Page last updated at 03:16 GMT, Thursday, 25 February 2010

Environment Agency calls for flood protection products

Flooded River Ouse in York (file pic: Jan 2010)
Lord Smith said 5.5m homes and businesses were at risk of flooding

UK businesses should spend more effort on developing innovative devices to help protect homes from flooding, the Environment Agency's chairman says.

Lord Chris Smith called for more action as climate change meant flooding would become more "commonplace".

He said one in six properties in England and Wales was already at risk.

He is due to address the National Flood Forum, where members will urge the main political parties to give guaranteed commitments on flood defence spending.

Members of the forum, which represents people who live in more than 200 areas affected by flooding, are expected to air their concerns at the meeting in Birmingham.

They want assurances that major new flood defence work will go ahead despite the squeeze on public spending.

Lord Smith said that although many households already had certain defensive products in place, including air brick covers and door barriers, this was not enough.

'DIY advice'

He said up to 5.5m homes and businesses in the UK were at risk of flooding but with the right amount of investment, the country could become a "market leader" in technologies to combat flooding and its effects.

Lord Smith said: "I would like to see industry develop new, innovative products that can be installed in homes and businesses to reduce the risk of flooding.

"Climate change is likely to increase the frequency and severity of flooding, and the UK could be the global market leader on technologies to counter the impacts that it brings.

"We can also encourage people to make improvements so that even if flood water enters their home or business it causes less damage, meaning moving back in is quicker."

He urged DIY shops and builders merchants to offer advice to homeowners about how to make their homes flood-proof.

He said simple measures, including fitting water-resistant skirting boards and installing plug sockets further up the wall, would help property owners minimise the risk of damage.

The Environment Agency has said that £3.2bn worth of damage was caused by floods during the summer of 2007.

It has already said it wants insurance companies to lower premiums and excesses for homeowners who prove they have tried to prepare for the risk of flooding.

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