Water, water everywhere: the dangers of flooding17/08/20
1 in 10 newbuilds since 2013 in the UK have been sited on areas in danger of flooding. According to Government data, the number of properties built in these high-risk areas each year has more than doubled in recent years, with more than 84,000 new at-risk homes in total since 2013. This is a worrying statistic, which is further compounded by the number of properties that are already standing in high-risk areas, as infrequent weather events become ever more frequent.
When you’re looking to buy or rent a new home, our experts can guide you on what to look for, and how to protect yourself and your assets. Obviously, one of the first things to look out for is the property’s proximity to a river or stream. If it backs on a waterway, then you should research how often the area is prone to flooding and to what levels. This in turn can affect issues like house insurance and mortgages or loans.
The plain truth
Building on floodplains in never really advisable but is sometimes unavoidable. In the past it wasn’t really recognised as being a hazard. Floodplains are areas of flat land near a body of water, that in times of excessive rainfall are covered in surface water. Floodplains are formed due to both erosion and deposits – erosion creates a wide, flat area on either side of the river, while during a flood, material being carried by the river is deposited. Gradually, the height of the floodplain rises as material is left on either side of the river. Floodplains are often agricultural land, as these areas are very fertile. Rivers and streams can also be severely swelled by water that isn’t anywhere near the locality, but filters down through tributaries from reservoirs, lakes, streams etc on much higher ground.
It’s not just the water that does the damage, but all the impurities and debris, such as timber, staining and sewage, that linger long after the water has subsided. Water can be carrying all kinds of bacteria, or chemical and oil, and should be traversed only in protective gear. Flash flooding can be particularly dangerous and is also difficult to protect against. Identifying and monitoring potential danger zones for flooding is going a long way to protect people, property and land from flooding, but systems aren’t fool-proof and serious flooding events can still occur. The aftermath of such events can take a terrible toll on property that can cost thousands of pounds to repair.
Rising water can cause a problem. Torrential downpours can cause landslips and other watery damage, which can undermine or flood properties. It can also cause damage to land – especially farmland, both arable and livestock. Animals can become stranded and crops waterlogged. Floodwater can also be deceptive in terms of depth, which in itself can be dangerous. It can also do damage by knocking down power lines and other infrastructures, so avoiding areas where flooding can occur is important on many levels.
Flood warnings are getting better and so are flood defences. Many properties now have inbuilt defences or ones that can be erected quickly, to offer protection at short notice. But many remote and rural areas are still at the mercy of bad weather and the risk of flooding incidents. The fact that new properties are being built on areas prone to flooding is partly due to pressures on councils to build new homes and also due to the lack of suitable land. The relaxing of planning rules in rural locations has resulted in much more newbuild on the boundaries of villages, which has often had a massive impact, both positive and negative, on village life.
It’s not all negative news regarding floodplains however. They also provide a wide range of benefits to the ecosystem and wider community. These include the opportunity for water storage, groundwater being regularly replenished and improved biological productivity, with fertile soil and improved plant growth. Floodplains also provides a habitat for diverse wildlife and fish. There are recreational opportunities and open spaces to enjoy them in too, in a natural setting.
If you would like advice on whether your property – or one that you are interested in buying or renting – is at risk of flooding, then please get in touch. You can talk to our experts, who can assess the risk levels in the area.