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London flooding: capital’s homes vulnerable to flooding — here’s how to make sure you’re protected

·7-min read
 (PA)
(PA)

Londoners are at double the risk of their homes being impacted by flooding caused by climate change than the national average, according to new figures.

Homeowners in the capital are facing higher insurance premiums, forking out more money for flood protection or repairs and could find their properties are “practically unsellable”, research from The Climate Coalition has revealed.

According to the data, 34 per cent of Londoners said their home has previously flooded compared to a 16 per cent UK average. Thirty-nine per cent said their home is on a flood plain as opposed to a 19 per cent UK average.

Nearly 90 per cent said they were paying a higher insurance premium as a result, with an average of close to £9,000 (£8,916) of additional costs associated with repairing or protecting their homes in the past year. The national average is just over £5,000 (£5,250).

Analysis from the Environment Agency also suggests the number of homes at risk of flooding in the UK could double in the next 50 years.

The Climate Change coalition is urging the government to come up with a clear plan to “end the fossil fuel era and stop the risk of flooding getting worse”.

Fiona Dear, head of campaigns at The Climate Coalition, said: “Unfortunately, rising global temperatures due to climate change are causing more extreme weather patterns and more intense rainfall. This will lead to more properties being exposed to the risk of dangerous, expensive flooding, and a rising tide of stranded families who can’t sell their homes.

“Our homes should be our sanctuaries, places where we can feel safe and thrive. Now is the time to take action.”

The organisation’s plea comes a day after London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned in a speech that time is running out to act on the climate emergency.

City Hall analysis has revealed 200,000 London homes and workplaces are at medium or high risk of surface water floods. Vulnerability mapping showed Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Islington, Brent, Tower Hamlets and Newham as the boroughs at particularly high risk of flooding and overheating.

Thousands of Londoners have been impacted by flash floods caused by “unprecedented” torrential rainfall over the summer. On July 12, hundreds of homes including those of Queen guitarist Brian May and music mogul Simon Cowell were flooded in areas of west London including Kensington, Maida Vale, Notting Hill and Kilburn when a month’s worth of rain fell in 90 minutes.

Two weeks later on July 26, downpours impacted neighbourhoods in east London with Walthamstow, Leyton, Stratford and Hackney Wick amongst the areas affected.

‘Worried it will happen again’

Jody Thompson and her partner, David (Jody Thompson)
Jody Thompson and her partner, David (Jody Thompson)

Jody Thompson’s home in West End Lane, just off Kilburn High Road, was flooded with sewage on July 12. The 50-year-old media consultant’s partner David was at home when foul smelling water started to pour through the cat flap and come up through the toilet as heavy downpours hit.

Within minutes, the flood was knee-deep and David’s priority was to save their two rescue cats Arthur and Norma Jeane, which he did with the help of their upstairs neighbour.

“It happened so quickly he hardly had time to save anything,” said Thompson. “He threw a few things on the bed and a few things on the breakfast bar, which luckily kept them out of the flood.”

Devastatingly, everything that the sewage had touched had to be thrown away, including items worth £20,000. Sentimental items such as her parents’ wedding photos and love letters, as well as her dad’s jazz records were destroyed.

“It was pretty horrific,” she added. “I think what made it worse for me was I had only just sold my mum’s house after my mum died last year and we only just got back stuff back and that’s all gone. I don’t think you can really appreciate what it’s like until it happens to you.

“Having to go through all my family photos all soaked in sewage has been horrible.”

Damaged items after the flood at Jody Thompson’s home (Jody Thompson)
Damaged items after the flood at Jody Thompson’s home (Jody Thompson)

The couple are staying in temporary accommodation as their shared-ownership flat is being completely gutted and they don’t anticipate returning until next year.

“We’re lucky we’re insured, we’re all safe and we managed to find a really nice place,” she added. “I don’t really care about the value of the property but I am worried about it happening again.”

Thompson believes the government should nationalise the water companies and take responsibility for a plan of action.

She said: “They’ve known about climate change for decades now so why haven’t they mitigated it, why are they saying we still have to rely on a Victorian sewer system that was not built for the levels we have living in London now?

“It’s not acceptable in the 21st century to be worried that your flat’s going to get flooded and that’s our worry now. We are thinking, should we move out of London and I know lots of people feel the same.”

Thompson said she is dissatisfied by the response from Thames Water, who said the rainfall impacted its sewer network.

In a network update at the time, it said: “while our pipes are designed to cope with most storms, [the] rainfall was so severe the system filled up very quickly. In the majority of places the water drained away once the flash storm had passed. During wet weather we work closely with the other agencies with whom we share responsibility for flooding, including local authorities, highways authorities and the Environment Agency, to make sure those who need help get it.”

Earlier this month, Thames Water announced additional funding for plans to overhaul its Victorian system, with £10.7 billion being invested from 2022 to 2025.

Sarah Bentley, Thames Water CEO, said: “Reducing leaks and bursts is one of our most important priorities but also one of our biggest challenges, with nearly half of the pipes in London more than 100-years-old. We know it’s a priority for our customers too so it’s really exciting to be taking this big step forward with our turnaround plan as we start to build a brighter future.”

Sadiq Khan, said: “This new investment in Thames Water’s supply network in London is a welcome and overdue start to renewing the ageing system that all Londoners rely on.“With this investment, London can demonstrate that it is working to make its water network more resilient and help our city cope better with increasing demands caused by a changing climate.”

How to make sure you’re insured against flooding

Not everyone affected by unexpected flooding has contents insurance and this can leave people in financial difficulty.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) wants people to know the risks of flooding when they are buying a property and to be informed that flood insurance can pay not only for repairs but also for temporary alternative accommodation.

An ABI spokesman said: “Flash floods in London over the summer showed that all Londoners are at risk of flooding.

“Insurers appreciate the distress that flooding brings, and want to ensure that all homeowners, especially those most at flood risk, can get affordable flood insurance. That is why several years ago the industry, working with the government, set up the world first Flood Re scheme that is helping many flood vulnerable households obtain flood insurance.

“With the flood risk getting worse, it is vital that the government commits to a long-term investment in flood defences, including ensuring that existing defences are adequately maintained.”

A Defra spokesperson said: “Flooding and coastal erosion have terrible consequences for people, businesses and the environment. We are investing a record £5.2 billion between 2021-27, creating around 2,000 new flood and coastal defences to better protect 336,000 properties across England.

“Our new long-term policy statement on flood and coastal erosion risk management, together with the Environment Agency’s National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy for England, will ensure that our country is more resilient to flooding and coastal erosion and climate change in the long term.”

  • The Flood Re scheme enables households most at risk of flooding to get affordable flood insurance. People can check if their property is eligible here.

  • People can check the flood risk of their home via the Environment Agency postcode check.

  • The Climate Coalition research was released to support Great Big Green Week – a UK-wide campaign for climate action.

Read More

The Leader podcast: Why is London flooding so much?

Climate change code red: Now 90% of Londoners say they’re worried

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