The early months of 2014 saw the UK battered by storms, with the strongest hitting the country from early January until mid-February. Almost four months have passed since the end of the storms, so we want to explore the housing and economic situation in the areas that were most affected.
The South West of the country suffered as a result of the storms. The Somerset Levels became completely flooded, and the South West main-line railway was destroyed at Dawlish; it was left suspended in mid-air as the foundations gave way beneath it.
Imogen, who works for Arthur Online, and studied in this area at the time of the floods, said: “A friend and I took the train to Dawlish to enjoy an afternoon strolling along the coast and admiring the views. The next weekend, the areas we walked around were pictured on the national news inundated with sea water. The change from one weekend to the next really was remarkable.”
Initial reports claimed that the storms had had a disastrous effect on the South West economy, as some parts of Devon and Cornwall were left almost inaccessible due to the railway damage.
But, more recent news suggests that the storms weren’t all bad news for the South West; property investors have not been put off, and some have even been more encouraged to buy commercial property in the region due to the media spotlight the storms brought to the area. The floods have also sparked the introduction of the Flood Re scheme, led by the Government and the Association of British Insurers. The main aim of the scheme is to make flood insurance more affordable for all at high flood risk.
However, Michael Fawcett, Senior Surveyor, Project & Building Consultancy at DTZ in Bristol, thinks that the scheme has many flaws. These flaws include the fact that many businesses and properties will be excluded from the scheme, but will still be expected to contribute towards it through increased insurance premiums.
He says, “Homes on the Somerset Levels and South West coastline recently affected by the constant battering of Atlantic storms could be affected by this loophole. Thousands of properties will be involved in the scheme while being banned from the scheme’s protection.”
Despite the pros and cons of the Flood Re scheme, many areas, the South West in particular, are trying to prevent the level of property damage caused by storms in the future and to ease the recovery period after such storms.
One example of this is the upcoming Groundwater Flooding Exhibition in Salisbury held by the Environment Agency in collaboration with Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire Councils. They will be offering advice to home owners on how they can protect their homes from flooding and how to apply for the Government funded ‘Repair and Resilience Grant’.
Cllr Peter Finney, Dorset County Council Cabinet member for environment and economy, said:
“It is important that people who have been affected by flooding have access to support and advice to help prevent or reduce flooding in the future. We are working partnership with The Environment Agency and local communities to find practical ways for residents to protect their properties. I encourage anyone who thinks that groundwater flooding could be an issue to go along and find out more.”
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