RESIDENTS of the Aberdeenshire town of Stonehaven, whose homes have been devastated in two major floods since 2009, are being denied future flood protection by insurance companies, it was claimed today.
They are finding it impossible to obtain flooding cover, either from their own insurers or from other insurance companies, according to the local flood action group.
And their plight has been exacerbated by the disastrous floods still wreaking havoc in the South of England.
An estimated 100 residents were evacuated from their homes in Stonehaven, only days before Christmas 2012, when the River Carron burst its banks for a second time in three years and severe storms also hit the harbour area of the town. Many of their homes had also been damaged by devastating floods in November 2009.
Two months ago Aberdeenshire Council voted to press ahead with plans for a £12 million flood alleviation scheme for the town, including the use of innovative “floating walls” which can be raised from hidden chambers when the River Carron is threatening to burst its banks.
The long awaited scheme will protect more than 850 homes and businesses in the lower part of the town against the threat of a one-in-200-year flood event. But the project is not expected to be completed until mid-2017 at the earliest.
Insurance premium increase
David Macdonald, the secretary of the Stonehaven Flood Action Group, revealed today that, while residents wait for the flood protection scheme to be completed, they are being refused insurance protection for their homes.
He said: “The majority of our members are now back in their homes but they are facing a new challenge as their buildings insurance policies come up for renewal. In addition to very significant increases in premiums and policy excesses, householders and businesses are being told that their existing insurers are no longer willing to provide cover for flooding incidents.
“Although they have spent tens of thousands of pounds to improve the flood resilience of their homes and businesses and in spite of the ‘Letter of Comfort’ to insurers provided by Aberdeenshire Council, they are finding it impossible to obtain flooding cover, either from their own insurers, or from other insurance companies or through the good offices of insurance brokers.”
Mr Macdonald claimed: “The insurance companies are stating openly that they are not duty bound to provide flooding insurance because the ‘Statement of Principles’ agreed with the UK Government expired in July 2013. “The insurance companies are referring customers to the extensive flooding in the South of England and suggesting that they may not be able to offer flooding insurance at all in the future.”
Letter to First Minister
The Flood action group has written to Prime Minister David Cameron, First Minister Alex Salmond and local MSPs, calling for their support in ensuring the continuing availability of flooding insurance protection to residents “in the face of the decision taken by insurance companies to withdraw cover as policies come up for renewal. “
Mr Macdonald stressed that, at its monthly meeting, members of the flood action group had expressed their “sympathy and concern” for the hundreds of people on the West coast of Scotland and South of England hit by the recent floods.
But he continued: “Although good progress has been made in the Stonehaven area in planning flood alleviation and protection measures in the past year, the earliest possible date for the most significant short term measure to disperse flood water is April 2014 and the proposed major flood defences are unlikely to be in place for over five years.
“This is a long time for so many people to face the daily stress of serious personal financial risk if the Government does not achieve a speedy resolution with the insurance companies.”
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency also announced last year that a new river flood warning service is to be used to alert the residents and owners of more than 850 homes and businesses at risk in the town until the flood prevention scheme can be completed.
By signing up to the flood warning service, locals will be given free advance notification when flooding is predicted in the area, providing crucial time to prepare and protect their homes and properties.