Flood scheme and bridges

There’s an article in the Oxford Mail on the new bridges proposed as part of the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme at Willow Walk and North Hinksey Causeway. We agree with the Oxford Preservation Trust that it’s very important to get these right – with materials and design appropriate for these much-loved and ancient settings.

Note too that Oxford Preservation Trust is hosting a meeting to discuss plans for the channel at The Fishes, North Hinksey, on Thursday, May 31, from 6.30pm to 8pm. At least one of us plans to be there.

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Our Annual Public meeting is this Wednesday, 25 April

For anyone not on our mailing list, our Annual Public Meeting is this Wednesday, 25 April at West Oxford Democrats Club, 1 North Street, Osney Island, Oxford OX2 0AY.

Doors open at 7 pm, meeting starts at 7.30 pm.

City Councillor Colin Cook will be made Oxford Flood Alliance’s ‘Flood Star’ for 2018, in recognition of his support throughout the last 10 years – not least in this past year for his sterling and principled support of our opposition to the Seacourt P&R extension application (below).

There will be two speakers from the Environment Agency on the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme – Jon Mansbridge on the progress so far and Penny Burt on environmental aspects.

We will discuss the controversial Seacourt P&R extension application, now approved, which has taken so much of our time and effort over the past year and more.

Graham Brogden from insurers Aviva will talk about property level resilience.

Everyone is very welcome to attend.

 

 

Rodney Rose

We were very sorry to hear that County Councillor Rodney Rose has died at the weekend. Rodney was cabinet member for flooding for a number of year and we got to know him well. He attended several of our evening Annual Public Meetings. He was very much involved in organising a ‘Flood Summit’ which led to the start of the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme (OFAS); he then co-chaired the Scheme’s Sponsoring Group until last year. He was an excellent Chairman, not only did meetings always run to time but they were brightened by his lively sense of humour. Provided that OFAS goes ahead, it will be an important and significant part of the public legacy he leaves behind. Our condolences go to his family.

http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/16096673._True_gent__and_former_deputy_leader_of_county_council_Rodney_Rose_has_died/

Flood Alerts and opposition to OFAS – on the same day …

Today there are Environment Agency Flood Alerts for our area. As we write, water from ditches to the west is starting to accumulate in a corner of King George’s Field, behind Duke and Earl Streets, as it does at the start of every flood. More rain is forecast tonight.

And on the very same day we read of opposition to the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme in the Oxford Mail. The Scheme is designed to save many, many hundreds of homes and businesses from recurrent flooding, at enormous stress, disruption, and financial cost – to individuals, families, businesses, and the whole Oxford community. Climate change is widely expected to make things far worse in the future. We’ve been at this for ten years now and in our opinion (and that of many others) there is no viable alternative, “Green” or otherwise. If we don’t get the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme it’ll simply be a disaster for Oxford.

Scheme to reduce flooding in Oxford will NOT put downstream at greater risk 

An independent review of the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme, commissioned by Vale of White Horse District Council, has confirmed that the proposed flood alleviation scheme will have no impact on communities downstream in the Vale or South Oxfordshire.
The Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme will be approximately three miles long and will run from the north of Botley Road to re-join the River Thames near Kennington.  The scheme will reduce the risk of flooding from the River Thames to all homes and businesses in Oxford, as well as to services and major transport routes into the city, particularly around Botley and Abingdon Road.  This will help avoid a repeat of the disruption and damage caused by floods in 2007, 2012 and 2013/14.
Communities downstream were concerned that the Oxford scheme would increase their flood risk.
In 2016 the Environment Agency produced technical modelling using sophisticated computer programmes which showed that the scheme would not change flood risk of communities downstream. As with all Environment Agency modelling this was independently checked.
In 2017, due to local concerns, Vale of White Horse District Council commissioned independent expert, Water Resource Associates, to further review the work carried out by the Environment Agency.
This independent review confirms that the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme will not put communities downstream at any greater risk of flooding. To read the full Water Resource Associates’ review visit whitehorsedc.gov.uk/OFAS.
Cllr Matthew Barber, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “This is very positive news.  Although we have always been supportive of the Oxford scheme it was important for us to listen and respond to our residents’ concerns.  We’re pleased that the independent review findings confirm the Environment Agency’s modelling, providing much needed reassurance for downstream communities that they won’t be impacted by the new scheme.
“We know communities by the River Thames will always have concerns over flooding and we will continue to work with them and Environment Agency on feasible and appropriate flood prevention projects, such as the St Helen’s Mill scheme in Abingdon.”
Dr Harvey Rodda from Water Resource Associates said: “After receiving all of the documentation from the Environment Agency and their consultants working on the OFAS we were pleased that a thorough investigation on the potential downstream impacts had taken place and the results showed there would be a negligible impact of flooding on the areas along the downstream reach of the River Thames from Sandford to Mapledurham.”
Jo Larmour, Project Director at the Environment Agency said: “The Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme will have a positive impact on people and communities outside of Oxford. The scheme will reduce disruption to roads and the railway during flooding, a relief to those who commute into Oxford or travel on surrounding transport links. This will also benefit the approximately 7 million people who visit Oxford every year.”

Thoughts on OFAS

Why do we need a flood scheme at all?

We have had five major floods since 2000 and climate change will make things worse (indeed there is evidence from Oxford University that it already has). Oxford residents, and the economic well-being of the City, will suffer badly if something is not done. While the scheme will cause disruption during its construction it is imperative that Oxford is protected.

But what about downstream, won’t they be worse off?

All the detailed computer modelling for the Scheme (and we have recently heard on the grapevine that a totally independent consultancy has confirmed this ) says that flooding will not be made worse downstream. We know that comparisons are made with the Jubilee River – this scheme is nothing like that. Indeed OFAS is actually increasing the capacity of the floodplain, which together with bunding and rerouting of flow will reduce flood risk to many hundreds of properties.

Is it a concrete channel?

No, it isn’t. What it is is a much more naturalistic 2-stage channel, used around the world for flood relief.

How will the environment be affected?

While there will, regrettably, be some environmental losses, we are pressing hard – collaborating with the Environment Agency, and with support from others, particularly the Freshwater Habitats Trust – for environmental enhancements as part of the scheme. While one cannot compare one environmental loss directly with another environmental gain we believe the positives will be considerable.

Maintenance.

It’s so important that there is a plan now for the very long-term maintenance of the Scheme. In our experience over the last 10 years  “if maintenance can be neglected it probably will be”. There are some honourable exceptions and we certainly have we have no criticism whatever of the local EA maintenance team, who achieve a huge amount with very limited resources. Others do nothing or very little unless goaded and embarrassed into action. This Scheme, being “natural” will deteriorate quickly if not proactively maintained. The initial intent was to plan maintenance for 10 years: that is simply not good enough for such an expensive and important project. We have proposed that maintenance be planned for in perpetuity by setting up a responsible, funded, local body, maybe as a charitable trust (or similar).

A Green group

thinks that Oxford could and should be protected by very different means – while they are short on specifics, their main idea seems to be that planting enough trees upstream in the Cotswolds would solve Oxford’s problems. It wouldn’t. Expert opinion at our 2015 Symposium of Natural Flood Management (NFM)  made that very clear. Even afforesting the whole of the Cotswolds (not that that would ever happen) would not do the job. Oxford is simply too far downstream for that. That’s not to say that NFM can’t work in smaller catchments, nor that it might not make a contribution.

Flooding land upstream?

The Environment Agency’s Oxford Flood Risk Management Strategy (OFRMS) suggests this may be needed one day if climate change makes things sufficiently bad. Involving as it would temporary flooding large areas of farmland and other land it is never likely to be easy to implement.

 

 

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.

Meeting with Layla Moran, MP for Oxford West & Abingdon

We had a successful meeting with Layla Moran, new MP for Oxford West & Abingdon, last week.

We talked about the proposed extension of Seacourt P&R, to which we are strongly opposed. The proposal by Oxford City Council involves building in the floodplain and is in our view clearly contrary to national planning guidance. We see many other problems with the application too. We have submitted detailed comments in the past, and have now made further objections which can be found on the Oxford City Planning website:

https://www.oxford.gov.uk/info/20066/planning_applications/328/view_and_comment_on_planning_applications

The application reference number is 16/02745/CT3.

We shared with Layla our ideas about making the most of the opportunities for freshwater wildlife that the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme (OFAS) offers, and about ensuring robust arrangements for its maintenance long into the future.

Layla
  • is very supportive of our position on Seacourt.
  • aims to raise flooding in Parliament to address issues around how Flood Re is operating.
  • intends to join the All-party parliamentary group, APPG, for Flood Prevention.
  • is going to see what she can do to help secure the remaining money needed for OFAS.
  • was due to meet the Environment Agency soon after meeting us and would raise with them the question of long term maintenance for OFAS.
We look forward to working with Layla in the future.