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.

Advertisements

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.

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.

Meetings re Lamarsh Road as a flood route

15 October 2010

Brian Durham and Peter Rawcliffe, both of OFA, met David Coates, Planning Director of Kingerlee, at their Lamarsh Road site. We looked at the site and discussed things in the light of OFA’s report on Lamarsh Road, October 2010, which can be downloaded here.

We all three went on to meet Barry Russell and Selena Peters of the Environment Agency and Paul Kirkley of Oxford City Environmental Development.

Selena Peters presented the results of computer modelling of flood flows, now extended from 1 in 25 year flood levels to 1 in 50: even at 1 in 50, when defences are overtopped at Bullstake Close and Earl Street, the model suggests there is no further benefit to Earl or Duke Streets from relieving any dam effect at Lamarsh Road by lowering it (but see below).

Brian Durham of the Alliance spoke about the important findings described in his report, including those discovered by talking to Jewsons and the Army Surplus shop in Lamarsh Road.

Paul Kirkley (City) gave further information about various matters, including that culvert pipes from an adjacent site obstruct a drain beyond the far end of the Kingerlee site.

David Coates (Kingerlee) suggested how to move things forward, including that S106 moneys payable by Kingerlee and allocated for “art” could perhaps be made available for flood defences instead. This would be in addition to sums that Kingerlee is already contributing. OFA strongly supported this suggestion.

There is now a much better understanding of what might be useful; Brian Durham has shown that “less will be enough”, and it looks more likely to be affordable. In a nutshell, a limited lowering of about 8 cm at the south end to the west would bring significant benefit. The County have apparently agreed to do about 5 cm in an even smaller area, the hope now is to increase that.

The plan agreed at the meeting is that the EA will, with Paul Kirkley, produce specific proposals as to what is ‘required’. That they will then engage with the County road people to obtain as specific and detailed costings as are possible at this stage (unknowns e.g. services may make it less than exact).

Funding might include use of the £25,000 that Kingerlee has contributed, a similar amount (?£20K) that Rewley Press developers are putting in. The possible reallocation of the “art” funding is mentioned above.

Whether Earl and Duke Streets will be helped depends on how reliable the model proves in practice, but the proposed work in Lamarsh Road cannot make them worse. Previously flooded properties in Lamarsh Road will benefit. Kingerlee’s site, Oriel Mews and the Rewley Press residential development will benefit from improved vehicular and pedestrian access during floods.

Botley Road area meeting

13 September 2010

We met with representatives of the EA, and both Oxford City and Oxfordshire County Councils last Friday, 10 September. We were shown the latest results from the computer model of flooding in the Botley Road area, developed by the EA in collaboration with City Council engineers. The effect of various interventions has been investigated.

The model suggests:
1. The existing Bullstake Close barrier, erected by the City Council to protect its properties there, will provide flood protection to properties to the south of the Botley Road at least to a 1 in 25 year flood level (the worst of the floods in recent years, in 2007, was about that level).

2. Creating a road hump at the north end of  Earl Street would protect the street from inundation (ie becoming a river) up to the same level. This will be done, by the County Council. The street will have to be closed to traffic throughout the work – the County will be consulting with residents about this. While there will inevitably be temporary inconvenience while the work is done, the benefits in flood risk reduction will be very well worth it.

3. A barrier across the alleyway in Duke Street would give further protection to Duke and Earl Streets, from floodwater coming from the Bulstake Stream behind the houses on the east side of Duke Street. The County hope to do this work, subject to discussions and agreement with the owners of the adjacent houses.

4. Floodwater would still be able to enter the rear of properties on the east of Duke Street direct from Bulstake Stream as it has in the past. – and not only flood those houses but then move on to flood people on the other side of the street and in Earl Street. This could be remedied in various ways – ranging from a permanent earth bank (bund) along the gardens of all the houses backing onto the stream, to individual house measures such as flood doors and airbrick covers, to sandbags. Please note that residents will be fully consulted about the options and that action can and will only be taken if people agree. It seems unlikely that everyone would agree to a garden barrier (and it would have to be in every garden without a break for it to work of course) even though this would give the best protection. Individual house measures on the other hand might a very different matter as they would protect the house itself first and foremost. It is possible (not certain) that money may become available to help householders buy the necessary protection. There’d need to be a community plan for placing protection if people were away or for any other reason unable to do it themselves when flooding threatened.
OFA will be working with the EA and the CIty on this. At last Friday’s meeting we suggested that maybe the EA come to our OFA annual Public Meeting – which will probably be in November – to present the options to residents and get their reactions. This isn’t decided on yet but may well happen.

5. Lowering the highest part of Lamarsh Road would not confer further benefit in a 1 in 25 year or smaller flood. Beyond that it is not clear how much benefit it might provide. The cost of lowering is now said to be £500,000. We are sceptical about that remarkably round sum: it has gone up and down like a yo-yo over the weeks – as low as £200,000 not long ago. OFA believes that there should be further consideration, that we should perhaps talk directly to Kingerlee, and that we should try to ensure that roads are built so as to allow the work to be done later even if it is not done now.

Lamarsh Road plan – urgent!

18 August 2010

We met the EA recently about the proposal to make Lamarsh Road the route for flood water rather than Earl Street. Further modelling has been done by the EA but was not completed when we met. The modelling continues and we have asked this week for an update.
Our concern is that the model, on which decisions will be based, is completed, and a decision made, before the deadline of Kingerlee starting work on their site. Kingerlee are very cooperative but understandably have to proceed with their own work.
Our MP, Nicola Blackwood, is strongly supportive – but she too awaits a clear plan before she can make representations about funding.

We hope the EA will produce their advice in time. This has been under discussion for many months, it  is high time we had a clear opinion, advice, and a plan as appropriate, from the EA.

Reducing the Risk of Flooding of Earl and Duke Streets and Bullstake Close

21 July 2010

The following is being circulated as a flyer to residents of Earl and Duke Streets and Bullstake Close. Links are being emailed to our supporters.

Update from the Oxford Flood Alliance (OFA) on Progress in Reducing the Risk of Flooding of Earl and Duke Streets and Bullstake Close; July 2010

It is 3 years since the severe floods of July 2007, so it seems a good moment to report on progress made since then, but also to highlight a further project that requires the most urgent and determined action. OFA has worked hard, since November 2007, to make sure things have been done and we continue to do so.

How these streets flood

Earl and Duke Streets flood by a combination of water coming up through the ground, water coming up through the drains and water which arrives over the surface. Bullstake Close floods by surface water.

What has been done

Bullstake Close:
Oxford City Council built a wall around part of Bullstake Close to protect it from surface water arriving from north of the Botley Road. DONE, 2009

Earl and Duke Streets:
the Bullstake Close barrier will hold back flood water until it is overtopped. DONE, 2009

Thames Water and Oxford City have installed special valves which, when flooding threatens, can be closed to isolate the drains in Earl and Duke Streets from other local drains, taking the pressure off them. DONE, 2009

there are permanent pumps in Earl Street, installed by Oxford City (?) to pump accumulating floodwater away into the floodplain to the south. DONE, 2004

the gullies in the street have been altered so that that all now feed into the pumps, so enabling the pumps to work more effectively. DONE, 2010

a culvert has been installed by Oxfordshire County Council at the end of Duke Street and out into the floodplain to the south. This is to provide a route out for water running down Earl Street from the Botley Road. To streamline the flow of this water the pavement has been rounded off where Earl Street connects via an alley into Duke Street. DONE, 2009

a road and pavement hump built by Oxfordshire County Council across the Botley Road end of Earl Street to stop floodwater flowing down the street (until it is overtopped). PLANNED FOR 2010

a barrier across the path leading into the southern end of Duke Street to prevent water flowing into the street from Bulstake Stream which it has done in the past. UNDER CONSIDERATION

the City Council has suggested that residents at the southern end of the east side of Duke Street might like to consider property level defences for their houses. Property level defences means floodgates for doors and sealing off airbricks. If everyone got together and did this, this would make a barrier to stop water flowing into and through these houses from Bulstake Stream. This would directly protect the individual houses and, indirectly, their neighbours. It is possible that grants may be available to help with the costs of this, though current cuts mean this is uncertain. RESIDENTS WILL DECIDE WHETHER THEY ARE INTERESTED.

last but not least, providing an alternative route for floodwater in the Botley Road to get away downstream to the south. In the past it has flowed down Earl Street like a river. The alternative route proposed is down Lamarsh RoadUNDER ACTIVE AND URGENT CONSIDERATION.

Earl and Duke Streets, Lamarsh Road – and the role of the County Council

20 June 2010

The City and the Environment Agency have worked hard on the technical assessment of feasibility, which they have completed. This shows that our plan would work.

We now urgently need detailed costings of the work required to lower the southern end of Lamarsh Rd. We are looking to the County to provide these. At our meeting in South Hinksey on 24 March 2010, attended by senior representatives from all the agencies concerned, the County Council made a commitment to assess what services lie below that part of the road and to prepare detailed costings of the work that would be needed. This might include digging a test hole. So far as we can discover this has not been done in the intervening 11+ weeks. Considering the urgency, this is extremely disappointing.

We hope that this work will now be done with the utmost urgency.

Go to Library to download our Lamarsh Road proposal and how it would bring relief to the many people whose homes have suffered repeated flooding.

Nicola Blackwood MP visits Earl Street

10 June 2010

Nick Hills, Richard Thurston and Peter Rawcliffe of OFA met our new MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, Nicola Blackwood, in Lamarsh Road on Saturday 5 June. Nicola came to see and hear for herself about the severe and recurrent flooding of about 60 homes in Earl and Duke Streets, the reasons for it – and what OFA has proposed to reduce the risks of further flooding here.

We are delighted that Nicola has said she will support this initiative which could bring relief to many households. She is writing to the Environment Agency asking for details of the cost/benefit analysis, which is currently under way, as soon as it is completed. She will then help us to press for funding and urgent action with the three authorities involved: City, County and Environment Agency.

Earl and Duke Streets

31 January 2010

Work has begun on the next stage to help Earl and Duke Streets, Oxford. Thames Water, in conjunction with Oxfordshire County Council, is connecting gullies in Earl Street into the existing underground pumps so flood water can be pumped away more quickly. This is being done by connecting the pump chamber to a chamber in Lamarsh Road (Oriel Mews), which is, in turn, to be connected to the main run of surface water gullies in Earl Street.