Almost 75% of people think the UK needs to invest in new flood defences – but only 30% said they would be willing to pay for them.
A new poll for the Institution of Mechanical Engineers reveals that while people overwhelmingly believe the UK needs more flood resilience – with more flood defences (74%), dredging rivers (68%), incentivising farmers to grow vegetation (48%) and relocating rail lines (26%) among the options backed by the public – 57% of people said they would not be prepared to pay an additional tax to fund it.
The results come as the Institution warns people may have to pay more in future to ensure the UK remains resilient to extreme weather conditions such as heavy rainfall and intense storms.
The poll of 2,032 people showed there was little sympathy for those caught up in the recent floods, with 69% of respondents claiming people who live on well-known flood plains, and are aware of the risks, should take more responsibility for the damage caused to their homes. Of those polled, 89% said they did not live on a flood plain.
The Government’s response to the flooding was however widely criticised, with 51% of those polled saying it was ‘poor’, compared to 41% of people who said the same of the Environment Agency’s efforts.
Additionally, 44% of people blame man-made climate change for the recent heavy rain, storms and extreme weather – compared to 24% who don’t. While 65% of respondents fear that cuts to the Environment Agency’s budget will have a negative impact on its future efforts to protect the UK from flooding and future extreme weather events.
Dr Tim Fox, Head of Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said:
“Scientists tell us that extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall and intense storms will occur more frequently in the future and we know that a lot more work needs to be done if we are to increase the ability of UK infrastructure to cope effectively.
“Although we need much tougher Government regulation to ensure existing infrastructure is made more resilient and new projects are designed and built to withstand these anticipated conditions, people in the UK need to understand that they will have to be prepared to pay one way or another.
“Our poll shows that while, for example, we want greater flood defences, we don’t want to contribute more through additional taxes or levies. Government therefore has to consider rearranging budgets and as a society we will have to make difficult spending choices; we will have to start being more realistic.
“Future-proofing our country against extreme weather may well be cheaper in the long-term, but it comes with substantial associated up-front costs. The reality is that, if we’re not willing to shoulder these costs, we’ll be opting for far more disruption of our lives in the future.”
The poll asked 2,032 members of the public on their views on the recent UK flooding and was carried out by ICM on behalf of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.