An estimated £2.9million spent on UK gardens, is wasted due to flood risk, says Flood Re

New data from Flood Re suggests that due to low awareness and understanding of flood risks, people in the UK are wasting £2.9 million per year on their gardens.

a bench sitting in the middle of a lake

Flooding is a growing issue in the UK. One in four homes is at risk of damage to property and gardens, and the associated physical and psychological trauma. Considering that February 2024 was the wettest on record for over 250 years and the high risks of flooding in the UK, Flood Re wants people become flood smart about their garden spending. Especially when 5.4 million people in the UK are experiencing the devastating impact of flooding on their green spaces.

Flood Re is the joint initiative between the UK government and the insurance industry, which ensures that flood cover is more widely available and affordable. Flood Re will run for 25 years, at which point insurers should (theoretically) be offering policies based on actual risk to property.

Conducted by Opinium (2024) for Flood Re, the new research shows that people in the UK are not taking the crucial steps needed to protect their homes and gardens. According to the research, 90% of homeowners, rising to 93% in high and mid flood risk areas, haven’t taken any steps to make their homes and gardens more flood resilient. Despite the extreme weather conditions, this doesn’t look to be changing, with only 9% of homeowners planning to add flood resilience measures to their homes and gardens in the next year.

The research also revealed that only 5% of people living in high-risk areas could correctly identify their flood risk. Worryingly, 68% of people in high-risk flood areas think that their flood risk is low. Almost half (46%) of people in high and mid flood risk areas said flood risk had “no impact at all” on where they have chosen to live.

Yet, the picture couldn’t be more different for those who have experienced flooding in their home and garden, with 62% claiming risk of flooding has since impacted where they choose to live. 41% of those who have experienced flooding considering implementing flood resilience modifications, compared to only 4% of Brits who haven’t experienced flooding.

Nikki Stocks, 63 from Lancashire explained: “In the chaos of the flooding, I felt overwhelmed, unsure of how to safeguard my home and happiness due to financial restrictions. It’s affected my mental health because now I’m always anxious when it rains and how bad it could get for my home”.

In 2023, British people spent £17.6 billion, which works out an average of £402 per UK adult. Using average spend and Environmental Agency estimations of the number of properties expected to flood each year, Flood Re extrapolated that an estimated £2.9 million spent annually on gardens, is at risk of being washed away. The calculations account for both the probability that a residence has a garden, and for the expected proportion of a garden that would be destroyed in a flood event.

According to Flood Re, with smart investments your garden could function as a flood prevention tool. Gardens are an important and cost-effective first line of defence to flooding. Properly managed, domestic gardens can channel, absorb and store large quantities of water, which means the risk to buildings and property is mitigated. The risk of localised and downstream flooding is reduced too.

Dr. Ed Barsley, Environmental Design Expert said: “The research clearly shows that the majority of people aren’t aware that their garden or home is at flood risk of flooding until it’s too late. However, what’s positive to note is that there are a variety of practical and cost-effective measures that gardener owners can take to save themselves emotional and financial stress further down the line.”

Choosing a variety of plants such as willow, water mint and astilbe can help ensure your garden can thrive in varying water conditions and withstand the challenges posed by climate change, from drought to inundation. Similarly, slowing the flow of water into your garden will significantly reduce local flooding risks by diverting rainwater away from infrastructure, easing the burden on drainage systems and avoiding costly upgrades down the line.

To demonstrate how to harness your garden’s natural flood resilience, Flood Re are teaming up with leading garden designer Dr Ed Barsley and Naomi Slade and, to unveil the Flood Resilient Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May. The garden has been carefully designed to show how people can protect their gardens and homes against extreme weather and learn how to increase their flood resilience from the ground up.

Andy Bord, Chief Executive Officer, Flood Re said: “The research clearly shows there is a job to be done to educate people about their flood risk. Gardens are cherished spaces that bring joy to so many of us, so why wouldn’t we want to not only protect them from harm but actively harness their power to prevent them from future damage? Your garden can be both beautiful and resilient to extreme wet weather. We’re hopeful this research and the Flood Resilient Garden will help people think about their flood risk and consider the plants and garden features that will both endure a flood and help reduce destruction and distress to their home when a flood hits.”