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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 December 2007, 00:13 GMT
Long-term flood plan 'essential'
Catcliffe, near Sheffield in June
Yorkshire was very badly affected during the June floods
The government must develop a long-term strategy to manage the UK's growing flood risk, insurers have warned.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) wants a comprehensive assessment of flood risk and a programme of "sustained" long-term investment.

It says the summer floods, expected to cost around 3bn, should be a "final wake-up call" for the government.

Ministers have already pledged to increase flood spending from 600m a year to 800m by 2010/2011.

Long-term strategy

Deferring action now will simply increase the cost of action later, and cause immense personal suffering in the interim
ABI

The ABI asks the government to set out a 25-year strategy in a report commissioned after this summer's floods in Yorkshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire.

It calls for an investment programme which reflects climate change and what it calls the "real" flood risk from rivers, coasts and drainage.

It believes the Environment Agency should be given more responsibility to manage and tackle flood risk, and that the planning system should be reformed to ensure housing developments are not built in high risk areas.

"This summer's devastating floods highlight the urgent need for a long-term strategy based around more investment, national co-ordination and better land use planning," said ABI director general Stephen Haddrill.

The government is committed to effectively managing flood and coastal erosion risk
Defra
He said the industry was proud of its response to this year's floods, with members due to pay out 3bn in respect of 165,000 claims.

But the report describes the summer's events as a "final wake-up call" to the government. It warns that "deferring action now will simply increase the cost of action later, and cause immense personal suffering in the interim".

"Insurers want to continue to provide flood insurance," added Stephen Haddrill.

"The right decisions from the government will ensure that flood insurance remains widely available and affordable in the UK."

'Record' investment

Defra says investment in flood defences has doubled in the past 10 years.

In October, chancellor Alistair Darling said the government will spend 2.15bn between 2008 and 2011, with the annual budget rising from 600m this year to 800m in 2010/11.

"The government is committed to effectively managing flood and coastal erosion risk," said a Defra spokesman.

"Our record levels of investment accompany a national programme of prioritised work that takes account of the changing climate to improve protection for future generations," she added.

"In addition, government is working with the Environment Agency with a view to producing a 20 year long-term programme."

The government has already announced that the Environment Agency will become responsible for the "strategic overview" of coastal flooding and may take on the same role for all inland flooding too.

In addition Defra has set up the Pitt Review to learn the lessons of the summer floods. It is expected to produce an interim report before the end of the year.

The ABI's report comes after research carried out for Channel 4's Dispatches programme listed the 20 places in Britain most at risk from flooding.

Boston in Lincolnshire was identified as facing the greatest danger, with 57% of homeowners deemed to be at "significant risk".

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