A WORD OF WARNING
Let’s imagine you owned a 10-acre field. It’s not much good as farmland as it’s prone to flooding, so any crops you tried to grow would be likely be underwater and livestock could end up being marooned.
It would be the same if someone wanted to use it for a recreational business. Any money they invested in infrastructure would be at risk as it could be underwater three or four times a year.
But then along comes a developer with plans for some new homes. They have the local council on their side because it’s under pressure to meet housing need targets and compulsory purchase could be an option if you dig your heels in and refuse to sell.
So you take the money offered and try to assuage any guilt you may feel by reassuring yourself any planning application is bound to fail anyway as everyone knows the area floods.
Rivers and streams
However, what you may not know is that water companies and drainage boards – responsible for drainage across broad swathes of the UK – are not statutory consultees on planning applications. They can offer advice but developers are not obliged to heed what they say.
If the floodwater comes directly from a river, then it’s the responsibility of the Environment Agency which does have significant public funding and, back in 2014, was given a pledge it would get the backing it needs to do all in its power to reduce the risk: (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26131515)
Sewers and drains
But if floodwater comes from drains or sewers or via gullies and ditches, it’s different. It’s outside the remit of the Environment Agency and, as a result, it can be much harder to identify the risk or know who you should be speaking to if you find your living room ankle deep in muddy water.
It was therefore shocking to read this week that even more homes are being built in harm’s way. It seems we have learned little from the devastating floods of 2000, 2017 and 2014.
Conveyancing services you pay for when you move home should highlight the potential for flooding of course but, if it’s a new home and the developers report they have taken all necessary precautions against it, it may not show up as a risk.
However, there are maps which show areas which are most at risk from flooding and, if you’re thinking of buying property you would do well to study them: (https://flood-warning-information.service.gov.uk/long-term-flood-risk/map)
It’s by no means definitive; the shaded areas are mostly along the banks of rivers or streams and won’t necessarily show area prone to sewer flooding. However, your local water company will have extensive records of that sort of thing and may be worth a call. They probably can’t give information on a specific address but maybe able to advise on a broader area. It’s the same with the local parish council.
You may be repeating some of the conveyancing work. You may have to make more than a couple of phone calls. But, if it means you never have to watch as floodwater seeps under your front door or spend a sleepless night moving furniture upstairs, it has to be worth the effort … doesn’t it?