Annual Public Meeting 2015

Our Annual Public Meeting on 19 November was well attended – we were delighted to welcome many members of the public, local councillors, representatives of all the local flood agencies, an Oxford University researcher and Andrew Smith, MP for Oxford East. Nicola Blackwood, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, and Rodney Rose, Deputy Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, sent their apologies.

Adrian Porter began the evening by setting out our three key current objectives:

  • support for the proposed multi-partner Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme (Oxford FAS)
  • maintenance of existing waterways
  • that as and when the Oxford FAS happens, maintenance should be properly provided for from the start.

He went on to give an overview of the past year including our recent boat trip, with the Environment Agency, which identified necessary maintenance on Weirs Mill Stream: this work is being planned and funding being sought. John Mastroddi provided detail on the clearance under Munday’s bridge, which completes the project begun in 2013. Impending planning applications at Seacourt P&R and Oxford Four Pillars Hotel, both firmly in the floodplain, are on our radar.

Nick Hills, our Treasurer, told us that we had £346 in the bank, enough for several years at the present rate of spending! Nevertheless, being the good treasurer he is, he asked people to leave any donations as they left: this raised a very generous £110. Nick set out some of the things we’d been pleased to see in the year: among those not referred to in more detail later on were the permanent pipe under the Botley Road to allow pumping across the road without disruption to traffic (County and City Councils), Waitrose’s use of SUDS at their new shop and the successful public events for OFAS during the summer.

He explained how we support OFAS in principle and are contributing to the process along with the other partners – but always reserving the right to be a ‘critical friend’.

The first of our guest speakers, Joanna Grew from Network Rail, gave an account of their proposed Hinksey Flood Alleviation Scheme: this includes the clearing of culverts at Coldharbour (for which we have been pushing for some time), track raising and installation of new culverts. More detail can be seen in Joanna’s presentation downloadable here. You can download a leaflet about the scheme here.

James Playfair explained the progress of Thames Water’s ongoing sewer survey across Oxford, the Oxford Catchment Study. This is about to enter its second year: already some issues have been resolved including significant improvements to the pumps at Littlemore Pumping Station. The presentation can be downloaded here.

Last but not least Emma Formoy from the Environment Agency gave the meeting an up-to-date account of the Oxford FAS; Emma mentioned the possible wider benefits of the scheme, including for wildlife, and the crucial importance of rigorous modelling. More detail in the presentation downloadable here: this includes dates of the next round of Public Events in January 2016 when a consultation on the route options for the scheme will begin. These can be also seen in the Oxford FAS Newsletter – November 2015, perhaps more easily. In parallel with these events, people will be able to view these proposed options and partake in the consultation online.

Apart from these individual achievements and plans, what is remarkable, and heartening, is the considerable cooperation, for example sharing of modelling data, between these three agencies – i.e. they talk to each other! As one of us commented later, we have come a very long way since 2007. We are grateful to our guests for coming to talk and for all the work their organisations are doing. The sum (assuming they all reach fruition) will give Oxford a better, and more secure and sustainable, future.

Nick Hills presented Steve Smith, Engineer with Oxford City Council, with our Flood Star award for this year. This is in recognition and thanks for Steve’s sterling work on many flood schemes and smaller works over the years, as well as co-ordinating the Oxford Area Flood Partnership.

Peter Rawcliffe spoke about OFA’s suggestion for maintaining Oxford FAS: as this is to be largely a ‘natural’ channel it will be subject to inevitable deterioration – so providing both a problem and an opportunity. OFA proposes that a trust be established, in perpetuity, to manage for both flood alleviation and wildlife. Trustees could be drawn from the several stakeholders – landowners, local authorities, Environment Agency, academics and wildlife bodies – to name just a few. We believe this is a practical way to make the most of what the scheme offers Oxford and its residents and visitors. This 7km channel will be ever more essential to Oxford if climate change develops as predicted. Each km may cost £18 million to build. We need to treasure it: in our view a local trust with local accountability, and autonomy to manage as it sees fit, fits the bill.

Simon Collings discussed modelling: as mentioned above this is absolutely vital to developing the case for OFAS – both to be as sure as humanly possible that it will work and equally importantly that no one downstream will be disadvantaged. We recently attended a meeting at the School of Geography, Oxford University: Simon explained some of the potential pitfalls of modelling that we had learned of there, and suggested that community review of the OFAS modelling (assisted by expert modellers) be included in the scrutiny process. This in addition to review by academic modeller(s) which is already under discussion for the scheme and which we strongly support.

We thank those who attended for their support and we thank our visiting speakers for helping to make the meeting a success. Our thanks too to the West Oxford Democrats Club for generously allowing us to use their hall once again.

Come to our Annual Public Meeting – 13 November

16 October  2014

Our own Annual Public Meeting is on Thursday 13th November 2014, 7 for 7.30pm, the Demos, Osney Island, Oxford.
All welcome. Come and learn more about the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme and long-stretch maintenance.
Ask us questions, tell us what you think, discuss topics such as upstream storage and delaying run-off. Anything about flooding.

Waterways Plan: riparian landowners’ responsibilities

13 October 2014

We today submitted written comments on a draft synopsis produced by the Flood Defence Group for the Thames Waterways Plan 2015-2020. A point we emphasised was the crucial importance of encouraging large riparian landowners to undertake the maintenance for which they have statutory responsibility, and providing them with practical advice on how to go about this.

OFA Annual Public Meeting, 2012

9 November 2012

We held our fifth Annual Public Meeting last night. Each year we wonder if attendance will drop off as we get further from the last flood. That’s 5 years ago, but again we had an excellent turnout. We work by public consent, so it’s important to us that we have strong public support – we’re ready to go for another year. We were delighted to welcome both our local MPs, Nicola Blackwood and Andrew Smith, and Rodney Rose, Deputy Leader of the County Council, who has responsibility for flooding. The County is now the Lead Local Flood Authority and Rodney Rose represents the County on the important DEFRA Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee.
Thank you to everybody who came.

An key meeting planned

10 July 2012

OFA is hosting a meeting with our partners, to develop proposals for further flood relief for Oxford

There have been significant changes in recent months in the way flood risk management is funded. Partners are being encouraged to work together to find cost effective solutions and to tackle all types of flood risk in a joined up way.  Oxford had been identified as a priority area for attention based on the potential number of homes at significant risk. OFA has learned that the Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (RFCC) is keen to promote flood risk management measures in areas such as Oxford and that funding to assist in the development of schemes is potentially available.
The Committee, which approves the programme of schemes in the Thames region, has invited proposals large or small where the cost-benefit analysis can be shown to be positive. The Committee is receptive to proposals from the lead local flood authority, which for Oxford is Oxfordshire County Council, to understand and address surface water risks and the relationship with river flooding. It is also interested in re-examining work undertaken as part of the Oxford Flood Risk Management Strategy to establish whether any of the works can be taken forward under the new funding regime.  Collaboration between local agencies and cost sharing are being encouraged under new government rules.
In response to this opportunity OFA has convened a meeting of the County, City and Vale Councils, the Environment Agency and Network Rail to discuss potential schemes which might be put forward. The meeting will take place on 27 July in South Hinksey.
A considerable amount of time and money went into modelling the aborted £100m Oxford Flood Risk Management Scheme. We believe elements of this scheme could be turned into fundable proposals. Also a number of measures suggested by OFA over the last few years could be taken up.
We have had a very positive response from the various local bodies to the idea of a meeting and are looking forward to working with them. We will keep you informed of the outcomes of the meeting.

OFA Annual Public Meeting, 2011

Our fourth Annual Public Meeting was held on 16 November 2011

We were delighted to welcome, as last year, Andrew Smith MP, County and City Councillor Susanna Pressel and City Councillor Colin Cook. A representative attended on behalf of Nicola Blackwood MP. Apologies were received from County Councillor Rodney Rose and City Councillor Oscar Van Nooijen. Last, but by no means least, about 75 members of the public came, an excellent attendance more than four years after the last flood.

The meeting began with the award of the sole OFA Flood Star of 2011 to Paul Kirkley. Paul works as an engineer for Oxford City. His professional skills, commitment, and cooperative way of working have been instrumental in turning ideas into practical flood relief projects which will help many residents escape the miseries of flooding.

2011 APM Paul Kirkley, Flood Star
Nick Hills presents Paul Kirkley (left) with the OFA Flood Star award

A review of the year included:
Nick Hills on the several measures now in place to protect Earl and Duke Streets, including the completion this year of the road hump at the north end of Earl Street (to be supplemented by a barrier on top during a flood) and a new route for flood water down Lamarsh Road, through Kingerlee’s land to the open meadows to the south. Nick also described the new flood culverts under Willow Walk installed this summer by the Environment Agency and originally suggested by OFA.

Andy Webber told us about the survey which he undertook of Castle Mill Stream. Following this survey the Environment Agency has cleared trees and debris from the channel at the northern end. We now await clearance under badly silted-up railway bridges, removal of sunken boats and a review of the operation of various weirs and sluices.

Paul Kirkley spoke about a possible scheme to reduce risk for residents on the east side of Duke Street, which in the process would further reduce risk for the whole Duke and Earl Street area.

Brian Durham gave an account of the problems of getting flood insurance and how a ‘DIY’ community flood risk assessment might help.

John Mastroddi told the meeting about developments at Munday’s bridge in Kennington, crucial to the drainage of the whole western flood plain. We have been campaigning about this for over four years. It now seems very likely that major improvements will be made here by Thames Water in the spring of 2012.

Richard Thurston spoke about Osney Island. Thames Water has added telemetry to the West Street Pumping station – so if their surface water pump fails, their control centre will receive immediate notification. The City Council’s scheme for property level flood protection in Bridge Street, Doyley Road and South Street (for which the funding is in place) is welcome news and should reassure many Islanders; finally, Thames Water has provided costs for the extension to the surface water drainage scheme (‘sump and pipe’) to relieve South Street and Bridge Street, but there is no funding as yet.

David Macdonald, local resident and senior hydrogeologist with the British Geological Survey, has been studying groundwater in our area for some years. He told us of a project he is leading which, if it is funded, will see Oxford have the UK’s first groundwater warning scheme, available to residents via the internet. OFA is supporting the application for funding of the scheme.

Peter Rawcliffe outlined the new central government funding arrangements for flood-related works. We discovered about three months ago that the Environment Agency had not applied for any money for Oxford under this new scheme. This came as a bombshell: so to remedy this appalling situation we have submitted suggestions to the EA for them to assess (this entails computer modelling) and then to apply the funding formula which tells one how much funding would be available. Proposals that score highly enough will be put forward for consideration by DEFRA’s Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee. Proposals have to be in by the summer and the EA is working to that target. We hope to be able to let you know preliminary results soon.

2011 APM Andrew Smith MP

Andrew Smith, MP for Oxford East (above), kindly thanked OFA for their hard work and success, and offered his continuing support.

OFA’s Annual Public Meeting, 2010

25 November 2010

Our third Annual Public Meeting was held at the West Oxford Democrats Club, Osney Island today.

Very many thanks to the Club for once again providing us with a warm and comfortable venue – not to mention the bar!

The meeting was attended by over 80 people. We had had some concern that numbers might be down as it is now 3 years since a major Oxford flood, but thanks to Andy Webber’s efforts in distributing flyers, that did not happen. A big thank you to everyone who came out on a very cold night.

It was good to see Andrew Smith, MP for Oxford East, who represents many flooded people along the Abingdon Road and elsewhere. He had with him a copy of our Building on Success, and has asked us to keep him in the picture about things at Redbridge, which affect his constituents as well as those further west. We are delighted that he said he will support us in getting necessary flood risk reduction work done there.

Flooded people from many parts of Oxford were present as were City and County Councillors and officers from City and Environment Agency. Among them it was good to see our previous Flood Stars, Nigel Bray (EA), Susanna Pressel (City and County Councillor) as well as Mary Timbrell (resident of Duke Street).
Andrew Smith MP (L) and Barry Russell, EA

Andrew Smith, MP for Oxford East (left) and Barry Russell, Area Flood Risk Manager, Environment Agency, at OFA’s APM.

keith andy flood star 2010 APM_2

Keith Hutchence (R) of the Environment Agency was awarded our Flood Star for 2010. He was thanked for all he has done and presented with a unique bottle of “OFA Flood Star 2010” by Andy Webber.

Presentation by the EA
We were pleased to be sharing our meeting with the EA. They have been thinking about further ways to protect the Earl and Duke Street and Marlborough Court area, in particular possible ways of keeping water out of the back of properties bordering the Bulstake Stream. Barry Russell, EA Area Flood Risk Manager, presented these ideas to the meeting and answered questions. The ideas are at an early stage and residents will be consulted further; any comments in the meantime can be made direct to the EA or via your local OFA person.
Barry told the meeting about the planned pavement hump for the Botley Road end of Earl Street, which will be topped with a row of sandbags during flooding, keeping water out of the street. The County Council will be installing this in the New Year. There are also plans to provide a removable flood barrier for the alleyway into Duke Street from the east, to stop water flowing into the street from the Bulstake Stream.

Peter Rawcliffe then spoke about:

Events and work completed in 2010
January: Network Rail remove redundant level crossing bridge at Redbridge.

March: publication and launch meeting of our Building on Success, Suggestions for medium-term measures to further reduce the risk of flooding in Oxford and the surrounding area. See list of attendees at the launch meeting here.

EA clear Hinksey Stream from North Hinksey to Redbridge.

November: meeting with EA’s Director of Operations; Head of Operations; and Thames Regional Director, and others.

Maintaining and developing our website.

Still in progress, but now heading for a successful conclusion:

  • Duke and Earl Street – see above.
  • Lamarsh Road as a flood route, to which we have made an important contribution – initiating the idea (March 2010), pressing the case and helping with the assessment (Oct 2010). The City, County, EA and developers Kingerlee have all played active roles and we are together on course to a successful conclusion. The result will:
    • Benefit existing and new businesses in and off Lamarsh Road.
    • Benefit residents who reach their houses via Lamarsh Road – Oriel Mews, and in future Rewley Press and Kingerlee housing.
    • Divert water away from proposed Earl Street pedestrian hump. The level in Lamarsh will be just lower than the height of the hump plus one sandbag.

2011: in the pipeline already:

  • Willow Walk, North Hinksey – culverts are to be installed to move water more quickly down the floodplain. Suggested by OFA and taken up by  EA and City.
  • Hinksey Stream, further clearance at Redbridge (EA).
  • Network Rail, clearing several waterways and renewing weir north of Redbridge.
  • Lamarsh Road – see above.
  • Culvert through causeway at South Hinksey (Vale of White Horse).

OFA’s top 4 for action in 2011:

John Mastroddi described the issues at Munday’s and Stroud’s bridges at Redbridge. See Building on Success.

Richard Thurston spoke about two things that would help Osney Island:

  • West Street Pumping Station: upgrade the current pumping station by installing a pump of greater capacity.
    Redesign the outfall so that the water is discharged with the flow of water in Osney Stream.
  • Build a new spur from the Bridge Street extension road drain via the passageway into the Environment Agency’s land, where a new sump be created. From the sump, excess water would be pumped into the weir pool.

obstructions weir sluice castle mill stream

Mike Hamblett showed us the poor state of the weirs and sluices on Castle Mill Stream – the photo speaks for itself.  Castle Mill Stream has potential to carry more water than it does, having relatively high gradients. We suggest these structures be mapped and listed and their condition and operation be examined, as a first step to improving them.

Mike then spoke of the broken down state of about 500 m of the west Thames bank above Tumbling Bay. See Building on Success. Water pours out of the river here when river levels are high, further damaging the bank in the process. We are concerned that this water may make flooding worse in the Botley Road area. The effect of the water leaving the river, compared to what would happen if it did not do so, should be investigated. As the breakdown worsens with each episode, one can expect that before long the entire bank over the 500m length will be affected – that situation should also be looked at. The bank could be repaired fairly easily.

Resilience and insurance

Nick Hills stressed that the time to install flood resilience measures in your house is when work is being done anyway – including of course after a flood. And that people should make sure this happens, not leave it to insurers – they tend to put back what was there before, chipboard floors and carpets included. Ask that the money be made available to you to spend as you see fit – see articles by Peter Rawcliffe and Nick Hills.

Meeting with senior members of the Environment Agency

8 November 2010

Peter Rawcliffe, representing the Oxford Flood Alliance, met with David Jordan, national Director of Operations at the Environment Agency, John Russon, Head of Operations, Howard Davidson, Regional Director, and Matt Carter and Barry Russell from the local EA area, on a recent visit to Oxford. We were pleased to have such an opportunity.

A wide-ranging discussion included:

A presentation by OFA emphasising the crucial importance of improving things at Munday’s underbridge in north Kennington.

How community flood groups form and become involved (‘the Big Society’) in working with the EA on flooding. The difficulties of establishing such engagement where it does not already exist.

Attitude to risk and particularly how it relates to the Big Scheme (OFRMS) for Oxford. OFA said there was public scepticism about whether the Big Scheme would ever happen and that people would like things done now to remedy obvious deficiencies, making the most of what already exists, even though they together fall short of a 1 in 100 year standard of protection (as is inevitable).

Once such remedial measures were taken, then incremental improvements to existing watercourses, particularly widening Hinksey Stream, working up the floodplain, might be a sensible approach, rather than relying on a possible new grand Western Conveyance which might very well never materialise.

Having said all that, information gathered for the Big Scheme can inform decisions in the meantime and if climate change makes things worse it might then be implemented. We suggested that improvements now should not be put off for fear of jeopardising the value for money of the Big Scheme – because of the very real and widespread doubt as to it ever materialising (even were no improvements made in the meantime).

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.

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