With the glorious spring sunshine and rising temperatures we have experienced over these past two weekends, it seems hard to remember what the weather was doing this time last year. In March 2013, the UK was in the grip of an icy spell which put much of the UK in a thick covering of snow. It just goes to show how crazy the British weather can be — or is there much more to the extremes of the UK weather patterns that we have been seeing in recent years?
Could climate change be already affecting the weather of our planet, and should we act accordingly when looking at the housing crisis we are facing?
All of us have been touched by the plight of those who have felt the effects of this winter’s extreme flooding in the UK; from the Somerset levels and Thames Valley, to the coastal North Lincolnshire villages and the regions along the south coast that have been battered by tide surge and storm after storm. This really should be a wakeup call to us all in terms of building on floodplains.
Maybe the answer to building on floodplains lies in a different type of structure than the traditional brick-built houses we as a nation are so taken with. The answer could lie with houses built off the ground on stilts similar to those found in Queensland, Australia. This would give houses the advantage of being high off the ground allowing any floodwater to pass under without causing substantial damage to the property.
This does not mean that flood prevention schemes should not be put in place as well, but it does reduce the risk to properties that could be in harm’s way in those once in every 100 year flood events when the prevention schemes might be overwhelmed.
The Liberal Democrats recognise that there is a housing crisis, and have committed to building 300,000 homes every year. This, however, does not even touch the surface on the housing needs of the future.
If we are serious about providing homes for our children and grandchildren, we need to think differently about the types of houses we build. By adapting to the needs created by building on floodplains, we are lessening the risk posed by the potential rising waters and sparing families the misery of seeing their lives turned upside-down.
We also must start to use the brown field sites that are standing empty and derelict. Many of these sites could provide secure housing solutions for young families and be socially developed to meet the needs of a local community.
We do not know how the weather will affect us in the future. All we can do is look at how the present is changing – more flash floods after torrential downpours, more storms with heavy prolonged rain and wild seas battering coastlines.
All we can do is make the best preparations we can to protect ourselves for the future.