Businesses have been outraged at the prospect of having to pay for the damage and pollution caused by flooding.

They are being asked by the Environment Agency to stump up for repairs and cleaning up in the wake of the severe flooding which devastated Lewes in October.

Caffyns Land Rover in Lewes has been threatened with a bill for polluting the River Ouse after the floods flushed out engine oil stored in tanks at the garage.

Caffyns is among many who have complained that the Environment Agency did not give adequate warnings that the River Ouse was going to burst its banks.

Martin Blackaby, of Caffyns, said: "The Environment Agency is actually thinking about charging us for polluting the river. The water flooded our fuel tanks and it is invoicing us for that."

Mr Blackaby said he does not know how much the agency was planning to charge because he had just been informed it intended to issue an invoice.

He said he was particularly upset because the company helped out during the rescue operation by lending of some of its four-wheeled drive cars.

He said: "I'm pretty hacked off. It's salt in the wounds really."

John Clark, of the Lewes Business Task Force, whose business W E Clark jewellers in Cliffe High Street was severely damaged by the flood, has been told he will have to pay more than £200,000 to repair the river wall outside his premises.

He has been worried about the wall since the 1980s and has been calling for action for the last three years to improve it.

But he said the floods have brought it near to collapse.

Mr Clark said: "It's outrageous. If the wall goes, it will impact on Lewes as a whole because a Grade II listed building will go with it.

"There is also little point in bankrupting people. That will not help the cause. They are behaving like charlatans."

Peter Midgley, Sussex area manager for the Environment Agency, told Mr Clark he would get no financial help to rebuild the wall.

Mr Midgley said: "I have spent £100,000 on emergency repairs in the centre of Lewes to put the walls, where I can, back into a reasonable state of repair."

But he said landowners were legally responsible for their own property, so there would be nothing the agency could do to help.

Mr Midgley said the agency was obliged by law to invoice companies where severe pollution had occurred but he would reconsider in the Caffyns' case.

Director Simon Caffyn is now trying to negotiate a concession.