Public consultation on the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme, OFAS, begins tomorrow.
See https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/oxford-flood-alleviation-scheme-design-consultation for more about this, and tomorrow the dedicated consultation website should be available from the link there.
We joined Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, the OFAS Project Team and other partners when Emma visited Oxford today. The Public Consultation for the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme is due to be launched in two days time, on Friday 23 June.
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.
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).
The proposal is inconsistent with both national and local Green Belt policy:
- The site is in the Oxford Green Belt where the presumption is that development is inappropriate. Preservation of ‘openness’ is a key objective of Green Belt policy, The NPPF places great emphasis on it. Attempting to hide the development from view by landscaping does not constitute preserving openness.
- The proposal will also clearly breach Oxford City’s own Core Strategy key policy CS4 for the protection of Green Belt land.
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.
Within Oxford City Council’s main strategic planning document, the Core Strategy, Core Strategy 2 (CS2, see above) states:
‘Greenfield land will not be allocated for development if any part of the development would be on Flood Zone 3b.’
Our comment: The proposed site for the new car park is greenfield, and in functional Flood Zone 3b.
CS2 also says that ‘development will only be permitted on greenfield land if it is specifically allocated for that use in the [Oxford City Council’s] Local Development Framework’.
Our comment: This site is not so allocated.
Core Strategy 11 (CS11) says:
‘Planning permission will not be granted for any development in the functional flood plain (Flood Zone 3b) except water-compatible uses and essential infrastructure.’
Our comment: The proposed site is neither ‘water-compatible’ (a category intended for developments such as marinas), nor ‘essential infrastructure’ (which includes projects such as water treatment works, or roads which have to pass through a floodplain).
In our view the position could not be clearer – this proposal is, in fact, precisely the kind of development that the Council’s own strategic planning policy is there to prevent.