FARMERS should be encouraged to plant more trees as part of flood alleviation strategy, a leading regional surveyor has said.

Graham Bowcock, the North West spokesman for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), said wide ranging planting would 'act as a buffer' to slow the flow of water down stream.

“If we want to secure the future of UK food production and ensure that food prices can be kept as affordable as possible, then rural flood protection must no longer be seen as the poor relation," he said.

"However, if residential flood protection is taken to be the priority, we can stop flood water reaching our market towns and villages, simply by adopting more effective rural land management approaches.

"A strategy as basic as planting more trees in upland areas to act as a buffer, slowing the downward flow of water, could have a significant impact on the likelihood of flooding occurring further downstream.

“Imagine what might have happened in some of our region’s worst affected areas if water had been diverted and captured, before it reached people’s homes. How many properties could have been saved? How many families might have experienced a very different Christmas?”

Mr Bowcock said North West farmers had the potential to offer the country 'a modern day arc' that would protect people, properties and livestock from oncoming floods 'for many years to come'. But they could only do this if Government 'committed the right level of funding and support'.

Mr Bowcock said countryside should not be seen as a 'poor relation' when it comes to flood protection, a leading regional surveyor has said.

During the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced that he would be investing an additional £2.3bn in flood defences and RICS urged that protection of the countryside be given equal weighting.