MILLIONS of property owners face an increased risk from flooding because of climate change and urban sprawl, experts have warned.
New research shows up to two million people in the UK – including almost 130,000 Scots – are at risk of flooding because they live in built-up areas where there is limited drainage and less grass and woodland to soak up rainfall.
The research, carried out at Dundee University and to be presented to the Royal Geographical Society this week, predicts that unless planners take climate change into account, the threat could rise by around 50 per cent to affect 3.2 million by 2050.
The flood risk warnings have emerged following Met Office confirmation that April to June 2012 has been the wettest on record. Last week, parts of England were over-run by flash floods, and rail services to Scotland cut off after landslips on both the east and west coast mainlines. Yesterday, services between Edinburgh and London were still being restricted but rail chiefs said the timetable should be back to normal today.
The Dundee research says climate change is leading to greater rainfall, while a growing population and, in particular, more people moving to cities is triggering greater urbanisation.
Dr Alastair Geddes, of Dundee University, said: “We will see more people exposed by living in areas of risk because of strong population growth.
“There are two main trends – population growth and climate change. However, we can’t take account of how planners will work to change drainage systems.
“It’s important to take action on that. That’s what we hope will come out of this work.”
The researchers initially looked at 44 cities across the UK, including Edinburgh and Glasgow, and then examined three more closely.
In Glasgow, one of the three, they found that 63,927 people are currently at risk of flooding from heavy rainfall – 5.5 per cent.
Across Scotland 2.6 per cent of the urban population was found to be at risk, while across the UK as a whole it was 3.3 per cent.