Wednesday, November 25, 1998 Published at 16:06 GMT
Watchdog promises faster flood warnings
The worst floods ever in some areas - but warnings could have been better
By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby
The Environment Agency is stepping up its flood warning system following the disastrous floods last Easter, described in some areas as the worst ever recorded.
Five people died in the floods, which caused havoc in parts of eastern England, the Midlands and Wales.
The agency was widely criticised afterwards, and was judged by an independent review team to have shown "poor overall performance".
The agency's director of operations, Archie Robertson, admitted: "Our actions did not always meet our own standards or satisfy the public and others."
Five MPs called for the resignation of the agency's chairman, Lord de Ramsey.
Other work may suffer
Now the agency has announced a £7m a year action plan designed to speed up flood warning systems.
Lord de Ramsey said the money would have to be found.
If it could not be, he said, then "improvements to flood warning systems will be at the expense of other flood defence work".
The changes to be made under the action plan will include:
But Lord de Ramsey said rivers could not be prevented from flooding, and there would always be circumstances in which no advance warning might be possible.
"With winter upon us", he said, "we are stepping up efforts to alert people to the risk of flooding in general.
"We have begun a programme to check the condition of all flood defences around the country, including those which we do not own.
"And we remain as determined as ever to prevent the unwise spread of development in flood risk areas."