Shropshire environmental consultancy urges homeowners to be flood aware
A leading environmental consultancy has urged Shropshire homeowners to check their insurance policies after government warnings were issued about the risk of flooding this winter.
GeoSmart Information, which is a UK leader in producing proprietary flood data, homeowners should prepare if they are at risk from flooding from any source – whether groundwater, surface runoff or from nearby water sources, such as rivers.
As Flood Action Week gets underway, Dr Paul Ellis, of Shrewsbury-based GeoSmart Information, also said people who were looking to buy a home should check if the property they are interested in is at risk.
“We share the concern about the risk of flooding to homes and businesses in the region,” he said.
“Flood is a complex risk, with several components, and it is important to understand these so that mitigation, such as installing defence barriers, or other action, such as building specialist drains in gardens, is appropriate.
“Groundwater, for example, is likely to affect cellars for an extended period, while flash floods, which are usually caused by rain, are likely to be rapid and localised, and there are different fixes for the types of flooding that a property may be at risk of.
“This risk is likely to increase over the foreseeable future and we urge everyone to follow the flood guidance issued by the Environment Agency as a basic step.
“People should check their insurance policies have been renewed, and make themselves aware of the Flood Re scheme if their current insurer is not offering flood cover.”
GeoSmart Information, which was established in 2013, has a strong technical base and a successful flood and environmental reports business that is used by commercial enterprises and in millions of domestic conveyances.
Last year, it launched FloodSmart Analytics – a risk data product that addresses the need for better information and supports our expert advice.
As well as enabling insurers, risk managers and mortgage lenders to accurately assess flood risk at even single building level, it also provides high-definition analysis for flood depths, probabilities and the costs of flooding from river, coastal, surface water and groundwater sources, including climate change impacts.
GeoSmart’s data is already relied on by multiple sectors, from millions of home-owners to corporate entities and public sector operators, and the data have supported research by the Climate Change Committee (CCC), the UK’s independent adviser on tackling climate change.
How defence systems stopped flooding at GeoSmart manager’s home
More than five million homes and businesses are at risk of flooding in the UK – and this figure is projected to double by 2050.
It is an increasing concern for property owners – as well as mortgage lenders and insurers – as the risk of flooding from rivers, the sea, surface water and groundwater grows in some areas of the country.
A flood event can be devastating for a homeowner. The loss of personal possessions, clearing up and even having to spend months in temporary accommodation while repairs are carried out, can all take their toll mentally and physically.
Then, there’s the financial burden following a flood because it can result in a significant increase in home insurance.
Installing flood defence measures is one option – as GeoSmart’s financial manager discovered, when her home flooded in February 2020, causing £30,000 worth of damage.
Lucy lives in Shrewsbury, close to the River Severn. When she and her family moved there almost seven years ago, there was no history of flooding at the property, but that changed in 2020 when the basement living room flooded to a depth of one foot.
An insurance claim was lodged, but she decided there was no point repairing the damage until suitable flood defences were installed. Her immediate neighbours had already installed defences, which had protected their homes in the storms, so Lucy decided it was time to investigate the options.
She applied for a £5,000 Environment Agency grant in the Property Flood Resilience (PFR) scheme, which contributed towards making a property more resilient to future flooding, such as putting in flood doors and raising electrics from ground level.
Unfortunately, there were long delays in administering the scheme and Lucy’s property was flooded again in early 2021.
While an engineer employed as part of the PRF scheme recommended a range of flood defences for the property, GeoSmart’s managing director Paul Ellis also provided invaluable advice.
Paul Ellis, MD of GeoSmart, analysed the flooding that had occurred and identified both a river and groundwater component, highlighting that there was no point in fixing one without the other.
Flood barriers could hold the River Severn at bay, but because the basement was located on permeable gravel, groundwater would also rise in response to the river flood and come up through the floor. This might bypass the flood barriers unless they were designed with a significant depth below ground, preferably ‘keying in’ to underlying clay if possible.
Paul also recommended the installation of a French drain – a trench that is filled with gravel with a pipe that diverts flood water away from the site, preventing ground or surface water from damaging a building’s foundations. The water can be collected in a sump and pumped away to prevent it from entering the property and keeping groundwater levels below the basement floor level.
Work took place over three months in 2021, with work including the installation of a flood wall with reinforced concrete foundations, slot-in aluminium flood defence barriers, sumps with in situ pumps and a French drainage system.
Together, these defences worked. During torrential downpours and storms in February 2022, Lucy’s home remained watertight and the system went into action, holding the flood waters back and pumping rising groundwater away from her home.
“It was a relief when we could see the flood defence system working,” said Lucy. “It’s expensive to install them but it is definitely worth it as you are assured that if there is flooding from the river, the house will stay safe. I was grateful for all the advice we received to help us keep our property dry.
“While our house insurance doubled after the first flood, it should come down now that we have the flood defences in place.”