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The question Floods

The floods that have devastated the south east this week are just part of a more widespread problem across the UK. What can be done to stop them?

The recent floods have been brought about by sudden extreme rainfall events coupled with very high tides. Due to the increasingly unpredictable nature of the weather in the UK and the difficulty of flood forecasting more than 24 hours in advance, it is difficult to see how even a massive programme of flood defences could help.

Rather, we should prevent excessive future development on flood plains, and accept the fact that existing properties are as much at risk from flooding as they are from fire or theft.

Steve Mitchell, 31, lecturer, Brighton I would suggest we allow rivers to run their natural course, flooding the plains in spate and avoiding expensive and ineffective flood protection schemes. Spend the money saved on a fleet of 'Millennium rescue arks' built at the Govan shipyard (this may keep our proud shipbuilding industry alive). These arks could transport those affected to the Millennium Dome which may be put to better use as temporary housing.

Robert Lyall, 27, build manager, Scotland

Flood plains must be returned to exactly that - flood plains.

Climate change is a fact, and if flood plains are to be developed on, we need to take a leaf out of the developing countries' book (who are much more advanced at this kind of thing), where houses are built on stilts or rise and fall with the water level. For properties already built in areas prone to flooding there are two options:

demolish the buildings and return the area to a flood plain or meadow, relieving the situation elsewhere; or spend lots of money building defences that will one day be over-topped.

Michael Woods, 35, engineer, Edinburgh

Jack all the houses on flood plains 3m up in the air and let the water pass underneath.

Alternatively, move all the people and industries affected to the northern towns where housing stands empty, and demolish the buildings on the flood plains, thus solving two problems. Or make the civil servants and MPs who reverse planning rulings to allow construction on flood plains liable for the unfortunate householders' costs.

Mike Dommett, 44, subagent, Kent

Once we accept we cannot ride roughshod over the environment and start to live with nature instead of attempting to control it, we might stop building on flood plains, chopping down trees which absorb flood water, and straightening rivers so they deliver their flood waters to built up areas more efficiently.

Andria Hubbard, 34, project engineer, Exeter

Unless main surface water sewers are upgraded before development and rivers amended to cope with the ensuing floodwater, it is inevitable the terrible scenes of this week will be repeated. If we want continually expanding towns then the real question is whether we are prepared to pay the full price of the infrastructure required or 'do it on the cheap' and suffer the consequences.

Bob Armstrong, 50, engineer, Merseyside

Move the towns!

Dave Tomlinson, 55, principal engineer, Argyll

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