As storms battered the UK yet again this winter, there were warnings of worse still to come, as Liz Booth reports
Just before the UK went into the first lockdown last year, areas of the country had been battered by Storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge. Thousands of people had been evacuated and many were still living in temporary accommodation as the first lockdown was imposed. A year on and storms are again hitting the UK with dire warnings of extreme cold and snow to follow.
It should, however, comes as no surprise. In the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) fifth Assessment Report, it warns that the UK is likely to suffer a 10% increase in average annual rainfall by 2100, compared to the period 1985-2005.
Elsewhere, experts from climate data analysts Carbon Brief warn: “It is not just the total amount of rainfall that scientists expect to increase. The IPCC report also predicts that Europe and the UK are ‘very likely’ to see more heavy rainfall events by the end of the century. “A lot of rain falling in a short space of time raises flood risk and there is already evidence that heavy rainfall events are getting more frequent in the UK due to climate change.”
The experts explain: “Heavier rainfall plus sea-level rises — which make storm surges bigger and more likely to breach coastal defences — has scientists warning of a greater flood risk in the UK as the climate warms.”
It seems some of these changes are already on the way. If you Google ‘floodlist’ and look at the list of UK floods in the past year. It makes for sobering reading and backs up those concerns from Carbon Brief and the IPCC.
Home insurer Policy Expert has also been carrying out research. It found that the number of extreme weather events in the UK in the last three years is greater than the sum of the previous decade. Its research revealed 31 extreme weather events hit the UK between 2018 and 2020, compared to 29 recorded between 2008 and 2017.
The home insurer calculated that harsh winter weather could lead to a total of £3.8bn in repair claims. The number of claims at the height of last year’s February 2020 storms alone was 54% greater than during the same period in the previous year.
Andrew Elder, of Policy Expert, says: “The UK’s intensifying climate highlights the pressing need for homeowners to shore up their properties now to mitigate the possibility of home damage from increasingly common extreme weather events.”
The findings came as Policy Expert launched its Winter Home Watch Guide 2021, to provide advice and tips for homeowners on safety measures they can take to reduce or avoid potential damage to their property.
Helping flood victims
More help comes from the CII’s New Generation Claims Group, which has produced a leaflet to help individuals whose homes and businesses have been battered by storms, to access cash to restore their property.
To improve the flood resilience of homes and businesses, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) launched the Property Level Flood Resilience Recovery Support Scheme in England, which has been activated several times since its inception after major flooding events.
The leaflet produced by the CII’s 2019 to 2020 New Gen group explains the scheme’s eligibility criteria and how to apply for a grant, which will contribute towards the cost of a survey and subsequent improvements to the property designed to prevent water from entering a building, or at least reduce the impact of damage.
The leaflet also explains why home insurance policies only cover reinstating your home to how it was before a flood, rather than funding improvements or storm-damage preventative measures.
The type of work that can be carried out to improve the flood resilience or resistance of homes, such as moving electrics, installing non-return valves on drains and pipes, fitting automatic air-brick covers, or adding water-resistant kitchen units, is also detailed.
Juliusz Baranski, a member of the CII’s New Generation Claims Group and a rehabilitation technician at NFU Mutual, says: “The main goal of the leaflet is to increase uptake of the grant, so properties can be rebuilt to a standard that minimises the impact of further flooding. This would benefit both the property owners by reducing the damage to buildings, as well as insurance companies because it will reduce the financial impact from the claim.
“There is a lot of experience and expertise within the market, so it was great to be able to work with others on the project and hopefully make some difference to the public perception of insurance. The CII’s New Generation programme is a great example of how the profession and individuals working within it can come together to achieve great outcomes.”
Keith Richards, chief membership officer of the CII, adds: “This leaflet provides easy-to-follow guidance to members of the public who have been impacted by flooding and should be shared by claims handlers.
“This guidance will help manage flood victims’ expectations of what can be done to restore their homes and businesses, outlines how to apply for the grant, plus explains how customers can better prepare for any future storms.”
There were 31 extreme weather events in the UK in three years between 2018 and 2020, compared to 29 in the 10 years before 2017
Insurers and government have long debated what can be done to help homeowners across the country. Most recently, Flood Re – a joint initiative between the government and insurers to make the flood-cover element of household insurance policies more affordable – has welcomed a report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), titled Managing Flood Risk, which calls for a number of recommendations to tackle the UK’s flood risk.
Andy Bord, CEO of Flood Re, says: “I am delighted that the Public Accounts Committee recognises the importance of overcoming barriers to installing property flood resilience measures. I welcome the PAC highlighting the key role that our proposals for Flood Performance Certificates can play in addressing this by providing information to homeowners.
“I also welcome the report’s call for a long-term funding commitment to invest in, and maintain, flood defences across the UK. As we approach COP26, we believe that this report is another good example of how the UK can lead the world in tackling the effects of climate change and building a resilient housing stock fit for the future.”
Several of the report’s recommendations echo suggestions made by Flood Re in its written evidence, submitted to the PAC inquiry in January 2021, including:
- A better understanding of how to overcome the obstacles to property flood resilience (PFR) uptake.
- Longer-term funding cycles for flood defences and more funding dedicated to maintenance of new and existing assets.
- Reforming building regulations to make flood resilience measures mandatory in new build properties and ensuring that they are insurable.
- A stronger voice for the Environment Agency in checking compliance with planning policy guidance.
The report also highlights Flood Re’s proposals to ‘build back better’ after flooding and to offer discounted insurance premiums to those with property flood resilience measures already installed.
For more information and to apply to be part of the next New Generation Group, visit: www.cii.co.uk/new-generation-programme.
Liz Booth is contributing editor of The Journal