MPs are calling for new building regulations for houses built in areas at risk of flooding, including sealed floors, and raised electrical sockets and fuse boxes.
They also say that government should ensure mandatory installation of sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) in new builds.
A report* from the House of Commons public accounts committee praises the Environment Agency for achieving its target to better protect 300,000 homes through its capital investment programme on time and budget “which is a significant achievement”, the MPs says, before adding: “However, Defra should recognise that with new build on the flood plain and increased vulnerability to existing properties from climate change, the net number of homes that are better protected is actually lower.”
Defra is the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, the Environment Agency’s parent organisation in government.
The public accounts committee report talks of “a disconnect between the developers who financially benefit from new housing developments and those who face the consequences of it not being sustainable or insurable”.
It adds: “While government policy is not to build on flood plains unless unavoidable, the Agency’s analysis indicates that there could be a large increase – of up to 50% – in the number of houses built on flood plains over the next 50 years.
The MPs say: “Planning policy guidance notes should be strengthened to avoid new builds in areas prone to flooding wherever possible, but in any case, the environment agency should be involved in measures to mitigate the risk.
Meg Hillier MP, chair of the public accounts committee, said: "Damaging floods are becoming more and more frequent and with climate change extreme flooding events are not going to just go away. With public finances stretched to the limit, government and the Environment Agency have to do more to make sure limited funds for flood defence and risk management are spent effectively. The risks to our homes, businesses, national infrastructure, food supply and whole ecosystems are not even being properly monitored, much less strategically mitigated.”
She added: “You can see the next major housing and building regulations scandal brewing here - the government is simply not doing enough to protect the UK’s current housing stock from floods or stepping in to prevent new homes being built on flood plains, and more needs to be done to tackle the prohibitive home insurance costs that result."
Responding to the report, Local Government Association environment spokesperson Cllr David Renard said: “Flooding events have a devastating impact on households and businesses and councils are seeing first-hand the impact it has on their communities. We are pleased the inquiry highlights the need for better understanding of whether funding to each local authority matches the level of flood risk it faces.
“It is also good that the committee has taken on board the LGA’s suggestion that building regulations should include mandatory flood protection measures in new builds such as raised electrical sockets, fuse boxes and sealed floors.
“Councils agree that more needs to be done to address the difficulties those recently flooded have in getting affordable insurance, and also want to work with government to ensure that reforms to the planning system are able to support sustainable development in areas at high risk of flooding.”
* Managing flood risk was published by the Public Accounts Committee on 26th February 2021