DEFENDING York against future flooding could cost as much as £11 million - and the Environment Agency admits such funding may be difficult to secure.

The agency's calculations emerged as Yorkshire householders were warned today they may need to stump up an average £4.99 extra in council tax next year to pay for flood defence improvements across the region.

Councillors were told that a 40 per cent increase in the local authority levy would be needed in 2002/03, equating to an extra £300,000 from City of York Council and £1 million from North Yorkshire County Council .

A lower levy increase would mean cuts in proposed improvements to the flood warning system and to flood defences.

The agency also revealed in a report that:

Further work is needed to establish flood risks at Drax Power Station, which it says is within 1km of flood defences, is completely surrounded by the flood plain but - uniquely - does not have its own defence funding, despite being of critical national importance.

Flood defences near an electricity sub-station and the Moat House Hotel in North Street, York, are at risk of failure and need strengthening.

The adequacy of defence improvements at Barlby/Selby - piles driven into the crests of existing embankments - need to be reviewed urgently. Flood warning arrangements in Selby also need to be reviewed in the light of increased risks.

Agency and Yorkshire Water representatives spoke last night at a City of York Council's scrutiny committee meeting.

Agency area manager Craig McGarvey said that rough calculations of possible works, such as increasing the height of the city flood defences, would cost about £11 million - but the detailed plans would not be available until April.

"In York we looked at the top of town and down to the bottom and asked ourselves 'if we are to put flood defences where they don't exist and if we are to raise the defences, what kind of cost are we looking at?'

"The challenge is really a funding challenge.

"The level of investment we need is way beyond what is currently provided.

"We will be asking the Regional Flood Defence Committee to increase the amount of money from local authorities, an amount they will find difficult to find."

The meeting was told that insurers had been looking at an indicative flood plain map produced by the agency and refusing to insure some properties or increasing the excess.

But Mr McGarvey said the map was vital in letting people know the possible risks, no matter how small.

He said: "If we don't let people know they are on a flood plain, we have ourselves a situation where communities are flooded and they say 'you never told us'."

Any residents having trouble getting insurance were urged to contact York MP Hugh Bayley.

Updated: 11:19 Thursday, October 11, 2001