Postscript on Seacourt P&R extension

Members of OFA steering group, along with Councillor Colin Cook, and Stephanie Ouzman (a member of MP Layla Moran’s staff), met with Council officers and their consultants WYG on 27 April 2018 to try to obtain answers to a series of questions about the proposed Seacourt P&R extension. Subsequent to the meeting there was a further email exchange and answers were provided to a number of outstanding points by the Council. We appreciate having had this opportunity for dialogue about the issues, and now feel we understand what is being proposed.

It’s clear from the response from the Council that the planning documents did not provide a clear reference to the use of an impermeable membrane at the site. It wasn’t spelled out in the application, and the documents give no details of the tanking and how this would work. This has now been explained to us.

We believe we should have been able to get answers, as of right, on points of issue like this through the planning consultation. The fact that we couldn’t was a failure of the process, and below the standards we have observed in other applications locally. The County (LLFA), Environment Agency and planning officer didn’t, in our view, fully understand what WYG were proposing – this is clear from correspondence with them during and subsequent to the planning process. Councillors, therefore, approved a proposal which had information gaps in it on flood risk, and which they couldn’t have fully understood. In our view this happened because the planning outcome had already been pre-determined, and our queries were ignored because the process was designed to secure a particular outcome. 

Now that we know what’s actually proposed, we don’t believe (as far as we can judge) that the development poses an immediate and direct flood risk to local properties, which is obviously a welcome outcome. But all development in Flood Zone 3B by its very nature creates a risk to the consistent and predictable functioning of floodplains. Hence planning policy, which incorporates learning outcomes from decades of previous developments in areas subject to flooding, prohibits such developments because the medium and long-term consequences can be unexpected and far-reaching. 

We believe the development is inconsistent with planning guidelines – building in the floodplain and Green Belt – but recognise the planning officer advised otherwise, and that Councillors agreed with his interpretation. We regret that the Secretary of State did not choose to examine this issue, and believe the Council’s decision sets an unfortunate planning precedent. We also remain unconvinced of the need case.

The car park extension will be an additional source of pollution during a flood, and there is no way to stop this. This is undesirable, and a negative environmental impact. The Seacourt P&R extension is just to the north of OFAS which has an ‘environmental vision’ aiming to improve freshwater habitat – a vision the Council signed up to. 

If the development goes ahead, we’ll be watching with interest to see how often if floods and how the local authority deals with this. At times of flooding the car park will be a potential source of risk to users and members of the public. We will also continue to be vigilant about further planning applications brought forward by the Council, as the process has left us feeling we can’t rely on the local planning authority, or members of Council planning committees, to safeguard the public interest. We hope public concerns will be better addressed should any similar situation arise in future.

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Debris

An alert resident has reported to us that a large drain on the path from the end of Duke Street to King George’s Field is partially blocked. Our intrepid Nick Hills has investigated and whilst he was able to remove sticks and twigs that were probably stuffed into the drain by children, there is still a considerable amount of debris that needs to be cleared from the connecting pipe. We think that the County Council installed this drain (to help with flood relief) and we’re asking them to look into it (pun intended).

We’re happy to receive reports of obstructions in drains, trees in waterways and so on. It can be difficult to know who is responsible – we can usually help with that and with reporting the problem. Details of where the problem is are obviously essential and photos are very useful.

County Council’s Flood Risk Management Strategy

The County’s Flood Risk Management Strategy was formally adopted by the County Council Cabinet this week following the consultation earlier this year.
For more information please follow the link : http://mycouncil.oxfordshire.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?MId=4039&x=1&

The draft Strategy can be found here

https://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/cms/content/oxfordshire-local-flood-risk-management-strategy

The final Strategy and the associated Action Plan will be available online in due course.

The Strategy mentions the role of riparian owners in maintenance – one of our two key concerns currently. See here too about the responsibilities of riparian owners. We have spoken today to County and expressed our keen interest in helping make this happen and how we think that could be done by County, EA and ourselves working together. Getting this under way has been our aim for a long time – and we will get there.

Flood Fair

IMG_6972 flood fair 2014

31 October 2014

OFA stand at the Oxfordshire Flood Fair this afternoon, manned by Nick Hills, Peter Rawcliffe, John Mastroddi and Simon Collings. The National Flood Forum and all the ‘flood agencies’ represented. Good attendance, interesting discussion – a useful afternoon. Well done to the County Council for organising this event.

A flap valve for South Hinksey

7 October 2014

South Hinksey: Oxfordshire County Council Engineers are to fit a non-return flap-valve to a surface water drain where is empties into a field ditch: this will prevent water pouring from the ditch into the street in low-order flood events. The Parish Council requested this, and was supported by OFA. The work should be done this month. Thank you County Engineers.

Meeting on OFA proposals; and encouraging maintenance by riparian owners

30 May 2013

1. Meeting this afternoon with representatives of the EA, County, RFCC, City and Vale. We heard the results of assessments of ten proposals put forward by OFA last December. Two broad options are worthy of further investigation: we expect to hear more by the autumn. Also awaited is a reconciliation of two different flood models for our area, which will have an indirect bearing on the proposals mentioned and assist in a re-evaluation of the idea of a new ‘western conveyance’ – i.e. bigger waterway (new, or expanded present ones – or a mix of the two). While nothing is yet definite, we remain patiently optimistic, and determined.

 2. We are starting to work with the EA (first meeting next week) to encourage owners of the banks of the long rural stretches of waterway in the area (for which as riparian owners they are responsible) to undertake long-term maintenance of the waterways.

Munday’s bridge under the railway at Kennington

9 March 2013

We have been urging that this serious bottleneck near Redbridge be sorted out since 2007. Improvements were made in 2009, but more was needed.

Now there is a multi-partner project between Thames Water, Network Rail, Oxford City Council, Vale of White Horse District Council and Oxfordshire County Council to make further improvements. Delays due to legal issues have now been resolved, thanks to help from Oxford’s two MPs, Nicola Blackwood and Andrew Smith. We hope work will now start in early April, but as things are now almost a year late we will only be sure when it actually begins. Nevertheless, action is in sight, and will help reduce the flood risk for many people.

Oxfordshire County Council

19 January 2013

Oxfordshire County Council recently voted in favour of a 5% increase in the contributions of all county councils in the Thames region to the regional flood levy fund, and the vote was (just) carried in favour. This far-sighted move means that more central government funds will be attracted to schemes in Oxfordshire, rather than going elsewhere in the country. Effective flood defences for areas at highest risk will in turn curb the ever-increasing drain on Council funds when floods occur. We congratulate the Council and look forward to seeing schemes across the county in the places most at risk. Oxford is one such and we look forward to helping if we can.