BRIDGWATER and West Somerset's MP has carried out a spectacular U-turn on the head of the Environment Agency over a speech about building homes on flood plains.

At 8.45am this morning (Tuesday, February 25), Ian Liddell-Grainger's office issued a press statement welcoming the upcoming comments of Sir James Bevan regarding homes being built in areas at risk of flooding.

But clearly Mr Liddell-Grainger was surprised by the content of Sir James' comments - because at 1.04pm a second statement was issued from the MP's office stating the Environment Agency chief was 'living in fantasy land'.

In the 8.45am release Mr Liddell-Grainger said he 'echoed calls' for an end to house-building on flood plains.

The first statement reads: "Today the head of the Environment Agency Sir James Bevan, will say new housing should only be allowed if it is flood resilient while admitting that some homes already built should never have been constructed.

"His remarks have been welcomed by Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger, who says it is 'madness' that taxpayers are left with huge bills to protect thousands of houses which are clearly flood-prone."

In the initial statement Mr Liddell-Grainger is quoted saying: "Obviously the pattern of storms we are seeing now means we have moved into a different weather league, just as was predicted would be the case for climate change.

"That is going to force us to think long and hard about where we build in future.

"But my concern is that these changes are now showing up weaknesses in existing housing policies which have allowed an unfettered rash of housing to spring up on what are totally unsuitable sites."

But once Sir James Bevan had spoken on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Liddell-Grainger changed his tune in his comments about the Environment Agency chief.

Sir James said building new homes on flood plains in England 'should be resisted if at all possible' but also said where there was no alternative, homes should be made 'more resilient', suggesting ground floors could be used for garages so people can stay safe upstairs during flooding.

Mr Liddell-Grainger's release at 1.04pm stated that Sir James had 'appeared to have lost touch with reality'.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said: "One shouldn't really be too surprised since he heads an agency which tried to prove that there was no need to dredge rivers to keep them working properly - until it was proved spectacularly wrong.

"But frankly suggesting that people should merely start living upstairs is an utterly facile approach to the situation we now face.

"If Sir James had ever bothered to study what happened on the Somerset Levels six years ago he would have realised it wouldn't have mattered if my constituents were living on the first floor of their houses or on the roof: their communities would still have been devastated and their buildings severely damaged.

"To suggest that their inhabitants would be able to carry on as normal simply by living on the first floor is pure, unmitigated fantasy."