Oxford MPs Nicola Blackwood (Oxford West & Abingdon) and Andrew Smith (Oxford East) have been very active on flooding, both in supporting people and in lobbying for action to reduce it. Flooding does not recognise political boundaries and our MPs have worked together when appropriate, to good effect. They have both supported our own efforts, for which we thank them. Here they give us their current views:
Joint Statement from Nicola Blackwood MP (Oxford West & Abingdon) and Andrew Smith MP (Oxford East)
The human and economic cost of the flooding our local communities must endure every year is totally unacceptable. Our city and surrounding villages urgently need long-term, sustainable flood defences to protect homes and keep Oxfordshire open for business, rain or no rain. The Western Relief Channel will protect families and businesses from flooding and we hope that government, local authorities and business alike will work together to make it happen. At the same time, we must ensure that nearby towns at significant flood risk, like Abingdon, also get the long-term, strategic defences they need, and we will keep the pressure up to ensure that all residents in our constituencies can know that everything possible is being done to mitigate flood risk in the area.
Nicola Blackwood MP for Oxford West & Abingdon writes:
We need urgent action on our drainage infrastructure, a point which I have raised repeatedly with both Thames Water and the Environment Secretary. Hard-working local groups such as Oxford Flood Alliance and the Ock Valley Flood Group have done a great deal to highlight these problems. I held a half-day meeting with Thames Water in February to discuss the problems that have arisen in each part of my constituency and how this appalling state of affairs can be more effectively prevented in the future.
On flood prevention more widely
I am pleased that local flood defence measures implemented since 2007 have been successful this year in protecting people and property. But other properties have not escaped and countless residents have been affected in other ways such as disruption of road and rail transport, and loss of business. I continue to put pressure on local and central Government, response agencies and utility companies to improve and strengthen local defences further.
I have raised with the Secretary of State and the Environment Agency the issue of establishing more regular maintenance of key watercourses around Oxford, including the Hinksey and Osney Stream areas. Riparian owners must be encouraged to carry out maintenance along their river banks to keep the river working well. The Environment Agency can play a key role in advising and encouraging landowners to do this.
I have sent a series of written Parliamentary Questions to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, asking that his Department look again at the importance of dredging.
Flooding is a very serious problem for Oxfordshire and what we need now are long-term solutions. I have been raising all of these issues locally and in Parliament and I will continue to do so. I will also remain in close contact with local people, flood action groups, Thames Water and the Environment Agency, vigorously representing the concerns of my constituents.
Andrew Smith MP for Oxford East writes:
Thanks. Throughout the flooding crises, I have kept in touch with residents and taken up concerns with the relevant agencies as well as raising questions in Parliament. I have greatly valued the advice and dedicated work of the South Oxford Flood Action Group and the Oxford Flood Alliance.
The worst impact of both episodes of flooding this year has been on residents unable to use toilets because of flood water – surface flooding and groundwater – inundating the sewerage system. I visited residents in both of the areas affected in my constituency: the Weirs Lane area and Western Road area. I took this up with Thames Water at the time and subsequently, and have held a residents meeting. Thames Water have undertaken to clear up any sewerage residue in gardens, and to complete a general clean up of silt from affected sewers, coordinated with the councils responsible for a prior clean-up of surface water drains. The latter has to be done first, as matter from the council clean up often ends up in the sewers! Thames Water have confirmed to me that they will complete a catchment area study of sewers in Oxford. I will continue to press for improvements.
The severity of problems in the Weirs Lane area was such that the City Council put Portacabin toilets and washing facilities in affected streets, and moved some vulnerable residents into alternative accommodation.
Other flood prevention measures
Each time there are floods lessons are learnt. Properties have been saved from flooding thanks to the barrier and pumping operation in Vicarage Road and Lake Street, applying lessons of the 2007 floods. It was noticeable the impact this year which the fire service pumping operation had in clearing water from Abingdon Road. It raises the question of whether a bund alongside the allotments coupled with more pumping might reduce the flooding risk in the Weirs Lane area, and the City Council have assured me this will be investigated with the Environment Agency.
I have raised with government and the insurance industry the availability and affordability of household insurance for properties affected by flooding risk. I have also helped individual constituents having difficulty with getting cover. I support the need of businesses also to have access to affordable insurance.