Warning of 'significant' flood risk

Banbury Cake: Around 610,000 properties will be at significant risk of flooding by 2035 without action, the Government was warned Around 610,000 properties will be at significant risk of flooding by 2035 without action, the Government was warned

More than half a million homes and businesses will be at "significant" risk of flooding in the future without more investment in flood defences, the Government's advisers on climate change have warned.

Floods which have had a devastating impact in the past few weeks are likely to become more common in the future as the climate changes and increases the chances of extreme weather, Lord Krebs of the Committee on Climate Change said.

But a funding gap of almost £1 billion is opening up between what is needed to keep properties protected in the face of climate change and what is being spent over the next few years.

At the same time an increasing number of homes and businesses are being built on the flood plain, with 40,000 properties constructed without community flood defences in the past decade - putting them at a significant risk of flooding.

And the risk of surface water flooding is on the rise because people are increasingly paving over their gardens, giving rain nowhere to seep away, with the area covered by hard surfaces almost doubling to around half of garden space.

Lord Krebs suggested the way to tackle the increase in hard surfaces, up from 28% to 48% of urban gardens in a decade, was to "get TV gardeners to tell people to stop putting down decking and paving and have lawns instead".

He said the Government needed to support more investment in flood defences or find other ways of managing the social and economic costs of more flooding which could require explaining to people they have to accept a greater risk of floods.

Around 610,000 properties will be at significant risk of flooding by 2035 without action, four times more than if there was increased investment in flood defences and more careful planning of new housing in the flood plain, the committee said.

The Environment Agency has warned it needs a year-on-year increase of £20 million for flood defences on top of inflation to maintain the current level of protection.

But flood defence spending is 12% below what it was in the last spending review period, with a gap opening up of £860 million between what has been pledged for 2011-2015 and what is needed to keep the same number of properties protected.

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