PROTECTING homes and businesses that flood every year in the centre of York would cost too much, the Environment Agency told a public meeting.

Residents and business owners and staff who live or work near or on the riverfront from Ouse Bridge to Skeldergate Bridge told agency staff how frequent flooding affected them and their livelihoods.

They wanted to know what could be done to prevent foul and flood water coming into their homes and businesses and what could prevent floods closing their firms for up to several months at a time.

But although the agency has calculated that flood levels have risen over decades in the centre of York, there are no plans to build flood defences between the two bridges.

Mark Fuller, of the agency's assets performance team, told the meeting protecting their homes and businesses would cost millions of pounds and wouldn't be cost effective according to the Government formula used to decide which areas get flood defences.

"The area is undefended because it is difficult to protect," he said.

Local resident Chris Cook said similar things had been said to Somerset Level residents before this Spring's floods but Somerset rivers were now being dredged as residents had long wanted.

"It would appear those who shout the loudest and who get the media attention get the protection," he said. "I think we should start to become more robust."

He organised a 40-name petition which led to the area's MP Hugh Bayley organising the meeting between agency staff and residents and businessmen and women at The Lowther on the riverfront.

One attender suggested demolishing the Grade II listed homes along Tower Place and rebuilding them much higher so they wouldn't flood.

Residents were disappointed that a city council flood risk engineer did not attend, as had been expected, and Mr Bayley said he would investigate why. The Press has since been told that council officers are not attending public meetings that the council deems political until after the European elections.

Mr Bayley suggested a working group of the local community, the agency, the council and Yorkshire Water look at ways of helping the residents and business people in the area. He was also willing to ask a parliamentary question about changing the flood defence cost formula so it took more account of flood effects on businesses.