managing and reducing risk has been simply to build walls. There has been a reliance on heavy engineering to manage risk especially in urban centres. While building flood walls and flood barriers can be an appropriate way for managing risk, the general public perception of defences is that they are impenetrable.
In reality, this isn’t true. Flood defences do not provide unlimited protection and there is a huge difference between a property being within a low-risk area, and a property in a low-risk area because defences are present.
Defences are not designed to protect against all flooding. They are designed to protect against flooding of a certain probability. This is called its design standard. Defences will have different design standards. If relying on them for protection, it is important to know what that protection is.
Along much of the coastline in the UK, where flood defences are present the design standard is generally to a 1 in 200year standard (protection against floods with a 0.5% annual probability of occurring in any given year). However, if a greater flood event happens, then the defences would be expected to be overwhelmed and won’t prevent flooding.
Alongside being overtopped, defences can and do fail. The Foss Barrier in York comprises a barrier gate and pumping station and is located on the confluence of the River Foss and the River Ouse. On Boxing Day 2015, the Foss Barrier failed and had to be raised from its previous closed position.
The failure occurred because the pumping station where 8 water pumps are located to pump water from the Foss into the Ouse had flooded, flooding some of the electrics. Lifting the barrier resulted in over 600 homes being flooded.
Flood defences lining a river or the coast will not protect areas against surface water flooding. it is also unlikely to protect against groundwater flood events.
To learn more and to put your own questions to Mark about this topic and Landmark's Flood and RiskView Residential reports, SafeMove are running two free, 30 minute webinars in June. You are invited to join us?
Myth Busting: Uncovering the truth about flooding
Simplify your search needs with a RiskView