With the horrendous realities of the recent devastating events arising from Storm Sandy continuing to emerge in the United States and recent memories of flooding in the UK still being vividly evident a number of questions begin to arise that warrant examination. In fact , far more serious examination, given the implications of climate change , sea level rise and the increase in serious storm events.
Recent years has seen some examination and debate in the UK about built development within flood plains, the projected frequency of flood events and the implications for insurance coverage. Within that period too, some serious problems have occurred at home and abroad and badly affected the lives of too many people as a consequence. The final effects of the most recent event in the USA has yet to be fully realised , but appears likely to be almost beyond imagination.
I am sure much will emerge with hindsight and a great deal of comment and discussion arise. It seems to me that New York will need to review a whole series of issues connected with their precise circumstances, one major one of which must surely be to examine the extent to which built development can be allowed again within the curtilage of the badly affected areas. Indeed, it seems to me we have all reached a point where all Governments need to delineate areas where, from now on, no development will take place, whatever the potential periodicity of damaging events. Some Governments in Asia will no doubt find this impossible where, for example, agriculture tales place on a seasonal basis with families moving in and out of given areas. I believe we need to recognize that these devastating events will continue to happen and debate about flood defences, insurance coverage, future premiums and emergency service provision are merely superficial elements of a bigger problem that we have yet to properly address. Obviously with developments already in situ such services will continue to be placed under pressure, but more effort should be made to gradually reduce the potential effects and misery which can arise.
Draconian, maybe? But the alternative is to realise that planning regulations cannot ever possibly accommodate the needs of keeping nature at bay. Flood control barriers, or similar measures, might reduce effects with differing levels of success, but the cost of these is immense. Whilst undoubtedly we need to consider such measures to protect existing areas where crucial development has already taken place, surely the most sensible future policy is also to ensure no future development occurs in wide areas that are likely to be at risk. We need to recognize that allowing a presence within areas at risk is not addressing the problem and that we now need to create a threshold beyond which the events of the past are not exacerbated by our own planning controls..