Annual Public Meeting of the Oxford Area Flood Partnership (OAFP)

27 October 2010

Annual Public Meeting of the Oxford Area Flood Partnership (OAFP). (This is not OFA.)

We attended and asked about:

  • Lamarsh Road as a flood route (we presented our report – October 2010)
  • The railway track at Redbridge
  • Munday’s underbridge at Redbridge
  • Why OAFP meetings are held in camera
  • Work that we have been pushing for on Osney Island.

The OAFP is described on the Oxford City website. We are not a member of the Partnership.
The Partnership holds a meeting open to the public each year. This year’s was on 27 October. Officers representing the Partnership, local Councillors and members of the public, including seven OFA Steering Group members, attended.

Tim Sadler of Oxford City Council presented the flood reduction work that has been done in the past year in several parts of Oxford. The achievements are considerable and more is on the way.
We heard that Network Rail will not be raising the railway line just below the old Abingdon Road bridge after all (see below). We are delighted that they will still be doing the planned flood relief work in the Redbridge area.
Another welcome piece of news, hot off the press and announced at the meeting, was that the Environment Agency is to clear Seacourt Stream. We do not yet know how extensive this is to be, in degree or in the length of the stream to be cleared and look forward to hearing more.

Members of the OFA Steering Group spoke about the following:

1  Lamarsh Road
The OAFP kindly allowed Brian Durham of OFA to present the results of his investigations on the use of Lamarsh Road as a route for floodwater, to relieve other areas while at the same time reducing flooding of properties in the road itself and improving access during floods to the residential and commercial areas served by the road. His observations complement the work already undertaken by members of the Partnership – Oxford City, the County, Thames Water and the Environment Agency, and the constructive cooperation of Kingerlee who are going to develop the site at the southern end of the road. We remain hopeful of a positive outcome from all the effort that has gone into this.

2 The railway track at Redbridge
We commented that the announcement that Network Rail are not after all to raise the track at Redbridge, in the immediate future at least, may well be a good thing as far as property flooding goes. This is because in isolation, i.e. with no compensatory measures, raising the track alone would increase the existing damming effect of the track (see 3 below). Of course if culverts were enlarged at the same time that could be different.

3 The great importance of getting Munday’s underbridge in Kennington working to full capacity
During times of flood this is a key bridge, carrying floodwater under the railway, from west to east, out of the West Oxford floodplain and into the Thames below Oxford. It is key because of its large size, and that it is the last point in the floodplain at which water can get past the dam which the railway forms. At present it is operating at about half capacity, because the approach channel is too narrow and the bridge itself is severely silted up. The result is that water to the west can be about 2 ft / 60 cm deeper on the west than the east of the railway, flooding homes. This can and should be remedied. See photos and our proposals (Munday’s underbridge).
Clearing Munday’s bridge and substantially enlarging the approach channel would benefit properties and the railway. This could be a joint project between Network Rail and the Environment Agency. The County and Thames Water would also have a part to play as they each own one of the drains which poke out into, and so obstruct, the approach channel. This means a Partnership project and we hope therefore that the Partnership will give it their urgent and concerted attention. We will continue to raise it at every opportunity.

4 We asked why OAFP meetings are held in camera
Members of the Public may address the OAFP for 10 minutes at the start of their meetings, by prior agreement, but after that members of the Public and elected Councillors have to leave. Minutes are published but not till weeks after the meeting and they are not very detailed.

OFA believes that members of the public should be allowed to attend as observers. We believe that, unless there is some very strong reason why not,  the public and their elected representatives, who are paying the bills and on whose behalf things are being done, should be able to hear what is said. We have heard no convincing reason why this should not be the case. Minutes are no substitute. Opening the meetings to the public would be consistent with principles of open government, accountability, transparency, working with the community and trusting the public (“the Big Society”). It would improve communication, and increase mutual confidence, trust and cooperation. The OAFP need have nothing to fear. The Thames Regional Flood Defence Committee, responsible for a budget of millions, actively invites Public and Press to attend its meetings.

The OAFP said it  would consider this request again when it next meets, in January 2011.

5 We asked about work that we have been pushing for on Osney Island
First, to build a new spur from the Bridge Street extension road drain via the passageway into the Environment Agency’s land, where a new sump would be created. From the sump, excess water would be pumped into the weir pool.
Second, to upgrade the current pumping station in West Street by installing a pump of greater capacity and redesign the outfall so that the water is discharged with the flow of water in Osney Stream.
Thames Water undertook to speak further with OFA about both these issues.