MPs visit flooded areas

30 November 2012

Our MPs, Andrew Smith and Nicola Blackwood, have visited flooded areas to see the problems and how defences were working.

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said: ‘The Environment Agency, City Council and Emergency Services have done a good job.  I saw for myself the effectiveness of the barrier by Hinksey Lake and the pumping operation in Vicarage Road, where we had 3 feet of water in 2007. The measures pressed for by the Oxford Flood Alliance and put in place have made a big difference; but it is all still on a knife-edge, and we must all keep up the pressure for more works to reduce the risks still further’.

Nicola Blackwood, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, visited areas on the Botley Road and in South Hinksey before moving on  to Abingdon. She saw flood defences working well at Bullstake Close, Botley Road. In sharp contrast, in South Hinksey there was flooding of seven houses, with water which seems very likely to have been contaminated by overflowing sewers. Ms Blackwood is taking up this and other issues on behalf of residents.
Sewers and/or surface water systems appear to have been overloaded too in the Grandpont area, and parts at least of the Botley Road area. This is of great concern and demands urgent investigation and remedy.

Maintenance

15 September 2012

The main waterways in the western flood plain, Hinksey Stream, Drain, Bulstake Stream etc. have been cleared of vegetation and a good deal of silt by the EA in the past few years. Clearly, to make the most of them and the new associated structures (such as the large new flood culverts under the railway access road) they need to be kept clear. We have already set up a monitoring system, but it is for dealing with local problems or isolated matters such as fallen trees, see Maintenance. For longer stretches of weed and silt, we need a different approach. We will talk to our partners – the Environment Agency, Oxford City and the Oxford Area Flood Partnership, to see how we can best ensure proper maintenance in the years ahead. We have begun this, and will be pursuing it in the coming weeks and months. We may be able to report some progress by our Annual Public Meeting in November – let’s hope so anyway!

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.

Rehabilitating Ferry Hinksey ditch

22 March 2012

Work is well advanced in rehabilitating a ditch on the west edge of the Ferry Hinksey trading estate, at the east end of Willow Walk. We pointed out some time ago that this ditch had deteriorated to the extent of disappearing in places, and being completely cut off in others. Oxford City Council, led by engineer Steve Smith, designed and obtained government funding for the work. About 90% is now complete, but finishing is delayed by finding two high voltage cables that are not shown on any utility company records. Once this is sorted out the work will be completed. Well done to all concerned.

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.

An exciting time!

20 January 2011

This is an exciting time!

Things in the Botley Road area which we have promoted and campaigned for for a long time are coming to fruition. The works will reduce flooding of properties by surface water. They result from cooperation between various bodies, including OFA.
At the end of 2008 we suggested setting up an inter-agency working party to concentrate on the Botley Road area. This was immediately taken up by the EA and agreed by the Oxford Area Flood Partnership in January 2009. Things began to move. Oxford City came up with the suggestion of a road hump at the top of Earl Street to redirect flood water; which fitted well with our suggestion that flood water be directed down Lamarsh Road instead of Earl Street, by lowering part of Lamarsh Road. The Earl Street hump is now going in – the result of work by County, City, EA and ourselves.

Very soon we expect work to start in Lamarsh Road, to lower the far end of the road. Here, as well as those already mentioned, developer Kingerlee has played a key role. A new flood route will in due course take floodwater away through the Kingerlee site to the flood meadows beyond.

Not far away, work is starting on another OFA-initiated project: the installation of flood culverts under Willow Walk. Much of the assessment and planning has been done by Oxford City in conjunction with the EA.

Earl Street road hump – work starts

20 January 2011

Work is under way to put a raised road hump across the north end of Earl Street. It can be supplemented with sandbags when necessary. This will prevent flood water running down Earl Street as it has in the past. The County is carrying out the work, but the City, the EA and OFA have been involved throughout.

New culverts under Willow Walk, North Hinksey

16 December 2010

Oxford City and the Environment Agency have worked together towards getting new flood culverts installed here. We have now heard that work is expected to start around 10 January 2011 (weather permitting).

This should help keep flood water moving, not allowing it to build up so badly.

It is something we suggested and have pressed for for some time. Thank you EA and City.

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.