Who’d be a weather (or climate change) forecaster? Not so very long ago, BBC’s Gardeners’ World was showing viewers how to plant-up a Mediterranean-style garden. The UK, explained Monty Don, was entering an era of extreme drought. The Met Office had told him so.
Since then we’ve had three major flooding emergencies involving large parts of the country – the summer of 2007, the winter of 2013-14 and now our current crisis.
And that’s not even to mention the year of the London Olympics – on the very day in April 2012 that hosepipe bans were announced in several drought-hit areas across the UK, the heavens opened and it rained heavily day after day, right through spring and summer.
So, yes, clearly, it’s easy to be wise after the event. And yet, this time around, there’s a widespread feeling that the anger we’ve seen night after night on our TV screens is not misplaced. The anger of families forced to abandon their homes and the anger of the owners of businesses facing ruin; the anger of people utterly convinced that lessons haven’t been learned, investment promises haven’t been kept.
The lessons, for instance, that were laid out so clearly in The Pitt Report, commissioned by the Government in response to the tragic events of 2007, in which 13 people died.
It’s a hugely important document, not least for the fact that it recognised (perhaps for the first time) the scale of the challenge modern Britain faces. It pointed out, for instance, that 10 per cent of properties in England are located on the flood plain – and that, due to a number of factors, this percentage is likely to increase.
Between 2000 and 2006, 11 per cent of new homes were built in areas facing at least some measure of flood hazard; and more recent figures produced by Defra estimate that 5 million dwellings – 1 in 6 of the UK total – are at some risk of flooding.
The Pitt Report’s proposals can be filed under three headings: firstly, a review of planning procedures to deter the routine development of high-hazard areas; secondly, a more urgent review of flood defence measures; and thirdly, an official recognition of a newer idea: that we should do more to make buildings “flood resilient.”
Jablite’s materials are widely used in flood defences – but even more importantly, we have been enthusiastic supporters of the Pitt Report conclusion that “resilience measures, aimed at minimising the damage caused when building is flooded, allowing recovery to take place as quickly as possible… have the power to make a huge difference.”
RIBA, tasked with drawing up specific practical proposals following Pitt, highlighted the importance of using the right insulation materials. “Insulation,” its report stated, “should be closed-cell in order to reduce water take-up and minimise the time needed for drying out.”
Clearly, we have an interest here. EPS is a closed-cell material. Jablite manufactures EPS products.
In 2007, the Government indicated that, by 2010, it intended to introduce flood resilience requirements into Building Regulations. A lot has happened in the political firmament since 2007 – and there isn’t space here to outline the various ways in which progress on this issue has been blocked.
Safe to say, however, that in January 2014, RIBA and the Institution of Civil Engineers were moved to make a joint public statement calling on the Government to honour its commitment here. This statement was, sadly, ignored.
The Pitt Report was prescient when it stated that inertia will often win the day when people believe that they’ve just witnessed “once in a lifetime” events.
We’d suggest, however, that hiding behind this belief is no longer an option.
Politicians, civil servants: flood resilience… this isn’t so difficult, is it? Can’t you get round a table and make this happen? We’ll do anything we can to help. Just let us know. But sooner, please, rather than later.