Four times as many businesses and households in England could be at risk of flooding in the next 20 years if further steps are not taken to prepare for climate change, says a new report from the committee on climate change (CCC)

According to the CCC’s adaptation subcommittee (ASC), cuts in funding for flood protection are a major cause of the heightened risk.

The ASC estimates that in 2035 only 160,000 properties would be at significant risk of flooding if funding for protection were increased by just £20 million a year, on top of rises to account for inflation.

This compares with 610,000 properties at risk in 2035 from climate change if no action is taken to prepare, says the ASC.

It points out that funding for flood protection is 12% lower for the current spending period, from 2011/12 to 2014/15, compared with the previous period after accounting for inflation.

Flood risk is also rising due to more development on flood plains, with around 210,000 new properties built in areas at greatest risk of flooding over the past 10 years, says the ASC.

In addition, the danger of buildings being flooded as a result of climate change is being exacerbated by the low take-up of measures to protect individual properties from flooding – currently 20–35 times lower than the rate required to safeguard all viable properties – and the rising proportion of gardens being paved over – increasing from just over a quarter of total garden area in 2001 to nearly half by 2011.

“We must take adaptation more seriously if we are to manage the growing risks of floods and droughts,” said John Krebs, chair of the ASC.

“This can be done by investing more in flood defences, and giving serious consideration to where and how we build our housing and infrastructure. Without action for these inevitable weather extremes the country faces rising costs, unnecessary damage and future disruption.”