December OFAS newsletter

The December 2018 Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme newsletter has just been published.

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More gravel

The need for locally mined gravel continues – in today’s Oxford Mail is an article about a proposal for a new quarry at Clifton Hampden

https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/17260793.clifton-hampden-quarry-could-provide-materials-for-didcot-roads-say-hills/

The company concerned, Hills, says:

• The mineral reserve in this area is estimated to be approximately 2.5 million tonnes

• Extraction will be at a rate of around 200,000 tonnes per year

• Therefore the quarry will operate for a period of 12.5 years.

 

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

An Oxfordshire gravel mine, 2018

“Multi Aggregate Ltd is planning to expand its operation at Shellingford Quarry [nr. Stanford in the Vale] between Faringdon and Wantage, by 29 hectares. The development would involve the extraction of about 2.65 million tonnes of sand and 1.65 million tonnes of limestone over the period of about 20 years.”

Source: https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/16997437.shellingford-quarry-near-stanford-set-to-double-in-size/

For comparison, Site number SG-37: Land at Grandpont and South Hinksey is a 20hA site, with an estimated yield of 1.5 million tonnes: see previous post.

Gravel mining – Be careful what you wish for

Gravel mining in Oxfordshire

The County Council is responsible for minerals and waste planning in Oxfordshire, including the preparation of a local plan setting out planning policies for mineral working and supply and for waste management. The Council is preparing a new Oxfordshire Minerals and Waste Local Plan, which will comprise: Part 1 – Core Strategy; and Part 2 – Site Allocations.

Sand and gravel is the most common mineral resource in Oxfordshire.

Part 1, the Core Strategy was approved and adopted in September 2017. It sets out the vision, objectives, spatial planning strategy and policies for meeting development requirements for the supply of minerals and the management of waste in Oxfordshire over the period to 2031. Para 4.21 reads:

“4.21 Policy M2: Provision for working aggregate minerals

Provision will be made through policies M3 and M4 to enable the supply of:

  • sharp sand and gravel – 1.015 mtpa giving a total provision requirement of 18.270 million tonnes
  • soft sand – 0.189 mtpa giving a total provision requirement of 3.402 million tonnes
  • crushed rock – 0.584 mtpa giving a total provision requirement of 10.512 million tonnes

from land-won sources within Oxfordshire for the period 2014 – 2031 inclusive.

Permission will be granted for aggregate mineral working under policy M5 to enable separate landbanks of reserves with planning permission to be maintained for the extraction of minerals of:

  • at least 7 years for sharp sand and gravel;
  • at least 7 years for soft sand;
  • at least 10 years for crushed rock;

in accordance with the annual requirement rates in the most recent Local Aggregate Assessment, taking into account the need to maintain sufficient productive capacity to enable these rates to be realised.”

Part 2 is the Site Allocations, currently being prepared. A consultation began in August 2018 (Oxfordshire minerals and waste local plan, part 2 – site allocations, issues and options consultation); comments had to be in by 3 October 2018.

One of the sites that is nominated and so under consideration is Site number SG-37: Land at Grandpont and South Hinksey. This is a 20hA site, with an estimated yield of 1.5 million tonnes.

A map of the area can be seen on p. 63 of this document MWLPSitesIssuesOptionsConsultation

We commented (as did the Environment Agency). Our own objection read:

“Site number SG-37: Land at Grandpont and South Hinksey.

This area is the subject of a major planning application currently being considered by Oxfordshire County Council for the construction of the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme. For this reason we ask that this site should not be taken forward.”

OFA comment

Many of the easiest to mine areas in the County have been mined, increasing pressure on those that remain. While there are logistical difficulties to mining at Site SG-37, Land at Grandpont and South Hinksey, the demand for gravel seems likely to continue unabated with road and rail schemes and new housing very much on the agenda both nationally and in Oxfordshire. In our opinion it is far from impossible that in future this Site might be chosen for mining.

The Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme (the Scheme) is not designed or intended in any way to prevent gravel mining in the future.

However, having said that, it seems to us that having the Scheme in place would make gravel mining at this site much, much less likely. We say this because mining for gravel once the flood alleviation scheme is built would compromise its design and its proper functioning. (The very fact that the Scheme is under consideration is probably already affording protection in the present consultation round.)

Disclaimer: this present brief note is intended to explain the issues as we understand them. There is a great deal more information available in the relevant County documents and on their website, e.g.

https://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/residents/environment-and-planning/planning/planning-policy/minerals-and-waste-policy/new-minerals-and-waste-plan  

https://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/residents/environment-and-planning/planning/planning-policy/minerals-and-waste-policy/core-strategy#adoption

which anyone particularly interested should read for themselves.

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.

Raining hard

It’s raining steadily and hard here today, not enough to flood us but, after the severe flooding in Wales, a further reminder of the threat to Oxford.

Many, many houses and businesses, roads and railway were flooded in seven of the years between 2000 and 2014.

With climate change predicting far worse to come, Oxford needs protection.

This was Oxford in 2007

OFA Update, 30 September 2018

We’ve just sent this update to our mailing list

Dear OFA contact,

Since our last update at the beginning of April, the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme has been progressing through the planning process, and the Environment Agency is waiting for direction from the County Council following a period of public consultation on the plans. It is likely that an updated suite of documents will be published, and made available for public comment, but the EA is expecting to be granted permission later this year. As part of the implementation the EA is expecting to acquire some land under compulsory purchase orders and notices have gone up recently around the project area about this. Construction is expected to begin in 2019 and take three years to complete.

Some of you may be aware that in recent weeks a group called Hinskey and Osney Environment Group has been formed and has been voicing opposition to the scheme. Much of their case is based on misunderstandings of what is actually being proposed, and we are engaged in trying to correct these misapprehensions, including talking with some of the people involved in HOEG – see https://oxfordfloodalliance.org.uk/2018/09/28/ofas-clarifications-and-explanations/ for more detail.

The creation of the scheme will involve disruption, trees will be removed (but then replanted, with a net gain across the scheme) and the appearance of the landscape will be a little different after the scheme is complete. We understand why this causes concern, but the EA assure us they will be making every effort to minimise the impact.

We’ve spent a lot of time working on options over the years there is in our view no effective alternative to the two stage channel proposed by the EA. This is a fairly ‘natural’ scheme – very far from a concrete channel. This fits well with our vision that OFAS should create a scheme which becomes a haven for nature, where biodiversity is increased. This is something OFA has pushed for and contributed to developing, and which we believe in very strongly. For example, the plans include new features such as scrapes and ponds, and the gradual slope of the second stage channel adds a hydrological gradient – meaning new and varied wildlife habitats. And it’s proposed that the day-to-day management work (at least on those areas owned by the EA) will be by local environmental organisations familiar with managing land for nature, contracted to the EA. We’re looking forward to the scheme area becoming much richer in wildlife than it is now, an asset the city can be proud of and that people can enjoy.

Some people appear to be concerned that the building of OFAS will result in more development in the floodplain. We don’t believe this will happen. The floodplain will still flood, even with OFAS, and in our view the existence of a managed, environmentally rich, scheme, with much of the land owned by the EA, will actually reduce the risk of further development.

The other major issue we’ve been working on, apart from OFAS, is the Seacourt Park & Ride extension. We had a meeting with the City Council at which we were able to obtain details of the design of the sustainable drainage system for the car park. This allayed our concerns about displacement of groundwater, but we remain concerned about the way compensation for displacement of floodwater by the extension is planned. We have asked the EA to explain the science on which their ‘no objection’ was based, and we’ve asked them to identify the professional advice on which they rely. The EA seems to be struggling to provide an answer to these simple questions, and we’re still waiting for a satisfactory response. Our view currently is that the extension of the P&R, in the manner proposed, would reduce flood storage capacity in the floodplain.

We will be presenting at the annual Oxford Area Flood Partnership meeting at Oxford Town Hall on 2 October, 6-8pm. There will also be presentations from the EA, local councils and Thames Water on what’s been happening in the city to reduce flood risk over the past year. Please come along.

OFA will hold its next public meeting in the spring. Further details will follow in due course.

OFA Steering Group.

To be added to (or removed from) our email list go to our Contacts page.

OFAS: Environmental meeting

OFA attended a briefing yesterday (22 May 2018) on the Environmental Statement which forms part of the OFAS planning application. This was organised by the Environment Agency (EA) specifically for local environmental groups. Penny Burt, Phil Marsh and Graham Scholey for the EA covered different aspects of the scheme, and provided updates on the various environmental assessments being conducted.

The scheme will result in the creation of a continuous area of marshy meadow either side of the new channel with various scrapes and ponds to enhance the habitat value. Overall biodiversity should be improved and strengthened.

But there are downsides. Rich grassland meadow in some areas will be lost, and while there are plans to create more of this habitat elsewhere in the scheme this is not without risk. Trees will be lost in some areas, though compensated for elsewhere. Some views will change significantly, e.g. along Willow Walk, and at Kendal Copse just north of Kennington.

Several useful comments were made by participants in the meeting about ways to enhance environmental benefits from the scheme which the EA will think about.

Ongoing effective management of the project will be critical and the Environment Agency is now exploring detailed proposals around this with various local wildlife organisations. OFA welcomes the idea of collaboration between the EA and local bodies, but is arguing that whatever arrangements are set up there needs to be a mechanism of accountability to the public, so that local interested parties can understand what is being undertaken, and what achieved – both for flood relief and for wildlife.