PROPERTY developers are sitting on a flooding time bomb, it was claimed yesterday after it emerged that thousands of homes could be built in high-risk areas of the region.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act have shown that at least 7,593 homes are proposed on flood plains or at-risk areas.

Twenty-one local authorities in the North-East and North Yorkshire responded to an FoI request from the Countryside Alliance, a rural campaign group.

Gateshead and Hartlepool led the way, with each having more than 2,000 homes planned on potential flood plains.

Sunderland City Council said that, of more than 15,000 homes planned, a total of 1,500 were to be in danger zones. In Darlington, 150 out of 1,296 proposed homes would be affected.

Several local authorities said no homes were planned on flood plains. They included Richmondshire, Tynedale, Newcastle, South Tyneside, North Tyneside and Redcar and East Cleveland.

Figures were not known for Alnwick, Hambleton, York and Scarborough.

The figures given by local authorities relate to October and November last year, but were only made public by the Countryside Alliance yesterday.

A spokeswoman for the organisation said the findings had been withheld until now to coincide with a report on last summer's flooding, heard in the House of Commons yesterday.

The Government's planning policy now requires developers "to ensure that flood risk is taken into account in the planning process to avoid inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding".

The Government said last year that it does not centrally monitor the number of houses planned for construction on flood plains.

Richard Dodd, the Countryside Alliance's Northern regional director, said: "There is no point addressing the problem of affordable housing by building houses that are unsustainable because of flooding.

"Climate change and the increasing frequency of major flooding have led the Government to address the risk of flooding for new development. This does not, however, address the legacy of development proposed before the new policy.

"The Government needs to carry out a full audit of housing proposed for flood-risk areas - the alternative would leave a time bomb of thousands of homes in the North-East under constant risk of flooding."

A spokesman for the Home Builders' Federation said: "Procedures are in place to ensure that homes can only be built on flood plains if the risks have been mitigated.

"It would be too broad-brush to say we cannot build on flood plains at all, as each case is judged on its individual merits.

"Builders do not want to build houses that end up flooded, it is bad for their reputation."