NO ONE in Oxford or the surrounding area needs reminding that flooding can be a traumatic and distressing experience.
As we have seen recently, floods leave a trail of misery – destruction of the daily routine, ruined family possessions, and homes that can take months to fully dry out.
Having grown up near Abingdon, I know the risks of the Thames, the Ock and the Cherwell.
In 2007 a number of my friends’ homes flooded, and as I write this article six years on, my family’s home, although above the waterline, has been inaccessible by car for over a week.
The stark reality is that these unpleasant experiences are happening more often and more severely than ever before.
Sustained government investment in flood defences, a focus on keeping those defences well maintained, and avoiding building homes in flood-prone areas are essential if we are to keep flood risk under control.
Having flood insurance means that if the worst happens then there is help available to get you back on your feet.
Insurers are committed to ensuring that flood insurance remains widely available and affordable, but many Oxford homeowners are understandably concerned about being able to afford flood insurance – especially if they have been flooded recently.
Previously, under an agreement between the insurance industry and the Government, insurers offered flood insurance to all their existing household customers, at prices that reflect the risk of flooding.
But it had become clear that a new approach was needed to avoid the growing danger of flood-vulnerable home owners being unable to afford flood insurance.
This is why the ABI spent most of 2012 and last year locked in discussions with the Government to thrash out a new deal.
In June 2013, we were able to announce a shared vision of flood insurance for the future, based on a scheme developed by the insurance industry.
Under this scheme – Flood Re (reinsurance) – flood insurance premiums will be capped at an agreed level.
The cap level will be based on your council tax band, ranging between £210 for council tax band A to £540 for council tax band G for combined buildings and contents insurance.
It should also keep flood excesses at a sensible level — around £250.
Until the Flood Re scheme is ready — we expect it to commence in summer 2015 — insurers will voluntarily continue to offer flood cover to their existing customers, albeit at prices reflecting their assessment of the flood risk.
Flood Re is an elegant solution to a difficult problem, but will only work for the long term if it is accompanied by good flood risk management.
We need to think very carefully about where new homes are built in the county.
The demand for new homes needs to be met, but not at the expense of building in dangerous locations, which will only serve to make properties uninsurable, unsellable and uninhabitable.
Developers, and those responsible for planning decisions, need to remember this, and the guidance the ABI published for local planning authorities on development in flood risk areas in 2012 should still be part of the toolkit today.
We cannot control the great British weather or make properties totally flood-proof.
But we can and must continue to focus on managing flood risk as effectively as possible.
Doing so will ensure that the flood insurance protection relied upon by communities throughout Oxfordshire remains widely available and competitively priced.