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Now cut our flash-flood risk costs, call

PUBLISHED: 18:23 01 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:18 30 June 2010

FLOOD-RAVAGED homeowners and businesses who have struggled to keep pace with rising insurance costs are hoping a new multi-million pound sewer system will finally keep a lid on premiums.

FLOOD-RAVAGED homeowners and businesses who have struggled to keep pace with rising insurance costs are hoping a new multi-million pound sewer system will finally keep a lid on premiums.

During the devastating flash floods that struck Great Yarmouth in September 2006, many living on, or near, Northgate Street found their possessions and livelihoods ruined as six months' of rain fell in just a few hours.

And this wasn't the first time this had happened in the area - in the same year residents and businesses had faced ruin four times after heavy rain but the worst was in the September when more than 2ft of water poured into homes.

Lying at one of the lowest points in the town, the area was so badly affected that people took to navigating its waterways by canoe.

It was to address these issues that Anglian Water has installed a new £4.7m rainwater drainage scheme, which opened on Monday and was described by a spokesman as offering “far greater protection of its kind for people here than is offered anywhere else in the East of England”.

And now there are calls, led by Tony Wright MP, for insurance companies to lower their charges.

Mr Wright has been in talks with the Association of British Insurers (ABI) about the situation, but admits that the number of different insurance companies involved makes things complicated.

He stressed that many in the area had faced elevated insurance costs and said that those people not offered a reduction at the point of renewal to should contact him.

He said: “I've been in discussions about this for a few years, but we had to wait until the scheme was in place and up and running.

“The important issue concerns those that have seen a significant increase in their policy costs over the last few years and I hope the ABI will be able to look at this aspect.”

The new defences, which are mainly located outside St Andrew's First School, include a new pumping station, 850-cubic metre underground storage tank and a kilometre-long sewer.

They are the largest installed by Anglian Water in the area and can cope with a one in a 90 year flood, rather than the usual one in 30.

Among those pleased to see the works complete is Shaun Kennett, owner of Northgate Street-based Shaun's Butchers.

He faced “colossal” damage amounting to more than £50,000 when the water of 2006 swept into his shop and, having had an excess of £250 on his claims before the flood, he now faces an excess of £2,500.

Since appearing on TV about the issue on Monday, he said that many customers had come to him saying they were paying high insurance prices and, in some cases, being refused insurance altogether.

Mr Kennett, who will renew his insurance in May, said: “The cost of insurance has raised a lot since those floods, and I definitely think that the companies need to react to this.

“Last time around, despite telling insurers about the upcoming works, I still found I was getting passed around, and my excess is still very high.”

John Vale has excess costs of £5,000 for a £20,000 claim following the flood, which left his pub The Sportmans Arms requiring more than £40,000 in repairs.

Though he received a discount on his premium after forwarding a letter from Anglian Water about the new works, he worried about the impact insurance company policy could have on others.

“My £5,000 could be set against my business, but what about the little guy along the road - where does he get that kind of excess from?”

Malcolm Tarling, a spokesman for the ABI, said that his organisation was not a regulator and emphasised that homeowners and businesses should let their insurance companies know about the works when getting quotes.

He added: “Insurance companies will always take into account the history of an area and what measures have been taken to control such flooding but they may not necessarily know about this latest scheme.

“Surface water flooding is an emerging issue for insurance firms, but this should only have a positive impact.”


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