• Video report by ITV News Midlands Reporter Ben Chapman

Flood-hit communities along the River Severn are facing an anxious wait to see whether defences will stop millions of gallons of water from flooding homes and businesses.

Two "danger to life" warnings remain in place for the river at Shrewsbury and Ironbridge, as river levels are predicted to rise to almost seven metres above their normal level.

The Environment Agency (EA) believes there is a "significant risk" flood barriers could be overtopped, inundating properties with water.

The organisation said the severe flooding is the result of twice the average rainfall for February - with more forecast to over the coming days.

A further 106 flood warnings remain in place, alongside 156 lower category flood alerts.

Homes by the River Severn at Ironbridge which have been deluged by floodwater. Credit: PA

Homes on flood plains should only be built if 'no real alternative'

It comes as the head of the EA has warned development on flood plains should only happen "if there is no real alternative".

Sir James Bevan admitted it would be unrealistic to ban all development.

Much of England is built on a flood plain; with a growing population, the number of properties at risk of flooding are likely to almost double over the next 50 years.

However, the Agency's Chief Executive said building work that does go ahead should be resilient to extreme weather events and must not increase the risk of flooding for other people.

"It means building back better after a flood, not simply replacing what we had before, so that homes, businesses and infrastructure are more resilient to future events," he said.

Properties in Ironbridge, where residents and business owners are hoping flood barriers hold. Credit: PA

Sir James made his comments in a speech at the World Water-Tech Innovation Summit in London on Tuesday where he warned a twin track approach to flooding is needed to defuse the "weather bomb".

He also said the issue of flooding may mean that some communities have to be abandoned in the future.

"It means accepting the hard truth that, in a few places, the scale of coastal erosion and the risk of flooding from rivers or the sea will become so big that it may be better for communities to choose to relocate out of harm’s way."

The EA said it is spending £2.6 billion on new flood defences that will better protect 300,000 properties by 2021 and more than £1 billion on maintaining existing defences in England.