Must we bow to nature, or is innovation possible?by Prospect Team / January 8, 2016 / Leave a comment
Last month was the wettest December on record—thousands of homes in Britain were flooded. Now Scotland is facing heavy floods, and yesterday a “danger to life” alert was issued in Aberdeenshire.
David Cameron’s planning policies have not been adequately challenged by the Labour party, perhaps due it its being otherwise occupied. And so the government continues to permit building on floodplains across the country.
Should building on floodplains now be considered too risky? Or, given restrictions on building elsewhere, should we stick it out, and build flood defences to protect new, at-risk developments? Below, our panellists offer their views.
We’ve had our wake-up call
Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion
As well as being devastating for those who experience them, this winter’s floods are the loudest possible wake-up call to the Government to do far more to protect the country from extreme weather events associated with climate change. As a very first step it’s clear that we must stop building on floodplains, and also give water companies a statutory role in the planning process.
And, while we can’t stop the rain, we can take urgent action to “slow the flow”–changes in landuse patterns, protecting and enhancing peat bogs and wetlands and planting trees can all significantly reduce risk of extreme flood peaks. It’s utterly inexcusable that the Government has failed to learn lessons from floods in the past, leaving thousands of people and their homes at risk.
Bowing down to nature
Robert Lyons, Science and Technology director at the Institute of Ideas
Yes, we should build on flood plains. Many people desire to live near a river, and when land is in short supply in some areas, it makes sense to build there. However, it should not be the government’s job to retrospectively provide flood defences for new developments. What is needed is housing designed to cope with flooding in the future, most obviously by raising living areas above the potential level of floodwaters.
People around the world cope well with extremes of weather. New York, for example, has to deal with both freezing snow and heatwaves well beyond UK…