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.

Continue reading

Our response to the EA on their proposals for further short-term measures for Oxford

14 July 2010

Oxford Short Term Measures 2

Thank you for asking for comments on your proposals. Here are ours:

Willow Walk – fine.

Hinksey Stream – welcome. We hope the work will include removal of the trees which seem to be actually in the stream upstream of the bridge.

Wareham Stream – we think that it is hardly worth maintaining the stream if the sluices are not renovated. Both inlets from Castle Mill Stream are useless, and the sluice at the brewery is not operated. Therefore in a flood there is not much flow.

Other ideas
We are disappointed that other, more ambitious, options were not pursued. We believe there are many things in our document “Building on Success – Suggestions for medium-term measures to further reduce the risk of flooding in Oxford and the surrounding area” launched this March, which would be well worth doing and we look forward to discussing them with you soon.

Lamarsh Road
In the meantime, our top priority remains to achieve a new flood route via Lamarsh Road in the now very limited time available. We understand that you share this wish and are working hard at it, which we appreciate. For now we would rather achieve this than anything else, as we made plain at our meeting in South Hinksey in March. If funding is not possible in any other way then we think money should be diverted from one or other of the Short Term Measures 2. They could be done later, whereas Lamarsh can’t.
It would be dreadful to fail to implement the Lamarsh scheme. Doing so, on the other hand, would be a great success and improve the lot of many people who have been flooded repeatedly and remain at high risk.

Oxford Flood Alliance, July 13th 2010.

‘Building on Success’

16 March 2010

‘Building on Success’ is the name we’ve chosen for our new suggestions for further reducing the risk of flooding of the City of Oxford and the surrounding area.

The title reflects the real improvements since 2007 – but that at the same time there is more to be done. Our suggestions are modest, achievable and we believe are very good value for money. It’s not doing them that will be seen to be expensive when the heavy rains come again, as, inevitably, they will.

Reducing flooding is important for the whole community:

• flooded individuals and flooded families, who may be out of their homes for months
• businesses out of action or their trade affected
• travel disrupted, difficulties in getting to work and getting about by road and rail
• power cuts
• emergency services at full stretch
• huge financial costs for individuals and businesses who are flooded
• huge financial costs for everybody else – costs to commerce, to City, District and County Councils, and nationally.

A city that keeps flooding is expensive and bad for everybody. That’s why we’re asking organisations who up to now have had nothing directly to do with flooding to join us in trying to keep Oxford dry. We don’t yet know for sure, but climate change may well make flooding worse.

We’re holding a meeting next week to launch our suggestions. We’ve invited people from various authorities and Oxford groups. We’re asking politicians, at all levels, to help us. We’ll let you know what they say and how we get on.

You can download a copy of ‘Building on Success’ from the Library.

The three pinchpoints

01 February 2010

The three pinchpoints we targeted at Redbridge have now been dealt with. Last to go, the level crossing bridge which was obstructing the Main River at Redbridge known as Hinksey Drain (see here), has now been completely removed by Network Rail.

More work still needs to be done at Munday’s. In the much longer term a way may need to be found to get water under the railway even more effectively.

Medium-Term Measures

20 January 2010

We are well on with producing our proposals for further Medium-Term Flood Measures for Oxford (see 22 Dec, Flood Scheme Postponed). Following a meeting last week of OFA’s Steering Group and our Allies from all parts of Oxford and surrounding area, everybody’s contributions are being assembled into a final document. We have decided how to present this. By the end of the month launch plans should be finalised. We believe that our suggestions will offer real hope of further significant reduction of flood risk – keeping more people dry in their homes and businesses.