A futuristic sign to warn people if flooding is imminent was unveiled today.

The board in Cliffe High Street, Lewes, will relay information from the Environment Agency's Sussex headquarters to shoppers in the town.

It is the first of its type to become operational in England and Wales and will warn if flooding of roads, homes and businesses is forecast.

Information on the sign will duplicate data relayed to homes and businesses by phone as part of the agency's warning system.

Many people complained they did not receive the warnings because they were in town as the River Ouse burst its banks in autumn 2000.

Peter Midgley, the agency's Sussex area manager, said he hoped the sign, which operates like a rotating advertising hoarding, would fill the gap.

He said: "This accurate information gives people more time to make preparations and reduce the potential damage to their homes and possessions."

The £7,500 sign is jointly funded by the agency and business group Sussex Enterprise.

Tim Maskell, head of business development at Sussex Enterprise, said: "The system will provide confidence to Lewes businesses, insurance companies and residents."