After two months of severe flooding, many people are facing financial hardship this winter, with the Environment Agency estimating more than 20,000 properties were flooded in northern England alone.

Ian Joyner

As always, attention is focused on the performance of flood defences and the perceived inadequacies of government actions. An important issue, rarely mentioned, is that people affected are often caught unawares, with little knowledge of the information that could have helped them prepare. By taking a few simple steps, property owners can save a fortune and avoid the misery these increasingly common events can bring.

Thanks to a changing climate, severe flooding is on the rise. Scientific consensus points to a warmer, wetter atmosphere, increasing the chances of extreme rainfall and storm surges in the UK. It is right that investment in flood management is prioritised, but no level of investment into flood defences can ever fully protect all communities against all extremes of flooding. This means it’s time to shift the focus towards resilience, encouraging businesses and homeowners in at-risk areas to make preparations. Often, basic steps such as checking your flood risk online and planning can reduce the impact of flooding. Where the chance of flooding is high, businesses and homeowners should keep valuables and irreplaceable items at elevated levels, away from danger.

Potential solutions also exist to prevent water entering property or improve the speed of recovery when flood waters recede. Online mapping tools let property owners research risk, but this information is generated from complex data and relies on broad assumptions, depending on the type of flooding. It also focuses on the likelihood of flooding, ignoring the consequences, which can vary between homes, offices or industrial sites. As a result, specialist flood-risk expertise is often needed to correctly interpret these resources, focusing on what flooding means for a property and its occupants and how this risk may influence future plans or aspirations. 

Several advisory firms, including CBRE, now provide this service to clients to support the purchase, sale or management of a wide range of properties. From high-level advice to co-ordination of more complex flood-risk projects, the aim is to improve understanding of this risk. If recent winters become the norm and flooding continues to disrupt people’s lives, then timely, accurate flood-risk advice must become a vital part of every property management strategy.

Ian Joyner is a flood-risk consultant at CBRE