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Flood protection for historic buildings and sites in the UK

By September 14, 2015Flood Protection News
domestic flooding

The UK is rich with historic, architectural and cultural heritage. Much of this stretches back hundreds and sometimes thousands of years and makes up the beauty of the land. It traces the development of society and offers an insight into the way our ancestors lived.

Across the UK there are thousands of historic buildings or sites. Some are very famous and have many visitors each year and some are small, remote and are marked with a sign to show their significance; many are domestic homes inhabited by the public. One issue which affects the future of them all though is flooding and it is an ongoing task to ensure the provision of flood protection of all the locations so future generations can enjoy them just as much as we do now.

The scale of how much of the UK is deemed of historic importance

cotswold-village-street-808320_640Any building built before 1919 is classed as probably having some kind of historic importance. With 400,000 homes and 75,000 businesses in England alone at risk of flooding, there are likely to be a high percentage of these which will need specific conservation and flood protection measures to preserve their features.

Action which has been taken

Plans are in place and advice and guidance is available for anyone living in, owning or managing a site or building of historic importance. The help, provided from a multi-agency task force, looks at preventing flooding and how to inspect, repair and conserve a site if a flood has taken place.

Older buildings are often very durable in their construction but over time will begin to suffer damage. As time goes on this will increase as the level of vulnerability rises. Older buildings were often constructed from timber, lime plaster and bricks which all absorb water much more easily than modern materials and they also need more time to naturally dry out before the area is stable again. Each building or site has to be managed as an individual case as there are no standard solutions when it comes to our historical attractions.

Following major flooding across the UK in 2007 and the resulting large scale damage to old buildings, a national plan has now been prepared and covers:

  • Types of flooding
  • Recognising if there is a flood risk
  • Preparing for a flood
  • Dealing with a flood
  • Minimising the damage after the flood
  • How to repair and conserve after a flood

Learning from the actions of the past

There have been many incidences in the past where repairs were carried out following a flood and the work meant that original features of buildings were permanently lost. Modern materials were used or parts of buildings were removed or demolished and this meant that the living history of the UK was forever consigned to documents of how it originally looked or the method of construction. Where the original materials were left in place, a lack of the consultation of conversation expertise was often evident and little advice on repair was taken in some cases. This meant that areas which could have been saved were damaged beyond repair by both the flood water and the work carried out in the aftermath.

Flood water can enter at many points in an old building so the advice now given focuses in great deal on flood prevention. It also emphasises the importance of regular maintenance and planning for future events.

Many people often don’t realise they are living in a property which could have some historic importance. Whilst it’s vital that everyone has plans in place should a flood hit, those in older buildings should pay particular attention to what they should be doing now to preserve their home or business against flooding. This should include flood barriers as well as paying particular attention to any areas of particular architectural prominence. With so many locations at risk, putting plans in place now will mean that the historic beauty of the UK can continue to be enjoyed for the decades and centuries to come.