OFAS and development

Development

People have suggested that the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme (OFAS, the Scheme) could lead to, or facilitate, new development in the flood plain, which would add to urbanisation and reduce the amount of open space in west and south Oxford.

OFAS is about reducing flood risk to existing properties, business and infrastructure. It is not being proposed with the goal of creating opportunities for future development. There are a few areas which would benefit from the scheme where some development or redevelopmentmight take place in future, subject to the normal planning approvals being obtained. But this is incidental to the flood scheme.

Osney Mead

One of the areas where it’s claimed development will be facilitated is Osney Mead. Oxford University has publicly said that it has aspirations to redevelop this area. It is an already developed site, hosting a large number of businesses currently facing risk of flooding.

The University are paying for an additional bund (and all associated costs) to be created along the western edge of Ferry Hinksey Rd. This additional feature will increase protection from flooding for businesses currently operating from Osney Mead, and has been taken on board by OFAS for this reason alone. Any redevelopment would be of a brownfield site. Proposals for redevelopment would have to go through the planning process, demonstrate consistency with the existing Local Plan, and show they do not increase flood risk.

Elsewhere

The main area in the flood plain that is not presently built on, but which will be protected by OFAS from flooding in future, is on the river (east) side of the Abingdon Road, south of the hotel and including University College sports ground and Cowmead allotments.

This area (about the size of Osney Mead) will be protected by a bund along its eastern edge. We understand it would be very difficult, and more costly, to put the bund closer to the road. But even with the current OFAS design there is no certainty that this land will be developed.Any plans to develop these sites would be subject to local planning permission, and while OFAS could make the conditions easier to meet, it does not follow that development will happen here.

The vast majority of the flood plain will continue to flood – and that will be essential for the Scheme to work as planned. Although the Scheme area, where changes will be made, does not occupy all the flood plain meadowland, these flood meadows are nevertheless an integral part of the scheme design and need to be able to flood as they do now.

There will be no change to the Green Belt around Oxford as a result of the construction of OFAS.

The open, green flood plain meadows will be no more open to development than they are now, indeed arguably the fact that they will now be part of a specific, designed and paid-for flood scheme will make development there much less, not more, likely.

And if, as intended, the scheme area is expertly managed for wildlife, by organisations such as the Freshwater Habitats Trust or BBOWT, as well as for recreation (including fishing), the greater its chance of resisting the threat of unscrupulous developers.

There are other recent posts relating to OFAS –

Clarifications and explanations

Gravel mining – Be careful what you wish for

An Oxfordshire gravel mine, 2018

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Oxford can – and must – be prepared

The BBC reports further today on the serious Welsh floods

“Communities will want new flood defences after many Welsh rivers burst their banks during Storm Callum, Wales’ environment agency has warned.

Parts of Wales saw the worst flooding for 30 years ….

A 21-year-old man was killed after a landslip and many homes and businesses were flooded as Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and south Powys bore the brunt of the storm on Friday and over the weekend.”

We’ve been proactive in Oxford so we’re much further ahead – the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme is currently being considered for planning approval. Whether the Welsh floods are in part related to climate change would require event attribution analysis to give an estimate of the probability that that is the case. But certainly it’s the sort of event that one would expect with climate change. It’s vital that Oxford’s as ready as it can be.

South Hinksey ‘barrier-ready’ works all but complete

In South Hinksey, the works designed to make deploying temporary defences, should flooding threaten, quicker and easier, are almost complete.

Three flap valves have just been installed on pipes which connect into field ditches. These non-return valves will allow water out from within any temporary barrier but not allow it back in from the flooded area outside.

Elsewhere wide garden gates have been installed, reinforced fences built, and removable fence panels fitted.

A very few minor snagging items remain, but the scheme is otherwise complete and fully ready for temporary barriers. Many thanks to the Vale of White Horse District Council for funding and to the Environment Agency for organising the work – not least to engineer Magnus Williams who has managed the scheme from its inception to its completion. Thanks too to farmer Nick Frearson, and to the horse owners for their cooperation during the works.

Dedicated pump for Earl Street

http://www.itv.com/news/meridian/2017-01-13/oxford-street-gets-dedicated-flood-pump-after-securing-grant/

The link provides an excellent report, including a video, about the arrival of a new pump, dedicated to flood protection for Earl Street.  In case that stops being available online here is an extract from the report, with acknowledgement and thanks to ITV:

“Today residents in Earl Street were shown a new, dedicated, mobile pump that will be available to them in the event of future floods.

Nick Hills, an Earl Street resident and member of the Oxford Flood Alliance Steering Group, applied for a grant to pay for the pump after becoming aware of Scottish and Southern Energy Network’s Community Resilience Fund. The energy company awards grants of up to £20,000 to community projects. His bid was successful and SSE awarded the full cost of the pump, which had been reduced to £19,830 by Stuart Pumps Ltd, which provides the City Council with its pumps.

Whilst we in Earl Street have been extremely well served by the local authorities in terms of flood avoidance, protection and resilience, there have been occasions in the early stages of a flood when we were desperately waiting for a decision to be made by both the Environment Agency and the City Council as to where they should deploy their limited number of mobile auxiliary pumps.
Understandably, it was impossible for either of these agencies to guarantee that we would have a pump deployed here in Earl Street while the situation was still evolving.
Now we have our own pump, as soon as the water starts to rise, we can say ‘can we have our pump?’ and it guarantees that it will be here when we need it.  – Nick Hills

 
Local MP, Nicola Blackwood, attended the pump’s unveiling today. She said while shorter-term flood projects like this are crucial, a planned flood relief channel will be a ‘game-changer’ when it comes to reducing flooding risk in the long-term.The £120m project would work by diverting flood water across the open flood plain and away from properties which currently flood.”

Finally, a big thanks from all concerned to Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks, who very generously funded the pump from their Community Resilience Fund.
 

Letter to the Oxford Times (8 Dec)

Letter from us published in the Oxford Times of 8 December 2016

The proposed extension to Seacourt Park & Ride is one of the worst planning proposals we’ve seen for some time. In 2013, after much public consultation, the City Council adopted a Core Strategy to guide development in the city over the next period. Core Strategy 2 includes the statement: “Greenfield land will not be allocated for development if any part of the development would be on Flood Zone 3b.” The proposed extension to the Park & Ride is a greenfield site in Flood Zone 3b, the functional flood plain. How can this be? The planning documents don’t explain. Although the documents include a review of relevant local policies, Core Strategy 2 mysteriously doesn’t get a mention. What’s driving the application is a worry about short-term problems with traffic congestion on the Botley Rd pending completion of new Park & Rides at Eynsham and Cumnor. How does this short-term need justify departing from core strategy? National planning policy is designed to encourage local authorities to take a strategic approach to planning, thereby avoiding the need for this kind of last minute quick-fix nibbling away at the floodplain.

Apart from the obvious conflict with planning policy, the application is riddled with errors. The Flood Risk Assessment says that the most recent flooding event at the site was 2008, ignoring the major disruption in the winter of 2012/13, and the serious floods in early 2014. The FRA completely fails to take account of the fact that the site floods frequently, and proposes a design which will quickly degrade as a results of flood damage and silting. There is serious risk in the event of a major flood of large sections of the car park breaking up and washing into the flood channel. It’s a nonsense and needs to be stopped.

Seacourt P&R – Key Point 1: a clash with OFAS?

 

The first image is a part of a plan, from the Environment Agency, of the proposed Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme (OFAS) north of the Botley Road. This shows (as at 16 September 2016) that a key flood defence bund is planned for that scheme, running through the area where the car park extension is proposed.

The second image shows the area for the proposed extension to the Seacourt P&R.

It is not clear that the bund and the car park extension could co-exist. OFAS will reduce the risk of flooding in Oxford, vital for people and the future prosperity of the city, not least in the face of climate change. The car park extension proposal is flawed in many ways;  the plan should be dropped.

See Key Point 2 and Key Point 3

Application by Oxford City Council to extend Seacourt Park & Ride

Application by Oxford City Council to extend Seacourt Park & Ride  (Oxford City Planning application no. 16/02745/CT3).

We are strongly opposed to this application to build a car park extension right in the Oxford floodplain.

Our key points are:

Inappropriate development in the floodplain – contrary to Oxford City Council Core Strategy, CS2 – this is a greenfield site. It is also contrary to City Council Core Strategy 11 – it is neither ‘essential infrastructure’ nor ‘a water compatible structure’.

Not consistent with national planning policy framework (NPPF) guidelines.

Inappropriate development in the Green Belt.

A planning application for a similar scheme on the same site was rejected by the Secretary of State in 1999. Planning law has become tighter since.

County Transport Strategy envisages new P&R sites at Cumnor and Eynsham over the next few years; the present proposal is at variance with that. Traffic coming off the A34 and A420 may face increased delays in reaching the P&R.

Flood-risk assessment flawed:

  • fails to note the serious floods since 2008
  • does not properly consider the frequency with which this low lying site actually floods, which is often (it’s functional floodplain)
  • permeable pavement recommended only slows run-off when flood event are so low risk it’s irrelevant. As soon as a significant flood event starts to develop the car park will be under water.

Emergency evacuation plan is inadequate and lacks detail. The site is at high risk of flooding, being 0.5-1 m lower than the existing car park. There is a significant risk to vehicles and people during a flood event: any emergency plan has to be very robust. Extra resources could be needed from already stretched emergency services. In a 1 in 100 flood the water would be 2m deep.

The ground is subject to movement and would require further investigation to see if remediable stabilisation would even work.

The site itself may be damaged by prolonged or severe flooding, even with surfaces broken and swept away. The fences proposed for the perimeter of the 2 ha site, and structures on the site, would be very vulnerable in a large scale flood.

The proposed permeable surface will be impaired by silt and other debris: it will require cleaning which may or may not restore its permeability. After prolonged flooding such paving may even have to be replaced (in early 2014 this site would have been under a significant depth of water for several months).

If fences, structures on the site, and cars were swept away they could end up blocking the nearby Seacourt which is a vital flood channel.

The proposal does not take proper account of the latest plans for the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme in this area.

The rationale for this extension being needed is that the present car park cannot be given a decking storey because of a covenant on the land. No such covenant has been produced by the applicant and we cannot find one. What there is is a lease agreement, with could potentially be varied by negotiation with the landlord, which could make this whole scheme unnecessary.

Oxford is at risk of flooding. The principle of not building on greenfield sites in the floodplain must be adhered to.

These reasons are set out in more detail in the following documents submitted to the planning authority, Oxford City Council (links download pdfs).

  1. Our initial objections (28 Nov 2016)
  2. Further points (5 Dec 2016)
  3. Address to Council (5 Dec 2016)

We are working hard to get our message across to the decision makers and to other people who may wish to comment. If you agree with us that this development should not be allowed to go ahead please do say so via the Oxford City planning website or speak to your local City Councillor.

South Hinksey sewer flooding

We held a meeting on 20 August 2015 to discuss this, especially in relation to possible temporary bunding of the village at time of river flooding.

Representatives from Thames Water (TW), the Environment Agency (EA) and of OFA from South Hinksey met. We had an interesting and fruitful discussion. These actions were agreed:

Thames Water (TW) to initiate a clean of the box culvert north of the village (by today, 27 Aug, this has already been ordered) and update us further on the work that has been, and still is being, done to considerably improve the pumping station at Littlemore.

TW will consider OFA’s suggestion of a sewer bypass for the village, as part of the ongoing Oxford Catchment Study.

Adrian Porter for OFA will fit a chain and handle to the existing non-return flap valve on the Manor Road surface water outlet to enable manual override if necessary.

The suggestion of a memorandum of understanding between the EA and TW, as to how sewer flooding would be dealt with at times of fluvial flooding, especially if a temporary bund were deployed, will be taken forward by the EA.

Many thanks to Thames Water and the Environment Agency for meeting with us and their very positive approach to the problems.

Meeting in South Hinksey

South Hinksey concrete flood wall, March 2014, post-floodOn Thursday evening 16 July,  30 or so parishioners met in South Hinksey Village Hall with Peter Collins and Magnus Williams from the Environment Agency (EA). We were pleased that local farmer Nick Frearson and a land agent on behalf of landowner Oxford City Council, were present too: they are important stakeholders in the project.

Groundwork
Engineer Magnus Williams presented his initial design ideas for groundwork to support deployment of temporary barriers for the village when flooding threatens. Magnus is talking to individual householders to ensure that everyone is happy with the specifics of the proposals.
We’re grateful to the Vale of White Horse District Council for providing £60k for the works and to the EA for providing the engineering design input, obtaining of permissions and so on.
We hope that things can move ahead as fast as possible as winter approaches and the risk of our flooding increases yet again.

Oxford FAS
Peter Collins, EA’s Asset Management Performance Team Leader for the Oxford area updated us on the aims and progress of the scheme.

Many thanks to Magnus and Peter for giving up their evening to meet us, much appreciated.

Thames Regional Flood & Coastal Committee visit Oxford

The Thames Regional Flood & Coastal Committee (RFCC) met in Oxford yesterday. Following the meeting, members visited sites in Oxford related to OFAS. Members of our steering group were on hand to welcome them and, with staff from the Environment Agency, showed the visitors some of the problems which need to be surmounted to alleviate Oxford’s recurrent flooding.

Flooding which, unchecked, is likely to threaten further the proper functioning, and the reputation, of the city in the future if (as a consensus of scientists predicts) climate change makes extreme weather more common. OFAS offers the only practicable way towards reducing this all too real danger in time.