Sir Philip Dilley
Sir Philip Dilley has resigned as Environment Agency chairman Agency

Sir Philip Dilley has resigned as chairman of the Environment Agency after he went on holiday to Barbados during the wettest December on record. The outgoing chief said he was standing down because pressure grew for him to cut short the holiday as parts of north England were submerged in rising floodwaters.

"My reason for resigning is that the expectations of the role have expanded to require the Chairman to be available at short notice throughout the year, irrespective of routine arrangements for deputy and executive cover," he said in his resignation letter to environment secretary Elizabeth Truss.

"In my view this is inappropriate in a part-time non-executive position, and this is something I am unable to deliver," he added.

Sir Philip was on holiday while Storms Desmond, Eva and Frank battered the country in January 2015. More than 3,000 families have been forced to live in alternative accommodation while 15,000 insurance claims – worth an estimated £1.3bn – have been made according to the Association of British Insurers.

The Environment Agency had also accused covering up for Sir Philip's whereabouts over the festive period by by claiming he was at "home with his family". Sir Philip has a holiday home in Barbados. He also blamed media intrusion for his stepping aside.

"Furthermore the media scrutiny focused on me is diverting attention from the real issue of helping those whose homes and businesses have flooded, as well as the important matter of delivering a long-term flood defence strategy," the letter continued.

"This same media attention has also affected and intruded on my immediate family, which I find unacceptable. I want to be clear that I have not made any untrue or misleading statements, apart from approving the statement about my location over Christmas that in hindsight could have been clearer."

Employees at the Environment Agency, the departed chairman added, "really care for the environment and the communities we work to enhance and protect."