New houses 'will add to flood threat'

SHAUN LOWTHORPE The East of England will be the next to suffer severe flooding if ministers press ahead with plans to build 500,000 new homes across region.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

The East of England will be the next to suffer severe flooding if ministers press ahead with plans to build 500,000 new homes across region.

That was the warning from the Institution of Civil Engineers which said that government plans to up the numbers of new homes would place too much strain on flood defences, water and power supplies and the transport network.

As Gordon Brown pledged more than £46m to help flood-stricken areas, the institute's new report warned that Whitehall's preferred growth plans for this region - 575,000 new homes, nearly 100,000 more than those already set out by the East of England Regional Assembly - were in danger of ignoring the “significant risk” that development could cause further downstream.

John Canton, the ICE's regional manager, said he feared the government was brushing aside the potential impact of development because of the demand for new houses.

But he said that floodplain areas could be developed, if the will was there to adopt new building methods, such as homes on stilts.

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“Currently the whole of Lincolnshire is considered floodplain; you could have development, but we have to be more innovative and build buildings that do not get damaged by floods. If you are going to build alongside a river, why not build on stilts in a way the Dutch have done?”

The 52-page report also said that housing growth in Norfolk should be opposed where there were concerns about the effect on water supplies.

Other recommendations in the report are:

Don't build homes in rural villages.

Carry more freight by water - using the Broads as a distribution network.

No more “land hungry” park and rides in Norwich.

Better transport links between Yarmouth and Lowestoft.

“Our concern is that if it isn't properly handled, it will cause problems,” he said. “Engineering is the art of the possible but we need to make sure we do things right.

“As civil engineers we will have to manage and build the future development the government is demanding. While we welcome the consultation process, we feel our advice is being brushed aside, which could spell disaster for future generations.

“Given the considerable pressure for development to take place where economic and transport links are strongest, this often guides development to river valleys or the coast and we consider a more holistic approach could and should be adopted.”

And he feared that not enough was being done to wean commuters away from cars and on to public transport and said park-and-ride schemes, popular around Norwich, were only a medium-term solution.

“It does improve city centre congestion,” he said. “But in the longer term it encourages inter-urban driving and there must be better public transport to ensure people don't make those journeys.”

Freight could also switch from roads to water.

“You can get from Yarmouth to Norwich in a boat and if the opportunities are there we should use them,” he added.

Housing growth in Norfolk should be opposed because of the effect on water supplies, he added.

“I know of some environmental concerns about the effects of water abstraction on flora and fauna in Norfolk,” he said.

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