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Flood defences can help prevent £568m losses each year, report claims

·3-min read

River flood defences prevent losses of £568 million a year, showing the vital need to maintain them, a new report has found.

The study for ABI and insurers Flood Re by flood risk specialists at JBA Risk Management looked at the benefits of flood protection upkeep over a 30-year period under different spending scenarios.

It found that without flood defences in place along rivers, losses could total £956 million a year, which was reduced to £388 million with defences, showing they delivered a benefit of £568 million a year.

Winter weather Feb 4th 2021
Flooding affects about one in six properties in England and Wales (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The report also found that increasing current maintenance spending by 50% could extend the lifespan of defences by an average of eight years and that every £1 spent on maintaining existing schemes can save up to £7 in spending on new defences.

It highlighted that well-funded flood defences do not breach, but if maintenance spending is cut the lifespan of the defences will reduce and overall annual costs will rise.

The joint review has been released ahead of the Government’s comprehensive spending review later this year.

Simon Waller, executive chair at JBA Risk Management, said: “The effectiveness of flood defences plays a significant role in the resilience of our communities and will continue to do so, especially with research suggesting that flooding is likely to increase in frequency and severity.”

Workmen prepare flood defences near the River Ouse in York
Workmen prepare flood defences near the River Ouse in York (Danny Lawson/PA)

James Dalton, ABI’s director of general insurance policy, said: “At the upcoming comprehensive spending review, we urge the Government to ensure that adequate investment is allocated to flood defence maintenance projects as well as capital as part of the new funding cycle.

“The flood risk in the UK is only going to worsen as a result of climate change, so it is vital that investment in flood defences keeps pace.”

ABI and Flood Re say that flooding is the greatest natural disaster risk in the UK, suggesting an estimated one in six properties in England and Wales, one in 11 properties in Scotland and one in 34 properties in Northern Ireland are now at risk of flooding.

Since 2015, the UK Government has been investing £2.6 billion towards flooding protection in flood and coastal defence schemes.

In the 2020 Budget, it announced that it will double that amount to £5.2 billion over the next six years.

Floodwaters in York, in anticipation of Storm Christoph
Good river flood defences could save £568 million each year, the research found (Danny Lawson/PA)

“Our primary concern must be to protect communities and families from the impact of flooding. Today’s report shows that it is also financially reckless to do otherwise,” said Flood Re chief executive Andy Bord.

“The Government must embrace the opportunity to commit additional budget to maintain our flood defences.

“If maintained, flood defences provide long-term security for communities which may otherwise be devastated by flooding.

“Protecting against flood risk is also critical to ensuring the long-term availability of affordable home insurance for those living in flood-prone areas.”

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