Housing built in high-risk areas

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The Independent Online

New homes are often built in high flood-risk areas against the advice of the Environment Agency, Britain's statutory advisory body on flood control.

New homes are often built in high flood-risk areas against the advice of the Environment Agency, Britain's statutory advisory body on flood control.

Pressure on land for housing development is one factor that has led to about two million homes and businesses being built in areas at risk of severe flooding.

The Environment Agency says that poor planning and global warming have made the position worse.

Twenty-five people have died in about 30 floods in England and Wales in the past 30 months, according to agency statistics. Nearly six million people live on a floodplain, which covers about 10 per cent of the total land area.

The development of floodplain land has more than doubled in the past 50 years, with an area the size of the West Midlands standing on land that would naturally be flooded in wet weather.

An agency spokesman said: "When there is a high flood risk we generally say that development in those areas should not go ahead. But our advice does not have to be accepted even though we are the statutory advisory body."

Flood-defence barriers can lessen the flood risk, but they are also costly. Defending the area around Maidenhead in Berkshire from the Thames is costing £80m.

Rob Flavin, a scientist at the Institute of Hydrology, said that most people were unaware that flooding was a natural state for a river. Hedgerows and coppice woods can reduce the flood risk by containing water and soaking up rain. But many are being lost to changing land use, he added.

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