The Environment Agency has issued a stark warning that flooding may become so bad that some of the worst-hit towns may have to be abandoned for good.
The warning came as Environment Agency chair Emma Howard Boyd launched its 50-year flood risk plan on Friday (May 10) at Brunel University London and said the UK has to get to grips with climate change soon or communities will face devastating consequences.
The plan said property owners should rebuild flooded homes in safer spots and with improvements such as raised electrics and flood doors.
However, in some places ‘the threat may be so significant that recovery will not always be the best solution’, and communities would need help to ‘move out of harm’s way.’
The plan says an average of £1bn will need to be invested each year in traditional flood and coastal defences and natural flood management.
These could include traditional defences, temporary barriers, natural flood management, sustainable drainage systems, effective flood warnings and emergency response, alongside designing and adapting existing properties and new development so they can recover quickly from a flood.
The National Audit Office has previously reported that for every £1 spent on protecting communities, around £9 in property damages and wider impacts is avoided.
The Environment Agency plan adds that two-thirds of properties in England are served by transport or energy infrastructure that is at risk of flooding and calls for all infrastructure to be flood resilient by 2050.
Opening an 8-week consultation on the new strategy, Emma Howard Boyd said that the Environment Agency is preparing for a potential 4°C rise in global temperature and urgent action is needed to tackle more frequent, intense flooding and sea level rise.
Emma Howard Boyd said: ‘We can’t win a war against water by building away climate change with infinitely high flood defences. We need to develop consistent standards for flood and coastal resilience in England that help communities better understand their risk and give them more control about how to adapt and respond.’
Read the strategy here.