E-petition is set up calling for contract between insurers and the Government to be renewed

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SEVERE wet weather in flood-prone areas has sparked fresh calls for the Government to draw up a new agreement with insurers to protect at-risk properties.

The existing contract, which is due to run out in less than a year, obliges insurers to provide cover for high-risk homes as long as the Government improves flood defences.

Without the pact, households at risk of flooding face rocketing insurance costs or could even be ineligible for cover.

The Labour Party in Folkestone and Hythe, one of the UK’s top 10 most flood-prone areas with 7,196 at-risk homes, has created an e-petition on the Government’s website calling for a new deal to ensure properties are not left without insurance.

If it collects more than 100,000 signatures, a debate could be held in Parliament.

Secretary of the group Peter Wallace said it was essential for the area, which is prone to coastal flooding.

“People in my constituency may be left without any home insurance or unable to pay inflated premiums,” he said.

“People in high risks areas like Shepway need that assurance now to know that their homes are secure.

“Rumours are circulating that a large number of insurance companies are preparing to hike insurance premiums after the agreement expires, which will leave many people unable to afford insurance.”

Matt Hillyer, Labour secretary for New Romney and Hythe, added: “Thousands of home owners will be worrying over the future of their homes.”

In Kent some 34,000 homes are at risk of flooding. Sittingbourne and Sheppey in Swale (4,295 at risk) and Canterbury (4,199) are named alongside Folkestone and Hythe in the top 10 most at risk areas of the UK.

Speaking in the House of Commons last week, environment secretary Caroline Spelman reassured MPs that households would be protected.

“We are at an advanced stage in intensive and constructive negotiations with the insurance industry on alternative arrangements for when the statement of principles expires this time next year,” she said.

Earlier this year, Tory MP for Folkestone Damian Collins said it was vital the current agreement was reviewed.

But he criticised the insurance industry for failing to reflect the Government’s investment in flood defences in customers’ bills.

Otto Thoresen, director general of the Association of British Insurers, the organisation which holds the agreement with the Government, said insurers wanted to make sure households had access to affordable insurance.

“We are running out of time to make sure people in high-risk areas are properly protected from the devastation flooding can cause and the ball is now in the Government’s court,” he said.

To sign the e-petition go to http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/35593

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