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Beach defence cuts spell homes insurance danger

INSURANCE EXPERTS this week warned that homeowners may struggle to get cover against flooding if the Environment Agency goes through with cost cutting plans to stop defending the UK's beaches.

Flood defence managers revealed this week that the growing funding crisis within the Agency may prevent some of the country's most vulnerable beaches being protected. Its current national funding shortfall stands at £30- 40M.

Speaking at the annual Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food conference of river and coastal engineers on Thursday, Agency managers claimed that coastal defences were becoming increasingly difficult to sustain.

The southern region - which includes some of Britain's most popular but most at risk beaches - is having to consider doing less to protect the coast or in some cases nothing, due to the cash restraints, the conference heard.

But speaking later at the conference, Association of British Insurers flooding expert Chris Mansey warned that residents in high risk areas could find it increasingly difficult to get cover if defences are left to crumble.

'In the light of the Easter floods, defences will need to be adequate for the insurance industry to continue providing cover in the way that it is now,' he said.

The Agency is now carrying out a five year programme of strategic studies to determine which parts of the south coast are most at risk. Among the areas under consideration is the Selsey peninsula in West Sussex where 1,000 residents were cut off from the mainland in January when a shingle bund was breached during storms (NCE 1/8 January).

Southern area flood defence manager Ken Allison commented: 'We are very aware that there are lots of other demands on public money. Through the strategic studies we are having to prioritise very carefully to make sure we can protect the areas with the greatest needs.'

Matthew Jones

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