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Building on floodplains

The question

The government's Making Space for Water strategy gives more power to the Environment Agency to control development in flood plains and coastal areas. What do you think about developing in these areas?

The tsunami tragedy of Boxing Day should have taught engineers and developers to accept that the potential threat from tidal and fluvial flooding is real and very serious. Developing along flood plains and low coastal regions is simply not sustainable due to the overwhelming cost of flood defences required to protect them.

Yolanda Harris, 30, water engineer, Manchester There will always be a storm flood bigger than the 1 in 50, or 1 in 100 year forecast, which our expensive defences will not be able to accommodate. So why not focus our attention on developing areas which are safer and promote low lying areas for agriculture or wildlife?

Neil Henderson, 47, project manager, Bucks Engineers and hydrologists refine the probabilities, developers ignore them and build, floodplains then flood and lawyers make money. The only way to break the cycle is to say no at the start.

Jon Balley, 54, water engineer, Chesham There is no way the UK can ignore developing available land on coast lines and in estuaries.

The public perception of reducing the risks of anything including flooding is to reduce risk to zero. Sorry, but this world is a risky place. Super volcanoes, tsunamis and good old North Sea surge do cause havoc from time to time. We have to take sensible precautions in planning such developments and find ways to insure property in sensitive areas.

Philip Norris 59, managing director, Tutbury With 5M people already living in areas at risk from flooding we have to adapt to living with the risk, particularly as development pressure increases. The Agency's increased control will help, but the key to success will be a change in the UK's attitude towards flooding, together with some innovative solutions to minimise damage caused when flooding inevitably occurs.

Charis Fowler, 32, senior engineer, Midlands The market would naturally regulate building design on flood plains and coastal areas by raising insurance premiums and lowering property values accordingly. In a democratic society this is the appropriate and natural response - it needs no central government intervention. It is not acceptable for the government to impose controls which circumvent local planning and local decision making made by elected representatives. Individual risk is for the individual to assess.

John Foskett, 56, principal site engineer, North West The government has decided, with no clear economic or social argument, to build hundreds of thousands of houses in the South East. The cheapest land for this development is on the flood plain or coastal area, so this is where the development will go.

I hope the Environment Agency and local authority planners have good lawyers, as the inevitable flooding of new developments will result in action being taken against those who have defined flood plain limits and given the go-ahead for developments.

Mat Toy, 40, south east principal engineer

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