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Bolster flood defences or risk a regular dousing warns ABI

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FLOOD DEFENCE spending must be increased to a minimum of £750M to protect homes and businesses from a regular dousing, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) warned this week.

Many defences are not being maintained to their design standard, dramatically increasing the risk of flooding, the ABI claimed.

It is calling on the government to bump up funding when it announces the results of its comprehensive spending review this autumn.

The government's own research shows that return on (such an) investment would be in the order of between six and 10 to one, ' said an ABI spokesman.

The annual cost of maintaining existing defences to their design standard and improving them in line with climate change is insignificant compared to the cost of flooding to the economy, he said.

A National Audit Office report on Environment Agency flood protection spending published last Friday, Building and maintaining river and coastal flood defences in England, also recommends that the Agency focuses on improving maintenance of defences considered to be at medium or high risk.

Environment Agency head of flood risk management David Rooke said that climate change would increase flood risk, pushing the annual defence funding requirement to £1bn.

'We currently spend £500M a year. We're looking at a very substantial increase but we have some £20bn worth of assets to protect at the current [flood risk] level.' Rooke added that only about 1% of flooding results from the failure of defence. Most flooding is caused when water spills over embankments.

We are building new defences to 2050 protection standards, but there are a lot of legacy assets that we need to upgrade.' This will require additional funding, Rooke said.

But MWH technical director David Balmforth argued that it would be impossible to provide failsafe flood protection as climate change accelerates.

'Money needs to be targeted at improving flood forecasting and finding alternative methods of flood management, ' he said.

He added that all new developments should be planned with flooding in mind, and that fl od-prone towns and villages should reconsider how they use their land.

'Traditionally we've tried to prevent flooding but that's not sustainable. Water moves through urban environments in a completely random and unpredictable way.

'We need to look at ways of managing that. We need to find pathways to allow water to pass through urban areas in the least damaging way.

'Roads need to serve a dual role as flood pathways. Car parks and playgrounds need to be used to temporarily store flood water, ' said Balmforth

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