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Flood plains and overwhelmed drains – are you at risk?

Devon residents probably aren’t thinking too much about the cause of this weekend’s heavy rain – a southward shift in the Jet Stream. They’re too busy dealing with the aftermath of widespread flooding.

In many parts of the UK, it’s been a weekend of heavy rain and flooding. If you were affected and have got home insurance that covers flood damage, that’s good news. But if you need any help, we’ve pulled together our advice for putting in a successful claim.

On the other hand, if you’re struggling to find affordable home insurance cover, a specialist broker may be able to help. The British Insurance Brokers’ Association (Biba) has a ‘find a broker’ helpline that can help you find a flood specialist insurance broker.

No sea or river? You could still see floods

The recent floods haven’t just affected those who live by rivers or on the coast, so many people might not have realised that their properties were in a danger area. According to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), over half of the five million properties at risk of flooding in England are at risk of surface flooding alone.

Defra explains that surface flooding is where high rainfall events exceed the drainage capacity in an area. So that’s a lot of people who live nowhere near a body of water who are at risk of flooding.

The Environment Agency’s flood notification system seems to have helped many people prepare for the effects of flooding, but it can’t, of course, stop the rain falling. So is there a way to fix the problem?

Ways to ease up flooding

Let’s start by looking at last winter. Every time it snowed, we had the inevitable debate between those who say we should buy more snow ploughs and those who think it’s not worth the money for an event that happens so rarely. But flooding is different.

While major flooding of the likes we’ve seen in recent weeks doesn’t happen very often, the effect it has on individual homes when it does happen is catastrophic. Prevention measures were put in place after previous flooding in Ottery St Mary near Exeter, and seem to have worked. So is it worth rolling these measures out to other areas?

I’d say yes it is, but we also have a role to play both individually and collectively. In many towns and cities, front gardens have been concreted over, back gardens sold to property developers and public spaces given over to the building of homes and shopping centres. It’s inevitable that some of the water that would have been absorbed by the land now finds its way into an overwhelmed drainage system.

In my opinion, we need a joined-up plan from local authorities, local planning departments, water companies and communities. The heavy rain isn’t anyone’s fault, but our inability to deal with it is.

Sophie Gilbert says:
10 July 2012

Hear, hear!

Tony Rothwell says:
10 July 2012

It’s not the Gulf Stream. It’s the Jet Stream!!! I expect better of Which.

Hello Tony, we’ve made an edit. Sometimes these things slip through. Thanks

Argus says:
10 July 2012

There are many places that have flood alleviation projects established in the area. This is normally due to having a major river running through the borough.

What has to change is that anywhere with a small beck/stream/goit needs to have alleviation methods constructed as soon as possible.

With heavy rainfall, it’s about the river/streams ability to handle the extra water. Most rivers can do that and they have many engineered flood-plains, however many places with small streams are the most at risk when the heavy rainfall arrives.

When the centre of Sheffield was flooded fairly recently, it was a combination of the rivers not being able to handle all the flood water and the drains being blocked in many places.

Anywhere that becomes flooded as a result of drains being blocked should sue their councils, and I’m pretty sure people are already doing that. It’s simple maintenance

Tuor Jones says:
10 July 2012

Up to a few years ago my local council (Midlothian) used to clear the road gullies twice a year and we never had any problems even though considerable amounts of water flowed off nearby fields after heavy rain. Last month the drain outsdie my house blocked and threatened to flood my garden. I was told that the drain clearing service now only took place between 9:00-17:00 and that there were only two vehicles with only one available at the time as one driver was on holiday. The council did eventually provide sandbags which saved my garden

Here we never had flooded roads until the dreaded concreting over of gardens for convenience. Now every time it rains hard – the local roads flood because the water is no longer draining in the gardens but running off into the road – Most houses have overflows directed directly onto the pavement then the road. We are talking many acres of impervious ground – one can see the drain pipes literally spout many gallons per minute, The local council does keep the road and drains clear but it needs a redesign.

Steve says:
10 April 2013

In the 65 years of living in my property, my property has never flooded. Even in the great 1953 disaster, the river Roding to the rear of the property flooded to the south area not on to our north area. In the 1980’s the Dept. of Transport diverted the river and made it even more flood proof by creating over spill areas in case of high water levels. So why does Defra still insist on placing us on their map as at risk of flooding, attracting insurance premium penalties? I agree with you….no joined up thinking or communication….. and the consumer suffers.