Professor warns against over-reliance on coastal defences

The government's £150m increase in flood defence spending is "too much", said a flooding expert.

At a Benfield Greig Hazard Research Centre climate change seminar last week, visiting professor David Crichton suggested that more government spending is not the solution to the flooding problem.

"There are better ways than putting up concrete," he said. "We need better planning, drainage, resilience and design."

Crichton said there should be a dialogue between builders, insurers and the government.

He said a closer look at building regulation was crucial.

An ABI spokeswoman said a combination of investment in flood defences, looking closely at planning and proper flood defence management systems would best protect the customer.

A Federation of Small Builders (FSB) spokesman said local authorities should continue to take responsibility for maintaining flood defences and buildings built on flood plains.

He said: "If builders had to take full responsibility, it would set a dangerous precedent of taking the responsibility from the local authority back to the individual."

In the seminar, entitled "Predicting the unpredictable - climate change and the insurance sector", Crichton praised Scottish authorities for publishing details of new flood defences when they were completed. He said the country was, "doing far more than the ABI asked for".

Crichton and his colleagues at the Benfield Grieg centre spelled out the dangers of climate change and global warming and its effects on insurance.

Benfield ReMetrics natural hazards specialist Jon Gascoigne said climate change created uncertainty. He said it was difficult for insurers to take on unquantifiable risks.

Dr Mark Maslin reiterated this concern and said there needed to be more pressure on the government and that housing should not be built on flood plains.

  • Royal & SunAlliance (R&SA) has built a digital flood risk tool, which will include fire, theft and subsidence. The geographic risk analysis tool enables underwriters to access flood risk information via R&SA's intranet. It is based on a 3D model of the UK and incorporates underlying geological data with overland geography.

    A spokesman for RSA said the tool ensured an accurate premium and enabled the insurer to analyse which customers were in direct danger of flooding.

    He said the tool was also instrumental in introducing differential pricing structures based on hazard and rapidly providing accurate flood risk information.

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