Saturday, 16 February 2008

Flood blind

Why are so many houses still being built on flood-plains, when thousands of people are already having to clear up the mess from homes ravaged by torrential downpours and overflowing rivers? Why doesn't the British government ban this madness right now?

Every few months the media is full of angry, despairing people standing knee-deep in flooded houses, everything around them ruined and destroyed, sometimes for the second or third time. They curse the builders and planners who allow such houses to be built despite the obvious risk. But they are ignored.

The Association of British Insurers has just warned yet again that hundreds of thousands of homes could become unsaleable, uninsurable and uninhabitable, but the government still plans to build a million new homes on flood-plains.

Already 13 major developments have been approved, despite regular warnings from environmental experts about the serious flood risk.

Some 7000 households are still in temporary accommodation after the massive floods of 2007 across central England, living out of suitcases and wondering when they will be able to return home. Their lives have been turned upside down by reckless, irresponsible planning decisions that defy common sense.

Are the government crazy? Have they not heard of global warming? Have they not heard that rivers have a tendency to burst their banks? No, apparently they think water has natural building-avoidance properties and will make a polite detour round bricks and mortar.

Somebody should give them a good kick up the arse and tell them to stop all flood-plain building right now. Or force them to live on flood-plains themselves.

15 comments:

laurie said...

ah, you are touching on one of the great mysteries of life. remember the Grand forks flood of about 10 years ago, when the entire red river valley flooded, hundreds of houses were washed away, people were left homeless, bridges were destroyed, the downtown of Grand Forks flooded and then caught fire?

and you saw the plucky north dakotans, shaking their fists at the sky and saying, We will rebuild!

and all i could think at the time was, for god's sake, why??

Nick said...

I'd forgotten about the Grand Forks and Red River flood, had to look it up. Amazing amount of damage over a very wide area. Of course the other classic US example is New Orleans, and again there's a lot of rebuilding - though a third of the population haven't returned. As you say, why go back and risk a similar disaster?

Grannymar said...

I might be part of the problem! I live alone in a 3 bed bungalow. The idea of down sizing is not something I wish to do right now. Am I selfish?

Nick said...

Downsizing, Grannymar? Now that's another subject altogether, unless your bungalow has a river running past it! I'm all in favour of downsizing if it frees up a family-size house and raises a bit of cash. But of course if you're fond of where you live, why not stay there?

Baino said...

In Sydney at least (can't speak for other cities) if houses are built on flood plains there are special caveats such as they have to be raised to a certain level so people put their garages and utility rooms underneath to minimise water damage. I live near the Hawkesbury river (hasn't broken its banks since the 80s) but houses built in close proximity are uninsurable against flood damage and the owners know it. I guess they're prepared to take the risk that they wont be around when the next 100 year flood hits. I still think its irresponsible to allow DA approvals for low lying land.

Then over here, who knows. North Queensland is having devastating floods in areas that weren't even considered at risk.

My big complaint and it's a bit off topic, is that all this water is just running into the ocean instead of being put to good use. Now that's the crime!

Nick said...

That's the obvious thing to do, Baino, specify that the main part of the house has to be raised. But does that happen in the UK? Never. I suppose if people are prepared to take the risk of flooding, that's up to them, except of course that innocent visitors might be affected. Excellent point about the water just running into the ocean - particularly in Australia where water is so scarce.

Medbh said...

I shudder to think what it's going to be like here once all this awful snow melts. Our garage will probably be flooded.

Nick said...

At least it's only the garage. I hope there's nothing too valuable in there (apart from the car).

Wisewebwoman said...

Gawd Nick, I was born in a city built on a marshy bog (Cork). There were huge diversions even in my time to ease the burden of the annual floods and the city was built knowingly on top of these streams and rivers in 1400 something. All is now well, I believe, no pun intended. :>)
But we never learn and I imagine there were greedy developers then too.
What kind of fools live on these high risk squishy areas, one might ask?
I hear Los Angeles is next in line for flooding...
XO
WWW

Nick said...

That's very true, www, lots of cities were built on marshes to begin with (like Venice and Belfast). But I suppose that's okay as long as there's provision for proper drainage. The problem with Venice of course is not the marshes but the rising sea levels.

Queen Vixen said...

One very good reason Nick - money! They dont really give a toss about anything else. "If there is a profit in it let the poor sods build an ark" sort of mentality. It disgusts me.

Nick said...

Hi Queen Vixen! Not sure it's entirely money. They could build the homes somewhere safer and still make money. In fact they could advertise them as flood-free and charge more. But money's behind so many scandals, for sure.

conortje said...

I'm very glad I live three floors up because if it floods here then we're all in trouble. God bless those strong dykes ;-)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Nobody could ever accuse the British of giving up easily once they attach their will to a project.

"The sun never sets" and all that...

To be fair, we have a similar mindset here in California where wildfires destroy thousands of houses every year, only to have the owners rebuild on the same land.

It puts one in mind of Emerson's remark that "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

Nick said...

Conor - third floor, very sensible. Except of course you'd still have problems getting to the shops through the floodwaters. And I hope those dykes are good and secure.

Heart - hmmm, a rather misplaced example of British determination I think! That's true about all the wildfires and the constant rebuilding - another triumph of optimism over experience??