A rescue worker walks through flooded streets in Carlisle, Cumbria

Flood expert advocates elevating all new UK buildings off ground

Britain should construct all new buildings one metre from the ground to prevent flood damage, according to the former president of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Professor David Balmforth, who specialises in flood risk management, called for more innovative flood solutions in the wake of Storm Desmond, which recently hit Cumbria in the north of England and left thousands of homes without power.

Balmforth said that conventional defences like the barriers which line the River Greta in Keswick, Cumbria, had to be supplemented with more innovative methods to lower the risk of future disasters.

"We tend to design defences to a particular standard to give an annual probability against flooding, which might be, say, a one-in-one-hundred or one-in-two-hundred-year chance of the defence being over-topped,” he said.

"That would be a typical sort of figure that would be used. The question that now remains is: were the events that we've now seen in recent days so excessive that it's reasonable to expect them to overtop defences?”

Balmforth emphasised the uncertainty of predictions about climate change, but acknowledged, "I think there is every indication to show that rain will become much more severe and therefore flooding more frequent in future as a result of climate change."

Countries such as Nepal have already implemented similar building-elevation measures, recently mandating that any new major development must be constructed approximately a metre above any surrounding ground, even if it is not in a flood risk area.

Responding to claims that the Government would take the flooding more seriously if it had occurred in the South, Professor Balmforth said: "As we might expect, London itself is reasonably well-protected from flooding, because of the high cost of flooding should flooding occur there.

"What tends to happen is people who live in poorer communities typically - unless well-served by our investment in flood risk management - don't fare as well as those who are well-off.”

Despite the damage caused by some of the recent harsh weather in the North of the UK, environment charity WWF Scotland said that it has resulted in a 40 per cent boost to the power generated by wind turbines in the area. 

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