Our 9th Annual Public Meeting is on Wednesday 22 February 2017.
There is lots to hear and talk about and everybody is welcome.
We hold an Annual Public Meeting, which has been in November up to now. This makes it close to the annual Oxford Area Flood Partnership meeting and the two have increasingly overlapped in content. We decided then that our “2016” meeting would be better held later. It will be on Wednesday 22 February 2017 at 7pm for 7.30. The venue as before, the Demos’ Club on Osney Island, Oxford. We will have speakers from the Environment Agency (on the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme), Thames Water (on their sewer survey) and Network Rail (on their track raising, waterway clearance and culvert installation). Everybody is very welcome.
Network Rail have begun work to raise the track at Stroud’s bridge under the railway, just south of the old Abingdon road.
We submitted our comments on the latest revision (A02) of Network Rail’s flood risk assessment (FRA) for their planning application for track-raising yesterday.
The planning application is number 15/03703 and details can be found on Oxford City Council’s planning portal https://www.oxford.gov.uk/info/20066/planning_applications/328/view_and_comment_on_planning_applications
The application is going to West Area Planning Committee for determination on 3 May at 2 pm at the Town Hall.
See also our earlier post https://oxfordfloodalliance.org.uk/2016/03/28/network-rails-planning-application-for-track-raising/
Network Rail (NR) has applied for planning permission in relation to its plan to raise a particularly low area of the mainline track to London, beneath and either side of the old Abingdon Road bridge (Redbridge) near Kennington, to reduce the risk of the line flooding. Doing only this would increase the risk of flooding to the west of the line by raising the height of what is already a dam to the free flow of flood water. So NR propose a new culvert beneath the railway to compensate for this.
We have no objection to this plan in principle, but it must be done properly to ensure that the flood risk to properties and roads is not increased. If the mitigating culvert is too big areas to the east would be affected, too small and those to the west would suffer.
NR then need to convince the planning authority that their proposal gets the balance right and does not increase anyone’s flood risk. This is done mainly by modelling of flood flows and levels and reporting the results as part of a Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) which is at the heart of the planning application. This was first submitted in February. We went over this with a fine-tooth comb and found gaps and serious inconsistencies in the data presented. We did not believe that the document allowed the necessary judgement to be made, indeed it raised more questions than it answered. We made a submission to the planning authority, Oxford City Council, suggesting that, on the available evidence, it would be unwise to allow the application. The FRA, our comments, and many other documents can be seen on the council’s planning website – application number 15/03703/FUL. Our comments: OFA comments on 15/03703/FUL – Construction of a culvert.
A revised FRA (Revision AO1) was tabled by NR on 25 February in response to comments made by the Environment Agency to them. Because of the timing this revision did not deal with our questions. We submitted further comments on AO1, reiterating and expanding on key points, on 9 March. We again gave our opinion that the evidence presented in the FRA was such that it could not allow a safe and proper decision to be made. This submission: 15:03703:FUL OFA Comments on the revised FRA (revision AO1, Feb 2016) F
After making our second submission to the planners we met with representatives of NR and their advisers. They confirmed that there were indeed the errors we had drawn attention to, in both the original and AO1 revision of the FRA. They said they had identified the reason for these errors and explained this. We understand that they will be filing a further revision, plus an amended version of an associated document, GRIP3, which is referred to in the FRA.
We have discussed our concerns with the planning officer at the Council who has been helpful and attentive to our arguments. A decision on the application has now been deferred to allow time for the revised documents from NR to be reviewed by the public and by Council planning staff.
Our Annual Public Meeting on 19 November was well attended – we were delighted to welcome many members of the public, local councillors, representatives of all the local flood agencies, an Oxford University researcher and Andrew Smith, MP for Oxford East. Nicola Blackwood, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, and Rodney Rose, Deputy Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, sent their apologies.
Adrian Porter began the evening by setting out our three key current objectives:
He went on to give an overview of the past year including our recent boat trip, with the Environment Agency, which identified necessary maintenance on Weirs Mill Stream: this work is being planned and funding being sought. John Mastroddi provided detail on the clearance under Munday’s bridge, which completes the project begun in 2013. Impending planning applications at Seacourt P&R and Oxford Four Pillars Hotel, both firmly in the floodplain, are on our radar.
Nick Hills, our Treasurer, told us that we had £346 in the bank, enough for several years at the present rate of spending! Nevertheless, being the good treasurer he is, he asked people to leave any donations as they left: this raised a very generous £110. Nick set out some of the things we’d been pleased to see in the year: among those not referred to in more detail later on were the permanent pipe under the Botley Road to allow pumping across the road without disruption to traffic (County and City Councils), Waitrose’s use of SUDS at their new shop and the successful public events for OFAS during the summer.
He explained how we support OFAS in principle and are contributing to the process along with the other partners – but always reserving the right to be a ‘critical friend’.
The first of our guest speakers, Joanna Grew from Network Rail, gave an account of their proposed Hinksey Flood Alleviation Scheme: this includes the clearing of culverts at Coldharbour (for which we have been pushing for some time), track raising and installation of new culverts. More detail can be seen in Joanna’s presentation downloadable here. You can download a leaflet about the scheme here.
James Playfair explained the progress of Thames Water’s ongoing sewer survey across Oxford, the Oxford Catchment Study. This is about to enter its second year: already some issues have been resolved including significant improvements to the pumps at Littlemore Pumping Station. The presentation can be downloaded here.
Last but not least Emma Formoy from the Environment Agency gave the meeting an up-to-date account of the Oxford FAS; Emma mentioned the possible wider benefits of the scheme, including for wildlife, and the crucial importance of rigorous modelling. More detail in the presentation downloadable here: this includes dates of the next round of Public Events in January 2016 when a consultation on the route options for the scheme will begin. These can be also seen in the Oxford FAS Newsletter – November 2015, perhaps more easily. In parallel with these events, people will be able to view these proposed options and partake in the consultation online.
Apart from these individual achievements and plans, what is remarkable, and heartening, is the considerable cooperation, for example sharing of modelling data, between these three agencies – i.e. they talk to each other! As one of us commented later, we have come a very long way since 2007. We are grateful to our guests for coming to talk and for all the work their organisations are doing. The sum (assuming they all reach fruition) will give Oxford a better, and more secure and sustainable, future.
Nick Hills presented Steve Smith, Engineer with Oxford City Council, with our Flood Star award for this year. This is in recognition and thanks for Steve’s sterling work on many flood schemes and smaller works over the years, as well as co-ordinating the Oxford Area Flood Partnership.
Peter Rawcliffe spoke about OFA’s suggestion for maintaining Oxford FAS: as this is to be largely a ‘natural’ channel it will be subject to inevitable deterioration – so providing both a problem and an opportunity. OFA proposes that a trust be established, in perpetuity, to manage for both flood alleviation and wildlife. Trustees could be drawn from the several stakeholders – landowners, local authorities, Environment Agency, academics and wildlife bodies – to name just a few. We believe this is a practical way to make the most of what the scheme offers Oxford and its residents and visitors. This 7km channel will be ever more essential to Oxford if climate change develops as predicted. Each km may cost £18 million to build. We need to treasure it: in our view a local trust with local accountability, and autonomy to manage as it sees fit, fits the bill.
Simon Collings discussed modelling: as mentioned above this is absolutely vital to developing the case for OFAS – both to be as sure as humanly possible that it will work and equally importantly that no one downstream will be disadvantaged. We recently attended a meeting at the School of Geography, Oxford University: Simon explained some of the potential pitfalls of modelling that we had learned of there, and suggested that community review of the OFAS modelling (assisted by expert modellers) be included in the scrutiny process. This in addition to review by academic modeller(s) which is already under discussion for the scheme and which we strongly support.
We thank those who attended for their support and we thank our visiting speakers for helping to make the meeting a success. Our thanks too to the West Oxford Democrats Club for generously allowing us to use their hall once again.
At The Democrats, Osney Island, 7.30 pm. Entrance at the north end of East Street.
Doors open from 7.00 pm.
Network Rail on their plans to clear blocked culverts under the railway north of Redbridge.
Environment Agency on the multi-million pound Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS) (Western Conveyance)
Thames Water on their major review of Oxford’s sewers.
Hear our ideas on how Oxford FAS might be maintained not only for flood alleviation but also for wildlife.
Local planning applications, Weirs Mill Stream – and more.
It looks as if good progress is being made. We’re told the wooden posts will be removed, towards the end of the work.
Munday’s bridge under the mainline railway at Kennington is an important route for flood water to leave the west Oxford flood plain. A lot of work was done to improve it in 2013 but the channel itself under the bridge was never properly cut and profiled and large wooden posts were left in situ in the channel. Work started yesterday to put these things right.
9 March 2013
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.