Flood defences 'need £1bn a year'
Flood defence spending must rise to £1 billion a year over the next decade to cope with the rising threat of flooding, insurers and campaigners have urged.
There should also be an end to building new homes in flood-risk areas, to prevent communities living in "constant fear of flooding", the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said, as it launched the Flood Free Homes campaign.
Despite planning rules, some 20,000 new properties are being built on the floodplain each year, including 4,000 in places where there is significant risk of flooding, the ABI warned as it called for a "zero tolerance" approach to the problem.
Stopping house-building in the floodplain has high support, with nine out of 10 people (90%) believing residential housing developers should be completely banned from building in high-risk areas, according to a poll carried out for the launch of the campaign.
The Flood Free Homes campaign, which is supported by Friends of the Earth, the National Flood Forum, the Know Your Flood Risk campaign and the Property Care Association's Flood Protection Group, aims to raise the issues of long-term flood defence investment and land and water management.
It comes a year after parts of the UK were hit by devastating flooding as the country was battered by a series of extreme winter storms.
The survey of 2,500 people by YouGov for the ABI found that flood defences topped the list of environmental issues that should attract Government spending, with more than a third (36%) saying it was the most important recipient of funding.
And almost three-quarters (73%) thought that local authorities were primarily responsible for ensuring new homes are built in suitable locations, with an acceptable level of flood risk.
The campaign is calling for spending of £1 billion a year on flood defences by 2025, a zero tolerance approach to inappropriate new developments in flood-risk areas and cross-party political consensus on long term solutions for tackling flooding.
Huw Evans, deputy director general at the ABI, said: "The need for this campaign to address the UK's rising flood threat has never been more important. No action is not an option.
"Last winter's floods highlighted the trauma and devastation flooding brings. How we manage our land and water has to become central to government decision-making across the UK, whoever is in power.
"Without adequate long-term investment in flood defence protection that reflects the increasing threat, a zero tolerance approach towards building in flood risk areas and political agreement, too many communities will continue to live with the constant fear of flooding."
Guy Shrubsole, Friends of the Earth climate campaigner, said: "With climate change pushing up flood risk, it's vital that the Government ramps up its investment in flood defences and stops building homes on floodplains.
"It's not right that the human and economic costs of climate change are pushed onto those most vulnerable to flooding - we need to tackle this huge problem together."
A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "It's crucial that people and property are protected as far as possible from flooding.
"That's why we are spending more than £3.2 billion over the course of this parliament on flood management and protection from coastal erosion - half a billion pounds more than in the previous parliament.
"We will also be making record levels of capital investment, spending £2.3 billion over six years in improving defences right up to 2021.This is in line with the Environment Agency's estimation of annual optimum investment need for flood defences.
"We are also taking action to protect people in the highest flood risk areas from spiralling insurance premiums. For the first time, we will ensure access to affordable flood insurance for people in high risk areas."