Meeting with Layla Moran, MP for Oxford West & Abingdon

We had a successful meeting with Layla Moran, new MP for Oxford West & Abingdon, last week.

We talked about the proposed extension of Seacourt P&R, to which we are strongly opposed. The proposal by Oxford City Council involves building in the floodplain and is in our view clearly contrary to national planning guidance. We see many other problems with the application too. We have submitted detailed comments in the past, and have now made further objections which can be found on the Oxford City Planning website:

https://www.oxford.gov.uk/info/20066/planning_applications/328/view_and_comment_on_planning_applications

The application reference number is 16/02745/CT3.

We shared with Layla our ideas about making the most of the opportunities for freshwater wildlife that the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme (OFAS) offers, and about ensuring robust arrangements for its maintenance long into the future.

Layla
  • is very supportive of our position on Seacourt.
  • aims to raise flooding in Parliament to address issues around how Flood Re is operating.
  • intends to join the All-party parliamentary group, APPG, for Flood Prevention.
  • is going to see what she can do to help secure the remaining money needed for OFAS.
  • was due to meet the Environment Agency soon after meeting us and would raise with them the question of long term maintenance for OFAS.
We look forward to working with Layla in the future.
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OFAS: funding gap

The Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme (OFAS) Sponsoring Group met earlier this month. This group provides high-level oversight of the project and is made up of representatives from the several partner organisations. One topic discussed was the shortfall of £4 million of the £121 million cost of the scheme. As the local ‘grass roots’ community organisation we’re now exploring ways we might engage support from local businesses.

Flooding at Christmas

24 December 2012

We are again facing possible property flooding in the area, maybe tomorrow, Christmas Day. For some this would be the second time in two months, and the fifth time in 12 years. While EVERY flooded home is serious, homes which are at risk of flooding repeatedly deserve particular priority. Action has been taken in some local areas but others remain at high risk. It would be ideal to have 1 in 100 year protection for everyone, but as that is unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future, we need smaller schemes now for those worst affected. We cannot wait for jam tomorrow. This needs money. While the government’s recently announced 120 million pounds extra (nationally) for flood relief schemes is welcome, much more is needed, without delay.

The need for more government funding

12 December 2012

We spent this morning meeting with representatives of the Environment Agency, the Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, County Council, Oxford City Council and others. We hosted a meeting with these partners in July, to discuss what can be done to help further reduce flood risk in the Oxford area, and today’s meeting was the follow-up.
The meeting was positive and forward-looking. But while all involved want to see progress, and variously have the skills, knowledge and dedication to achieve it, what is sorely lacking is sufficient central government funding.
Parts of the Oxford Flood Strategy, and several works proposed by ourselves, have been implemented already. These helped in the recent flooding. Getting more done is a long slow process.

We’ll do what we can to keeping flooding high on the political agenda.

Flooding on the way AGAIN? – government funding sorely needed

24 November 2012

Today we’re watching river levels rise and fields flooding; it‘s still raining and more is forecast. Will properties flood again?

The Oxford Flood Strategy flood prevention scheme, produced by the Environment Agency after years of work, was going to cost £150 million. The government’s new partnership funding scheme, introduced subsequently, would provide 7% of the money required. 93%, about £140 million, would have to come from the County, the City, the Vale, businesses, and residents. That’s totally unrealistic.

Every flood costs a huge amount. Only government has sufficient capital to invest to stop this recurring problem. But the government doesn’t seem to appreciate that money spent on flood defences is money exceedingly well spent. In economic terms alone it’s TEN TIMES better value than the controversial HS2 rail scheme.

Changing weather patterns look set to make flooding more and more common. Throughout Holland defences are designed to limit flooding to once in 1000 years or better. The Oxford Flood Strategy offered 1 in 75-100 year protection; at present we have almost none.

This country could afford adequate flood defences if the political will were there. The government must grasp the issue, supplement the present funding scheme, and invest serious money. Failure to do so will cost far, far more. And that’s not counting the human misery.

Partnership funding

December 2011

New government funding system for flooding

Central government funding is now through a new scheme known as Flood and Coastal Resilience Partnership Funding and run by DEFRA via the Regional Flood and Coastal Committees (RFCCs). The old scheme resulted in ‘all or none’ funding, the new scheme in ‘all or part or none’ – the suggested advantages being to spread funding more widely, to encourage cost reduction and to allow top-ups to central funding from other sources. But see the report on our Annual Public Meeting for how we’re affected – very badly so far – and what we’re doing about it.

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.