Britain's flood plan is 'far from watertight'

Are Britain's plans for future flooding as watertight as politicians make out? Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

For the last six days I have been travelling to some of Britain's hardest-hit flood areas.

As I met those who have suffered most during this severe weather, some worrying themes emerged.

Victims of the storms do not feel they are being heard, there is a growing feeling that not enough is being learned from their dreadful experiences. Many of them want to help ensure fewer people end up in such misery in future.

My trip has revealed fundamental flooding issues, major fears about the future. The big question is whether Britain has been caught out by these storms - not as prepared as we should be.

A flooded property near Apperley in Gloucestershire Credit: PA

We found that despite warnings, councils across the country have allowed building on floodplains.

Our research shows that building has gone ahead despite objections from the Environment Agency. Experts say it will devastate the value of some properties.

In a ten year period, 208,664 homes were built on floodplains in England alone. Some 38,026 of these are in areas of serious flood risk.

Freedom Of Information disclosures included in the documentary show how some councils have approved multiple developments, often despite expert objections.

Many of the flood victims I have met over the last few days blame poor planning policies as well as ineffective flood defences.

In this excerpt, flood expert David Witts tells me he believes the flooding in Tewkesbury has been exacerbated by building on floodplains around the village:

Insurance is now one of the greatest sources of anxiety for those in areas at high risk from flooding.

Our research reveals there may be even more problems ahead.

A senior executive at the insurance industry trade body, the ABI, has confirmed that anyone unfortunate enough to have bought a new home built on floodplains since 2009 will not be included in a new scheme designed to give affordable insurance to those in the worst-hit areas.

This will exclude some of the families most vulnerable to flooding, and experts say it will make some of their homes uninsurable and unsellable.

Mike and Jenny Curtis, whose house has flooded for the second time in as many years, show me around Credit: ITV Tonight

Householders should surely be confident that a house they buy has been through a planning process that prevents building on land at high flood risk - yet the current system cannot offer any such reassurance.

Of course, we can't stop acts of nature - but our response can be changed. Many of the flood victims I met on my journey say Britain's existing flood plan is far from watertight.

Homes that live on a floodplain are vulnerable in severe weather. Watch a flood victim talk through the effects of living in a flood-risk area:

You can see my documentary on the Tonight programme 'Caught In The Storm' on ITV at 7:30pm tonight.**