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.

Lamarsh Road scheme – almost there!

24 November 2010

On 9 November Oxford City Central & South West Area Committee agreed to reallocate the money for “public art” that Kingerlee are contributing as part of their development, to the flood relief measures that we have been advocating in Lamarsh Road instead. The suggestion to do so came from Kingerlee (see post of 15 October) and has doubled the amount of money available for flood relief from Kingerlee. The necessary work will now be done. Kingerlee will do the work themselves while they are doing their own work anyway, so overheads will be minimised. After further discussions between Kingerlee, the City and the County, Kingerlee have instructed their engineers to prepare a scheme and hope to start work early in the New Year.
THESE ARE THE (ALMOST) FINAL DEVELOPMENTS IN A CAMPAIGN WHICH HAS OCCUPIED MUCH OF OUR EFFORT FOR THE PAST YEAR AND MORE. THE OUTCOME IS SUCCESS. Many other people, from City, County and the Environment Agency, and of course Kingerlee, have also worked very hard to achieve this result. MP Nicola Blackwood has been interested and supportive.

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.

Botley Road area – action

Earl Street, Duke Street and Bulstake Close were badly affected by flooding in 2000, 2003 and 2007. In the past year four things have been done (or are about to be done) to help:

1.  Oxfordshire County Council has installed a culvert from the south end of Duke Street onto King George’s Meadow beyond.

2 . The footpath at the bottom of Earl Street has been recontoured to improve the flow of water into the alleyway leading to Duke Street.

3 . Clearance of Osney Ditch and the Bulstake and Seacourt Streams south of the Botley Road in Autumn / Winter 2008 by the EA.

4 . Improvements at Redbridge are due to be carried out in March 2009. This should benefit everyone upstream.

As discussed on the Background page the flooding in these streets is a tricky and complicated problem; there is no quick fix. OFA has put forward a number of suggestions over the past year; getting progress has been slow because of the complexity and interdependence of many factors, the need to deal with several agencies and the scale and cost of some potential remedies.
Setting up a dedicated group would, we hope, help achieve results and so we proposed to the EA and to the Oxford Area Flood Partnership (OAFP) that an Inter-Agency Working Party be set up to consider this area, produce solutions and implement them. This was formally agreed to at an OAFP meeting in January 2009. The first meeting should be held in February or early March 2009. Members of this group will come from the EA, Thames Water, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council and OFA. Edit: held March 19th 2009.

OFA intends that this should be a main focus for action during 2009. We have a number of ideas which we believe merit consideration:

1.  Installation of a culvert from Earl Street to King George’s  meadow.

2.  Alteration of the drains so that water entering the drains north of the Botley Road does not end up in Duke and Earl Streets as it does at present. Thames Water and Oxford City have already begun to examine this.

3.  Reprofiling the Botley Road so that floodwater which at present flows across it into Earl and Duke Streets no longer does so. Instead it could be routed down Lamarsh Road and on via a (new) culvert through the site owned by Kingerlee and earmarked for development at the southern end. It would have to be certain that the commercial premises in Lamarsh Road would not be put at risk. And the agreement of Kingerlee would be essential.

4  The west bank of the Thames just north of the Botley Road is  low so that water flows out of the river onto the fields in large amounts whenever the river is full. This in turn erodes the banks further. It is not clear where this water then goes but it must be a possibility that it contributes to flooding in Earl and Duke Streets and Bullstake Close. More information is needed.

5  Willow Walk may act as a barrier to the movement of flood water downstream. This needs to be verified and the EA has agreed to see whether it already has relevant floodwater level data. Closely related is the poor state of the ditch along the eastern edge of Oatlands Park, with partial or total obstruction in several places. Alternative routes are already under active consideration by OFA and the City Council. The overall solution may be to reroute the ditch, to provide culverts under Willow Walk, or to do both.

Oxford City proposes to build a wall to protect Bullstake Close. The effect of this on Earl and Duke Streets is not fully clear and we have asked the EA to evaluate this, to ensure no worsening of flooding will result for those streets.