'Rancorous row' over flood risk insurance

Reports of a 'rancorous row' between the government and the insurance industry over a deal to secure continued insurance for homes in flood risk areas features in today's newspaper round-up.

The Independent reports that as the current flooding, "the worst since 2007", affects more and more towns and villages across Britain, "ministers traded accusations with insurers about the worrying possibility that huge numbers of households in areas of flood risk could become uninsurable from next year". The newspaper says that environment secretary Owen Paterson "accused the insurers of being alarmist". It quotes him saying: "Many people are extremely worried and I think it is not helpful to alarm people when we are in close, detailed negotiations." An existing deal between the government and insurance industry expires next year. A Q&A on the floods issue published by the newspaper says that more intense rainstorms in the UK are causing increased surface water flooding - where rain overwhelms sewer and drainage infrastructure. The paper says this has caused "about a third of flooding over the last few days".

The Financial Times (subscription) reports that French energy operator EDF and its British partner "have received the first UK site license for a new nuclear plant in 25 years". The paper says EDF was granted the license yesterday for Hinkley Point in Somerset, where it intends to build "two of four nuclear power reactors it plans to build in Britain". However, the paper adds, the scheme also requires "permits from the Environment Agency and planning consent from the government before it can start building".

The UK is "increasingly turning into a property speculators' haven, thanks to tax loopholes and the offshore secrecy offered by the British Virgin Islands (BVI) that hides many property transactions", the Guardian reports. The paper carries a special investigation into how offshore investors "secretly buy up the capital’s homes, feeding and ever rising market". In 2011 alone, the paper reports, "more than £7 billion of offshore money flooded into potentially tax-exempt purchases of UK houses, flats and office blocks. Most buyers snapped up property in central London. These offshore buyers are a driving force of the capital's spiralling property prices versus the rest of the UK: since March 2009, property prices in prime central London have increased by 49 per cent – five times more than the rest of the UK, according to estate agents Knight Frank".

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