‘Insurance ban for flood-risk homes’

2 12 2007

The risk of flooding to homes and businesses in the UK is increasing and climate change is likely to lead to an increase in river, sea and drainage flooding. In a bid to limit the flood damage to housing, the chief executive of the Environment Agency, Baroness Young, has suggested that homes built on flood plains against official advice should be refused insurance. Last year 13 ‘major developments’, including housing estates and a holiday park, were given planning permission despite being categorised as a flood risk area. This proposal would also affect government plans for 3 million new homes, up to one third of which, experts say, could be built on flood plains. In a televised interview, expert Barbara Young called on insurers to help protect properties against flooding – ‘We’d like the insurance companies to be tougher and to simply refuse to insure properties built on the flood plain against our advice.’

Dispatches revealed a leaked document from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in which officials admitted in June 2006 that flood defences were ‘severely rationed’ or turned down. The programme also found that since 2004 there have been six other major safety incidents at dams in Britain and 40 other dams have been threatened with prosecution over safety issues. The programme claims that 2,500 families affected by this summer’s floods are still living in temporary accommodation because of delays in getting insurance and repair works completed. The Association of British Insurers told Dispatches: ‘When dealing with such a huge number of claims some problems may arise. Insurers try to resolve these as quickly as possible. The industry has pledged to continue to offer flood insurance to all existing customers, providing there are adequate flood defences in place. For new customers individual insurers will decide if they are able to offer flood cover.’

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/dec/02/climatechange.householdbills?gusrc=rss (2/12/07)





‘Thames users at risk from untreated sewage’

24 10 2007

Tests conducted on the most used stretch of the River Thames, that which flows through Kew, Putney and Barnes, have shown the presence of high levels of bacteria and viruses. These pathogens can cause infections such as gastroenteritis and lead to nausea, diarrhoea or abdominal pain. Although only 18 people out of about 1200 leisure users have reported such symptoms, health experts believe there are many unreported cases. Large numbers of people use the river for recreational activities such as rowing, canoeing and fishing, and so the health risk to the public is high and imminent. Visitors who have built no immunity to the pathogens are most at risk, as are children and the elderly. Dr Susanne Surman-Lee, of the government’s Health Protection Agency, advises that people should ‘wash their hands regularly after using the river, particularly before eating or drinking, and try not to swallow any water if they should fall in’. With the approach of the 2012 Olympics, health agencies have warned competitors not to train on the river. As well as putting human health at risk, the pollutants also kill plants and fish, reduce biodiversity and decrease the aesthetic and general quality of the water.

The contamination seems to be the result of a discharge of untreated sewage into the river following heavy rainfall. When treatment works are unable to cope with excess surface water, such as after heavy rain, water is discharged, unfortunately along with untreated sewage. Recreational users of the river are thought to be at risk of infection for three or four days after such heavy rainfall. Some believe that climate change and the associated unpredictable weather will lead to increased pollution of this kind. Jenny Bates, the London campaigns co-ordinator for Friends of the Earth, says ‘the solution is for the Thames interceptor tunnel to be built urgently and for the government to introduce a strong climate change bill’.

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/sep/27/pollution.uknews (27/9/07)