14 major developments go ahead on flood plains against Environment Agency advice

The ABI is demanding the government grant the Environment Agency (EA) more control over major property developments in high-risk flood zones.

This comes as eastern England was put under alert of potentially devastating tidal flooding.

The ABI will write to the government within the next couple of weeks questioning the effectiveness of the EA’s power when it comes to stopping developments.

The proposal comes following a recent report by the EA showing that local authorities in the UK gave the

go-ahead in the year to April 2007 for 14 major development projects against advice on the risk of flooding.

Local authorities have also ignored EA advice on plans for 90 minor development sites.

Justin Jacobs, ABI’s director of liability, risk pricing, motor and property, said the report demonstrated a need for change by the government to ensure developments were not constructed in areas prone to heavy flooding.

He said: “If the powers of the EA aren’t stopping these developments from going ahead, we need to know why. There needs to be an analysis by the government about why this is happening.”

Norwich Union underwriting policy manager Arthur Philp said it was very disappointing local authorities were willing to ignore the advice of the EA and it must be analyzed on a case-by-case basis.

He said: “If the EA objects then there has to be reasonable grounds for it.”

Philp said insurers will be keeping a close eye on whether the Secretary of State flexes its muscle granted under the new Policy Planning Statement 25 to overrule local authorities.

Mark Southgate, head of planning for the EA, said the rate of compliance with EA advice was 96% during 2006/2007 – a 1% improvement from last year.

However he said the agency was still waiting on decisions by local authorities for 43 of the applications it rejected.

Meanwhile, insurers said the last week's tidal flooding in the southeast was a small taste of the disaster to come if government doesn’t step up defence spending.

Philp said had the tide been 400mm higher it would have unleashed

He said: “In 40 to 50 years we could well see sea levels rising to that level. It will flood, it’s just a question of time and we need to see defences built to meet the expected risk in the next 100 years

”It is said £1bn is needed to adequately defend the south east coast.