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 The JCBs have been withdrawn onto the higher ground of the existing car park, and heaps of building materials are abandoned in the water.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.”

Further rain in the NW – the huge impact on people

Another BBC report today showing the extent of the damage.

It will be many, many months, even a year or more,  before things are back to normal for many people.

Apart from the obvious physical damage to property and infrastructure, being flooded is known to affect not only people’s mental health but their physical health as well.

“Bramhall, in Stockport, was also badly hit by flooding, with eleven people and four dogs being rescued, GMFRS said.

Jackie Carter, who lives there, said: “I was working from home yesterday and saw the water starting to come over the patio at the back of the house.

“Within two hours we were being evacuated. It’s the second time in three years – the first time we were out of our house for 11 months.

“You are not allowed to live in a house that has been contaminated through ‘black water’ – it seeps in everywhere… the floorboards, everything. I saved as much as I could, photographs and stuff like that, but there’s only a certain amount you can do.” “

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-49187570

 

 

Exceptional rainfall causes flooding in NW England

“Rush hour commuters faced delays as heavy rain continued to cause disruption to the North West’s road and rail network.

Trains were cancelled between Manchester and towns including Wigan and Stalybridge. The A555 Manchester Airport Relief Road remained closed.

The equivalent of half a month’s rain fell on the region in the space of 24 hours, said the Met Office.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-49149281

 

Future UK climate

From the new (26 November 2018) Met Office report on the challenge of climate change in the UK:

‘The projections will be factored into the UK’s flood adaptation planning and the Environment Agency’s advice to flood and coastal erosion risk management authorities.

Since 2010 government has invested a record £2.6 billion in flood defences, and we are on track to protect 300,000 more homes from flooding by 2021.

Chair of the Environment Agency, Emma Howard Boyd, said: “The UKCP18 projections are further evidence that we will see more extreme weather in the future – we need to prepare and adapt now, climate change impacts are already being felt with the record books being re-written.

“It is not too late to act. Working together – governments, business, and communities – we can mitigate the impacts of climate change and adapt to a different future.

“The Environment Agency cannot wall up the country, but will be at the forefront – protecting communities, building resilience, and responding to incidents.” ‘

The UK’s most comprehensive picture yet of how the climate could change over the next century has been launched today by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

The massive destructive impact of flooding

Another, current, reminder from Italy of the massive human distress (and in this case loss of life), material damage, and economic cost of flooding.

And from earlier this year in Paris.

Oxford must be protected, soon.

Severe flooding in Wales – a timely reminder

We’ve had a dry summer, river flows are low and flooding may seem a long way off. But it’s always a threat as this article on the BBC website today, about severe flooding in Wales, reminds one:

Storm Callum: Parts of Wales see ‘worst flooding in 30 years’

Whether this event is due in some part to climate change may be impossible to know for sure, but there is no doubt that extreme weather events are becoming more frequent across the world. Now is the time to prepare Oxford for that future.

The planning application for the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme is being scrutinised; if approved Oxford’s flood risk will be reduced. Without it Oxford will remain largely undefended and future generations will rightly ask why something wasn’t done while the opportunity was there.

See too https://oxfordfloodalliance.org.uk/2015/12/08/flooding-from-storm-desmond/

The Paris Agreement, December 2015

COP21Nearly 200 countries, developing and developed, and including oil and gas producers, reached agreement at the COP21 conference in Paris to address climate change. This looks like the beginning of the end for fossil fuels.

The deal requires that countries should stem greenhouse gas emissions, with the goal of peaking emissions as soon as possible and continuing the reductions as the century progresses. The aim is to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2°C by 2100, ideally keeping the rise below 1.5°C.

The deal will encourage trillions of dollars to be spent adapting to the effects of climate change – including of course flooding – and developing renewable energy. Developed countries are to send at least $100 billion each year to developing countries beginning in 2020.

The agreement gives countries leeway in determining how to cut their emissions but they must report how they are doing. Progress will be reviewed every five years.

Some elements, like reporting requirements, are legally binding, others, such as the setting of emissions targets for individual countries, are non-binding.

This is potentially a game-changing agreement and has been widely welcomed. Hopefully the catastrophic possibility of irreversible and escalating change can be averted. Nevertheless, climate change is here with us and we can expect to see its effects on weather patterns continuing for the foreseeable future, with increased flooding a prominent result.

Let us hope that the implementation of the Paris agreement is as good as promised.