A mistake

While we wait anxiously to see whether homes, businesses and roads will flood, work on the City Council’s extension to its Seacourt Park & Ride has come to a very wet standstill.

Building a car park in a flood plain is not sensible. Work having started as the wet winter season approached, the site is now a lake and work has stopped. The JCBs have been withdrawn onto the higher ground of the existing car park, and heaps of building materials are abandoned in the water. If the construction had been completed much of the extension would currently be under water. All this while the City is on ‘only’ a Flood Alert, the lowest category of concern.

The construction costs are likely to be much higher than estimated because of the disruption caused by flood events of the kind we’re currently witnessing. Councillors ignored the reality of frequent flooding here when they approved the planning application, and now we’re seeing the consequences. The last official budget figure we’re aware of was around £4million; we have heard, from a usually reliable source, that the cost may have risen to around £6 million, even before the present flooding of the site. Is this a sensible use of tax payers’ money?

Flooding at the site began on  Monday, so it’s already been a working week that it would have been out of action if it had been built – that means lost revenue and an unreliable service. And time and money would then be needed for pumping out, clearing up and very likely making repairs before the extension could be safely reopened to the public. Further expense and further loss of revenue. Because the site is so low-lying, this will happen quite often.

Because it’s a car park and not a field there is increased risk to the public and to vehicles, and it remains to be seen how well the Council is able to manage flooding here. The water came up quite quickly at the start of the week, and in the interests of safety the extension would have had to be closed before that to avoid cars getting trapped in flood water, i.e. sometime early last week. And remember we are only on a Flood Alert, not a Flood Warning. Were people to try to enter even quite shallow floodwater to retrieve their cars things could go horribly wrong.

In the second photo above, from yesterday, you can see two large pipes floating in the lake, one in the centre, the other far over to the right against the boundary fence. If the flooding worsens these could float downstream and jam under the nearby bridge under the Botley Road, exacerbating flood risk. Were it already a car park, for pipes read cars.

We, and many others, fought this ill-conceived project hard. We hope the City Council will even now abandon it and restore the site to its previous state, as a valuable wildlife habitat, including for the badgers who have been driven out. To press on regardless means wasting ever more of Oxford’s citizens’ money, putting off for years any possible financial return to the Council, and meanwhile potentially both increasing flood risk and posing a risk to life and vehicles.

Oatlands Road recreation ground and Wytham Street today

The flood plain is doing its job around Oxford.

Ben Cahill writes “There has been flooding (rising ground water) this week in the back gardens of Wytham Street (see photos) which back onto Hinksey brook and the Cold Harbour scrubland. This hasn’t happened for a number of years as far as I’m told.”

A pipeline? (2)

According to an article in the Oxford Times of 24 January 2019 the pipeline proposal has changed, so the pipeline would now involve  “a pumping station at Seacourt, under Botley Road and then along the Hinksey Plain to the Old Abingdon Road.”

That would mean that the start of the pipeline is (wisely) no longer proposed to be at Port Meadow, and that it ends at Redbridge rather than Sandford Lock.

The cost has risen from “around half the cost” [of the Oxford Food Alleviation Scheme presumably – HOEG press release of 18 January] – which would be about £75 million – to £100 million in the press report on 24 January.

More to follow.

Seacourt P&R – proposed extension

We are very strongly opposed to the proposed extension by Oxford City Council  of Seacourt Park and Ride on the Botley Road, which has been mentioned here before.

If you want to see our latest objections go to http://public.oxford.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=OFE2FHMFIAV00  where you can see not only ours but the serious objections from others too.

If that doesn’t take you there direct go via https://www.oxford.gov.uk/info/20066/planning_applications  click ‘View and comment on planning applications’, twice, and then search for Seacourt or 16/02745/CT3.

Seacourt P&R – Key Point 1: a clash with OFAS?

 

The first image is a part of a plan, from the Environment Agency, of the proposed Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme (OFAS) north of the Botley Road. This shows (as at 16 September 2016) that a key flood defence bund is planned for that scheme, running through the area where the car park extension is proposed.

The second image shows the area for the proposed extension to the Seacourt P&R.

It is not clear that the bund and the car park extension could co-exist. OFAS will reduce the risk of flooding in Oxford, vital for people and the future prosperity of the city, not least in the face of climate change. The car park extension proposal is flawed in many ways;  the plan should be dropped.

See Key Point 2 and Key Point 3

Application by Oxford City Council to extend Seacourt Park & Ride

Application by Oxford City Council to extend Seacourt Park & Ride  (Oxford City Planning application no. 16/02745/CT3).

We are strongly opposed to this application to build a car park extension right in the Oxford floodplain.

Our key points are:

Inappropriate development in the floodplain – contrary to Oxford City Council Core Strategy, CS2 – this is a greenfield site. It is also contrary to City Council Core Strategy 11 – it is neither ‘essential infrastructure’ nor ‘a water compatible structure’.

Not consistent with national planning policy framework (NPPF) guidelines.

Inappropriate development in the Green Belt.

A planning application for a similar scheme on the same site was rejected by the Secretary of State in 1999. Planning law has become tighter since.

County Transport Strategy envisages new P&R sites at Cumnor and Eynsham over the next few years; the present proposal is at variance with that. Traffic coming off the A34 and A420 may face increased delays in reaching the P&R.

Flood-risk assessment flawed:

  • fails to note the serious floods since 2008
  • does not properly consider the frequency with which this low lying site actually floods, which is often (it’s functional floodplain)
  • permeable pavement recommended only slows run-off when flood event are so low risk it’s irrelevant. As soon as a significant flood event starts to develop the car park will be under water.

Emergency evacuation plan is inadequate and lacks detail. The site is at high risk of flooding, being 0.5-1 m lower than the existing car park. There is a significant risk to vehicles and people during a flood event: any emergency plan has to be very robust. Extra resources could be needed from already stretched emergency services. In a 1 in 100 flood the water would be 2m deep.

The ground is subject to movement and would require further investigation to see if remediable stabilisation would even work.

The site itself may be damaged by prolonged or severe flooding, even with surfaces broken and swept away. The fences proposed for the perimeter of the 2 ha site, and structures on the site, would be very vulnerable in a large scale flood.

The proposed permeable surface will be impaired by silt and other debris: it will require cleaning which may or may not restore its permeability. After prolonged flooding such paving may even have to be replaced (in early 2014 this site would have been under a significant depth of water for several months).

If fences, structures on the site, and cars were swept away they could end up blocking the nearby Seacourt which is a vital flood channel.

The proposal does not take proper account of the latest plans for the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme in this area.

The rationale for this extension being needed is that the present car park cannot be given a decking storey because of a covenant on the land. No such covenant has been produced by the applicant and we cannot find one. What there is is a lease agreement, with could potentially be varied by negotiation with the landlord, which could make this whole scheme unnecessary.

Oxford is at risk of flooding. The principle of not building on greenfield sites in the floodplain must be adhered to.

These reasons are set out in more detail in the following documents submitted to the planning authority, Oxford City Council (links download pdfs).

  1. Our initial objections (28 Nov 2016)
  2. Further points (5 Dec 2016)
  3. Address to Council (5 Dec 2016)

We are working hard to get our message across to the decision makers and to other people who may wish to comment. If you agree with us that this development should not be allowed to go ahead please do say so via the Oxford City planning website or speak to your local City Councillor.

Earl Street upgrade

15 October 2014

OFA is working with the City Council on a plan to upgrade the static pumps at the southern end of Earl Street, and to install either sumps and pumps or a static/passive drainage system to protect the rear of properties on both sides in conjunction with property-level protection. Nick Hills will be meeting council officers shortly to finalise plans. We are hopeful that funds will be made available through DEFRA grants.

OAFP meeting

1 October 2014

OFA attended today’s OAFP meeting:

We asked the EA about progress on our proposals for working with them to ensure that riparian owners maintain the long rural stretches of waterways for which they (the owners) are legally responsible. The EA have prepared an ownership map as we agreed when last we met, so we hope to meet with them again soon.

The problem of flood water (groundwater?) in the back gardens on both sides of Earl Street was discussed. It is hoped  that pumps in two gardens and property-level protection will resolve the problem: OFA and the City Council are working together on it.

OFA’s recent reconnaissance trip by canoe from South Hinksey to Redbridge discovered several serious obstructions, trees and so on. We showed photographs of some of them today and they have been reported to the EA as needing removal.

Sewer flooding

Sewer emptying 25.12.12

South Hinksey, Christmas Day 2012

25 December 2012

Overflowing sewers being emptied on behalf of Thames Water (TW) in South Hinksey on Christmas Day. A big thank you to the men doing the work for the last few days and right through the Christmas season.

Sewer flooding has been a problem in parts of Botley, North and South Hinksey and Kennington for some years, but notably worse in the last three or four. Heavy rain regularly results in manholes overflowing with foul effluent. Before and during the November river floods, sewage overflowed in large amounts in South Hinksey, into houses, gardens and streets. The contaminated effluent entered local watercourses – pollution reports have been filed by the Environment Agency. Nicola Blackwood, MP, called a Public Meeting in South Hinksey. In a packed hall, Thames Water apologised for what had happened, and that some failings of theirs had not helped. They agreed, among other things, to publish plans to address hydraulic overload, blockages and the upgrade of Littlemore pumping station, to include an overview of timelines.

In the threatened floods now, TW tankers have been in South Hinksey regularly to empty the sewers, making a great improvement on November. The community now awaits the promised plans. There must be serious problems somewhere, which desperately need sorting out, because the sewers overflow when there is no river flooding – and more seriously in the last few years.

The Abingdon Road area had very similar problems in the November floods, with tankers employed to relieve the sewers.

Sewers get overloaded in flood conditions in parts of the Botley Road area.