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Fighting the Flood!

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Flood warnings have been prevalent in the news recently and it looks as if the rest of 2014 will be no different as forecasters warn that climate change will bring more unpredictable and turbulent weather.  Paul Winslade, Commercial Property Lawyer discusses why property owners should be prepared, and also what issues developers could face in the future.

A recent study has shown that one in six properties are at risk of flooding*, and being located in what is thought to be a safe zone doesn’t mean that they are immune as surface water flooding from overflowing drains is not un- common in some areas, possibly miles from the nearest watercourse.   

The financial damage can be overwhelming for businesses as premises will be damaged by water, staff are not able to attend work leading to a loss of trading, and these risks may not be covered in insurance policies.

It is always more cost effective to prepare against flooding with items such as portable dams, sandbags and doorway or airbrick covers, than to deal with the flood once it comes.  Some business owners may underestimate the damage that flooding can cause, or believe that as their business is not on the ground level that they won’t be affected, but this is untrue.  Upper level businesses or flats will see disruption as electricity could be cut off, and access to the building  restricted.

It’s not just businesses that are concerned about future flooding, but also members of the public who have seen their homes devastated in recent months.

Developers have a tricky task ahead of them to get the balance right between the increasing need for more housing developments, the decreasing availability of such sites, and ensuring new homes are not at a risk from flooding, a key factor when considering locations.  This is currently a requirement for developers detailed in the National Planning Policy Framework, and developers also need to satisfy the Environment Agency that they have considered and assessed the site’s susceptibility to flooding.

Developers are advised to commission a flood risk report to ascertain this susceptibility, even if not in an obvious flood risk area, and this can then be used by developers to outline the flood protection measures, for example building homes on stilts or with floodable basements that can then slowly release water impacting on the building.

It’s not just the homes themselves that developers must plan for, but also the excess water that is left as a result of the flooding.  The Flood Act 2010 requires developers to make provisions to remove surface water, and their preferred method is to use underground tanks, something that the government is not in favour of.  They would rather ponds were used to catch this water as it is a cheaper method than the tanks developers propose.  Ponds however would use up land that could be used for housing, and thus reduce the profitability of the development.

Developers are also faced with the possibility that they could be asked in the future to contribute financially towards flood protection initiatives.  It is likely that if there is no official agreement between the Government and local authorities on who is to pay for the clean-up operation after flooding, it is an option that the local authorities may pass the cost of this onto the developers through the Community Infrastructure Levy.

If you are a business owner and are concerned about the legal side of the risks of flooding, or you are a developer with questions about the future you can contact Paul on 02392 753575.

*figure from Argyll Environmental


This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.