David Balmforth, newly elected President of the Institute of Civil Engineers, visited Oxford on 12 June to learn for himself about the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme (OFAS). The event began at the Environment Agency offices at Osney with a presentation by Peter Collins of the Environment Agency, followed by a Q&A session. David asked about the ongoing maintenance of the proposed scheme (see the Oxford Mail article): it was made clear that the lifetime maintenance of the scheme was a critical part of the planning process and that Treasury approval would not be sought without it.
Peter Collins pointed out that of the total project duration, half was likely to be spent on consultation, planning and approval; the earliest that work on the ground would begin would be April 2018.
The entourage then went to the Seacourt Stream on the Botley Road for a site visit. Here Oxford Flood Alliance’s Adrian Porter talked to David Balmforth about some of the key challenges caused by flooding in the Oxford area, including:
- How properties, families and communities are affected
- The increasing frequency of flood events due to changing weather patterns
- The importance of ongoing maintenance of existing watercourses.
David was particularly interested in property-level defence and how the insurance industry needs to change to properly support affected homes and business premises.
The visit was well received and hopefully David Balmforth left Oxford with a good understanding of OFAS and how it fits into the wider strategy for protecting Oxford from flooding.