Photographer: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

Better Building Rules Would Help U.K.'s Flooding Woes, CEP Says

  • Cameron facing criticism over response to recent heavy rain
  • KPMG estimates cost to economy of more than 5 billion pounds

Tighter construction restrictions and incentives to build outside flood-prone areas would minimize damage to the U.K. economy from heavy rain and rising water levels, according to the Centre for Economic Performance.

Thousands of families across northern England and Scotland have evacuated their homes or been left without power in recent weeks, while KPMG LLP estimated the economic loss in December was more than 5 billion pounds ($7.3 billion). While low-lying areas are more likely to be hit by large-scale floods, businesses and homes don’t tend to move to safer locations, according to the CEP’s analysis of data from 2003 to 2008.

Private developers keep building in those regions because the government bears much of the cost of building and maintaining flood defenses and compensating victims, according to the report. The research, published last month, is based on an examination of more than 50 large floods in 40 countries, which displaced at least 100,000 people each.

“To begin containing this problem, we should at the very least tighten the restrictions on new construction in flood-prone areas,” said Guy Michaels, co-author of the report and a professor at the London School of Economics, of which the CEP is a part. “With sea levels rising and a changing climate, the problem of large-scale flooding will sadly be with us for many years to come.”

Prime Minister David Cameron faced criticism after severe weather caused thousands of families across northern England and Scotland to evacuate their homes or be left without power. He said on Sunday that more than 40 million pounds will be spent to fix flood defenses in Yorkshire, northern England, in addition to the 280 million pounds already committed to protecting homes there.

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