Climate change: 300,000 at high risk of flooding across England - worst affected areas revealed
Almost five million people in England live in areas with some degree of flood risk from rivers and seas, with nearly 300,000 living in high risk areas.
While England’s coastal towns and cities remain the most vulnerable to flooding, thousands have been revealed to be at high risk in some of the country’s biggest inland cities, including Birmingham, Leicester, Manchester and parts of London.
Countrywide, the Environment Agency identified almost five million people, around 8% of the population, who live with some degree of flood risk caused by rivers and seas. Risk ranges from very low to high.
Campaigners warn that England’s infrastructure needs to be resilient against the effects of extreme weather and called on Prime Minister Liz Truss to make investment a priority for her new government.
The UK is already feeling the effects of climate change after recording record-breaking temperatures this summer. Extreme weather like heat waves and floods will become more common with climate change.
What is a flood risk?
Environment Agency figures show 6.1% of people who live in flood risk areas are at high risk, 22.7% are in medium risk, 41.9% are in low risk areas and 29.3% are in very low risk. Overall, this affects 4,823,000 people.
The Environment Agency maps floodplains and uses modelling of flood defences as well as local expertise, to assess the flood risk of local areas. Flood risks are then allocated one of four flood likelihood categories to describe the chance of flooding each year. These are:
- High risk: there is a chance of flooding of greater than 1 in 30 (3.3%) each year
- Medium risk: there is a chance of flooding of between 1 in 30 (3.3%) and 1 in 100 (1%) each year
- Low risk: there is a chance of flooding of between 1 in 100 (1%) and 1 in 1000 (0.1%) each year
- Very low risk: there is a chance of flooding of less than 1 in 1000 (0.1%) each year
Not all areas of the country have a flood risk.
The Environment Agency calculated the number of people at risk of flooding from rivers and seas by multiplying residential property numbers by the average household size of 2.36, as measured by the latest Office for National Statistics General Lifestyle Survey.
Where are the most people at high risk?
The East Lindsey council area of Lincolnshire has the greatest number of people at high risk from flooding – just over 9,500. This is followed by Runnymede with just over 8,200 and East Devon with 8,100.
Proportionally, Runnymede has the greatest share of its population at high risk from flooding at 8.6%. East Devon had the second highest proportion with 4.6%, followed by East Lindsey with 4.5%.
The table below shows you how many people are at risk in your local area. Use the search box or sort the information on the table to find out more.
In total, Kingston upon Hull had the highest total number of people at some degree of flood risk with almost 283,000, followed by Southwark in London with almost 220,000 and Hammersmith and Fulham with 169,000.
However, as a proportion of the local population, Boston in Lincolnshire had the greatest percentage of people at risk – 95.2%. Hull was second with 91.9% at risk, followed by South Holland , also in Lincolnshire, with 83.6%.
The Environment Agency has also identified 2.8 million properties are at risk of flooding in England, representing 8.4% of all properties.
Almost 220,000 (0.7%) are at high risk of flooding, almost 700,000 (2.1%) at medium risk, 1.1 million (3.5%) low risk and over 720,000 (2.2.%) very low risk.
East Lindsey has the greatest number of properties at high risk with 6,600, followed by East Devon with over 5,500 and Runnymede with over 4,700.
Proportionally, Runnymede had the greatest percentage of properties at high risk with 9.2%, twice as much as East Devon which had 4.8% of properties at high risk and East Lindsey 4.6%.
You can find out how many properties are at risk of flooding in your local area by using the interactive table below.
‘The threat is expected to grow’
Last year we revealed how councils across England had spent almost £1.7 billion to fight floods and coastal erosion with government spending rising by 176% in real terms between 2010-11 and 2019-20. The costs of protecting the coast from encroachment by the sea increased by 59%.
But campaigners say more needs to be done to better protect communities.
Friends of the Earth campaigner Paul de Zylva said Prime Minister Liz Truss needs to do more.
“It’s shocking that millions of people and properties across the UK are at risk from flooding, and alarmingly the threat is expected to grow as climate change takes hold,” he said
“The new Prime Minister must do far more to make our communities and infrastructure resilient to the more frequent and intense weather extremes that are likely to batter Britain – such as flooding and droughts.”
‘A priority for the new Prime Minister’
Ben Margolis, interim director of The Climate Coalition, added that tackling climate change must be a priority for the new Prime Minister.
“Flooding is one of a number of devastating climate threats in the UK, with research suggesting almost one in three people suffer post traumatic stress disorder after experiencing their home being flooded,” he said.
“If we want to ensure people can live without fear of flooding or other extreme weather like droughts and wildfires, we need the Government to roll out an ambitious plan for the UK to bring down emissions and protect people from the dangers of climate change.
“This must be a priority for the new Prime Minister. And essential to this brief is ditching expensive fossil fuels that are causing all of our bills to soar, and investing in renewables and the natural world that will protect people today, and generations to come from flooding and climate change.”
Flood defence investment
A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said billions are being invested in flood and coastal defences.
“We recognise the threat from climate change and sea level rise, which is why we are investing a record £5.2 billion from 2021 in flood and coastal defences to better protect communities across the country,” they said.
“This record investment builds on the successful delivery of the previous £2.6 billion investment between 2015 and 2021, better protecting more than 314,000 homes - and our long-term policy statement on flood and coastal erosion risk management is the most comprehensive in a decade.”