Saturday, 25 September 2021

Why the 2014 floods are water under the Henley Bridge

LAST year’s flooding left about 800,000 homes in the UK without power, some for up to

LAST year’s flooding left about 800,000 homes in the UK without power, some for up to a week. Riverside properties in Henley had water in their basements, gardens and up to their front doors, while 17,000 acres of the Somerset levels were flooded for more than a month.

The main rail link with the West Country was closed from February 5 to April 4, 2014, while princes William and Harry were among those filling sandbags to keep the water at bay.

Surely no housing market could survive unscathed after months of meteorological mayhem and the media images of scarred countryside and distraught householders?

Well, think again. After all, this is Henley. Our local estate agents say the property market in Henley and its surrounding areas is in very decent shape indeed.

“In reality, relatively few properties were flooded,” says one local agent. “Like the riverbanks, the property market repaired itself and river property buyers returned.”

The outcome confirms the findings of research carried out in 2009, when the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors studied 13 flood-prone areas in England and Wales, comparing 10 years of house prices pre- and post-floods. The results are heartening for those who spent February 2014 in their wellingtons.

Firstly, the flooding was found to have only a temporary effect on house prices. Even in the highest-risk areas, prices returned to normal within three years.

Secondly, when floods occurred in what were considered to be low-risk areas, prices remained unchanged even in the short term â?? people realised the floods were unusual.

And thirdly, if a high-risk area escaped flooding even in a “bad” winter when other areas were hit, local house prices remained strong: in other words, the apparent threat of a flood neither deterred buyers nor knocked values unless a flood incident actually occurred.

Since that research, of course, new flood defences have been built. Some £2.34? billion has been spent in England alone since 2011, according to the House of Commons library.

What’s more, research by one property website suggests the impact on prices may be even shorter-lived than imagined. In Henley, prices have risen eight per cent since 2012, with the average detached house fetching £847,398 in the past year.

“Houses on the river at Henley are like hen’s teeth so, regardless of risk, they sell well,” said one local expert.

Nick Warner, a director at Savills in Bell Street, said: “In the aftermath of the floods last year, demand for the best waterside properties in the best locations [where the houses themselves were not flooded, even if the gardens may have been] did not seem to be adversely affected.”

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