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A milkman battles through the floods
In Deep Water
Planning applications on flood plains in Britain have been going up every year for the last five years. Over five million people are now living or working in flood risk areas in England and Wales.

Local authorities are under pressure to find sites for housing. In Selby in Yorkshire, the housing target is 3000 new homes.

But the floods last November illustrate the difficulties that local authorities face. The River Ouse broke its banks and flooded Barlby near Selby in Yorkshire.

Map of the Selby and Barlby area
Flood defences are meant to protect housing and keep excess water on the Washland

There are two housing estates side by side at Barlby near Selby in Yorkshire. More than 100 homes on the Wainhomes estate were flooded last November.

But only three homes were affected on the Haslam estate. The planners had insisted that floor levels on the Haslam estate should be raised. Wainhomes was not asked to raise its floor levels.

When Wainhomes applied for planning permission for this estate the advice about flood risks came from the forerunner of the Environment Agency, the National Rivers Authority. The advice went to Selby District Council.

Richard Borrows from the Council says, "They (the NRA) didn't recommend refusal which they could have done if they felt there was an overriding flood risk which we shouldn't discount."

The NRA say that they advised that careful consideration should be given to the raising of floor levels on the estate. The Council say they passed the advice to Wainhomes.

Wainhomes turned down Panorama's invitation for an interview but in a statement said that the NRA's advice referred to "adequate facilities for the drainage of surface water" - which they installed - and "not... as a defence against flood water".

The company said it had acted in good faith and its site was "not shown as a flood risk area in any public document."

Most of the houses, it said, were sold to "local residents who had substantial local knowledge" and the company believes that they too "were not aware of any material flood risk."

Currently, there is no legal obligation on a council to accept the advice of the Environment Agency about flooding risk. It is the homeowners who suffer most.

John and Ros Amor were forced out of their home when their house on the Wainhomes estate flooded on 4th November.
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