Science & Environment

UK flooding: EA chief floats homes on stilts idea

Floating house Image copyright AFP
Image caption This floating house in Colombia was based on a Dutch design

Developers should consider building "floating" houses to deal with rising flood waters, the chairman of the Environment Agency has suggested.

Lord Smith faced criticism over the agency's response to the extreme weather which hit large areas of Britain over the winter.

In a magazine interview he said a "silver lining" of the severe weather was more money for flood defences.

But he told the House a ban on building on flood plains was impractical.

These included the possible construction of Dutch-style homes which could float above the rising waters.

"There are some really exciting things that are emerging. There's a rather wonderful technology in Holland where effectively you allow the house to float," he told the House magazine.

"It looks just like an ordinary house but all the connections are flexible and in the event that flooding occurs basically the house just lifts with the water.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Lord Smith said a "silver lining" of the winter floods was increased funding

"That's probably quite an extreme example, but it's that sort of innovative thinking we need to be having more of."

Lord Smith, who admitted he gets "very nervous when it starts raining heavily", praised the "astonishing" job done by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson on flood defence.

He added: "Fortunately the silver lining from that terrible experience that the country went through, over the wettest winter period that we've ever had, has been that the government has now put more resources into flood defence."

Lord Smith said the money meant the Environment Agency is not going to have to make any front-line flood staff redundant.

But he said it would be "impractical" to impose a blanket ban on building on flood plains so "innovative" solutions were needed.

"We will never be able to say there should be a blanket ban on any building in the flood plain," he said.

"There's just so much of the country where that's an impractical restriction."

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