Seacourt P&R extension site flooded

The site of the planned extension to Seacourt park and ride has been partially flooded for several days, today being the worst so far.

 

Secretary of State on Seacourt

Re Seacourt P&R extension application, we were informed on 9 March as follows:

“The Government remains committed to giving more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believe that planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.  The call-in policy makes it clear that the power to call in a case will only be used very selectively. The Secretary of State has decided, having had regard to this policy, not to call in this application.  He is satisfied that the application should be determined at a local level.”

The Secretary of State in question is the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid. Of course his decision is disappointing to us.  The Secretary of State in 1998/99 did call-in, and refuse, a very similar application on the same site. The guidance on not building in the flood plain has become much tighter since then, following Sir Michael Pitt’s report on the nation-wide floods of July 2007. The permission that Oxford City Council has given itself is contrary to both national (NPPF) and local planning policy.  Note that the Secretary of State has not in any sense approved the plans, he has merely not intervened, leaving the decision to the local council.

We believe the Council has pushed through a perverse decision, contrary to planning guidance and a very great deal of substantial and principled opposition from local residents and local organisations. We believe that the Council may come to regret its decision. We will continue to make that case.

Risk of local property flooding

From the Planning Officer’s report to the West Area Planning Committee, December 2017:

“9.149. During the consultation process, reference has been made to the suggestion within the Factual and Interpretive Ground Investigation Report that the proposed drainage strategy will require the use of lime stabilisation to avoid damage to the paving within the car park expansion from changes to the clay layer below ground and that this needs to be given further consideration as part of any drainage proposals for the site. The concerns raised are that lime treatment is likely to have an impact on the permeability of soils below the car park, and therefore needs to be appropriately considered. 

The applicant has confirmed that the surface water drainage strategy has been designed as a tanked system which assumes no infiltration below the attenuation layer, with all storm water discharge from the site via a controlled outfall into Seacourt Stream. An impermeable membrane is included within the construction to prevent water saturating the clay. The underlying clay is of a low permeability whether lime stabilisation is employed or not, and it is envisaged that the attenuation will operate effectively in either scenario.” [emphasis added]

There is no mention in the Application of tanking, nor of an impermeable membrane. We have therefore not known of this till very recently and had no opportunity to comment. While there is little or no detail, the idea that the car park may be separated from the underlying groundwater table, as this implies, raises an extremely serious question. That is, where will the displaced groundwater go? This is a lot of water over such a large area. It is likely that it will cause a significant rise in groundwater levels around this low-lying site. This could cause (new) groundwater flooding within houses (and gardens) nearby. No decision should be taken until the details of  what is planned are made clear, appropriate calculations and modelling done, and presented as part of a further revised Flood Risk Assessment.

[By the same token, when it rains, water will be trapped within the tanking , draining only slowly – more pumping needed?]

New Chair of RFCC visits Oxford

The recently appointed new Chair of Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (RFCC), Professor Robert Van de Noort, visited Oxford on 19 October with EA staff. He was briefed on the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme and then shown the Seacourt area at the western end of the Botley Road, which marks the northern end of the Scheme.

We were pleased to meet Professor Van de Noort in South Hinksey, where he went on to see both the lie of the land where the channel will come past the village and on to Kennington to the south, and the earthworks done in the village itself to make the village ‘temporary barrier ready’ for the coming winter and beyond.

Debris

An alert resident has reported to us that a large drain on the path from the end of Duke Street to King George’s Field is partially blocked. Our intrepid Nick Hills has investigated and whilst he was able to remove sticks and twigs that were probably stuffed into the drain by children, there is still a considerable amount of debris that needs to be cleared from the connecting pipe. We think that the County Council installed this drain (to help with flood relief) and we’re asking them to look into it (pun intended).

We’re happy to receive reports of obstructions in drains, trees in waterways and so on. It can be difficult to know who is responsible – we can usually help with that and with reporting the problem. Details of where the problem is are obviously essential and photos are very useful.

Seacourt P&R in the Oxford Mail; smart signs, plus risk to life

This article in the Oxford Mail talks about the possibility of  ‘smart signs’ – electronic boards – on the ring road, to alert drivers to where there are empty park and ride spaces around Oxford. This could obviate the (claimed) need to increase the number of spaces at Seacourt, instead pointing drivers to (say) nearby Redbridge. According to an earlier report in the Oxford Mail there is apparently so much spare capacity at Redbridge that the City Council proposes to remove 270 parking spaces, and is quoted in the newspaper as saying that the loss of these spaces would be ‘marginal’.

It seems to us to be inconsistent for the City Council to argue that removing 270 spaces at Redbridge is perfectly ok, while at the same time arguing a burning need to build new spaces at Seacourt – in the floodplain, on Green Belt land, contrary to local and national planning guidance and, as far as the present application goes, creating a potential risk to life (see towards the end of the first newspaper article and our previous post). Never mind the cost, which has already risen from about £2million to over £4 million.

 

Seacourt P&R extension proposal: potential risk to life

Liz Sawyer, who recently joined the OFA Steering Group, addressed Oxford City’s Full Council on 6 February 2017, about the potential risk to life posed by the proposed extension to Seacourt P&R.

There is also, as the photograph above shows so vividly, the potential for damage to the car park itself – and of course to vehicles. The Automobile Association’s ‘Flood Facts’ quoted in Liz’s address set out the risks of floodwaters very clearly.

Liz’s address can be downloaded here (pdf).

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.