OFA Update, 30 September 2018

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Dear OFA contact,

Since our last update at the beginning of April, the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme has been progressing through the planning process, and the Environment Agency is waiting for direction from the County Council following a period of public consultation on the plans. It is likely that an updated suite of documents will be published, and made available for public comment, but the EA is expecting to be granted permission later this year. As part of the implementation the EA is expecting to acquire some land under compulsory purchase orders and notices have gone up recently around the project area about this. Construction is expected to begin in 2019 and take three years to complete.

Some of you may be aware that in recent weeks a group called Hinskey and Osney Environment Group has been formed and has been voicing opposition to the scheme. Much of their case is based on misunderstandings of what is actually being proposed, and we are engaged in trying to correct these misapprehensions, including talking with some of the people involved in HOEG – see https://oxfordfloodalliance.org.uk/2018/09/28/ofas-clarifications-and-explanations/ for more detail.

The creation of the scheme will involve disruption, trees will be removed (but then replanted, with a net gain across the scheme) and the appearance of the landscape will be a little different after the scheme is complete. We understand why this causes concern, but the EA assure us they will be making every effort to minimise the impact.

We’ve spent a lot of time working on options over the years there is in our view no effective alternative to the two stage channel proposed by the EA. This is a fairly ‘natural’ scheme – very far from a concrete channel. This fits well with our vision that OFAS should create a scheme which becomes a haven for nature, where biodiversity is increased. This is something OFA has pushed for and contributed to developing, and which we believe in very strongly. For example, the plans include new features such as scrapes and ponds, and the gradual slope of the second stage channel adds a hydrological gradient – meaning new and varied wildlife habitats. And it’s proposed that the day-to-day management work (at least on those areas owned by the EA) will be by local environmental organisations familiar with managing land for nature, contracted to the EA. We’re looking forward to the scheme area becoming much richer in wildlife than it is now, an asset the city can be proud of and that people can enjoy.

Some people appear to be concerned that the building of OFAS will result in more development in the floodplain. We don’t believe this will happen. The floodplain will still flood, even with OFAS, and in our view the existence of a managed, environmentally rich, scheme, with much of the land owned by the EA, will actually reduce the risk of further development.

The other major issue we’ve been working on, apart from OFAS, is the Seacourt Park & Ride extension. We had a meeting with the City Council at which we were able to obtain details of the design of the sustainable drainage system for the car park. This allayed our concerns about displacement of groundwater, but we remain concerned about the way compensation for displacement of floodwater by the extension is planned. We have asked the EA to explain the science on which their ‘no objection’ was based, and we’ve asked them to identify the professional advice on which they rely. The EA seems to be struggling to provide an answer to these simple questions, and we’re still waiting for a satisfactory response. Our view currently is that the extension of the P&R, in the manner proposed, would reduce flood storage capacity in the floodplain.

We will be presenting at the annual Oxford Area Flood Partnership meeting at Oxford Town Hall on 2 October, 6-8pm. There will also be presentations from the EA, local councils and Thames Water on what’s been happening in the city to reduce flood risk over the past year. Please come along.

OFA will hold its next public meeting in the spring. Further details will follow in due course.

OFA Steering Group.

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Working to reduce sewer flooding

Simon Collings represented OFA at the second meeting of Oxford City Council Scrutiny Panel on sewer flooding. Thames Water (TW) gave an update on where they are with a) Grandpont and b) the Oxford Catchment Study:

At Grandpont they have identified the most likely causes of sewer flooding and TW will now work with the City Council and residents to improve things. Local resident Brian Durham of OFA and SOFAG has been closely involved in this work.

On the Catchment Study they are engaged in two parallel processes:

  • a physical inspection of assets across the city – with any issues they identify being fixed as they go along (where the business case is obvious). This includes an inspection of both main trunk sewers.
  • customer surveys to help them understand where problems arise during a flood and how these manifest themselves.

So far they haven’t encountered anything which would suggest they need major capital investments, though they do plan to upgrade the pumps at Littlemore.

TW are talking to the Environment Agency (EA) team working on the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme, and the two modelling teams are going to share data and work together. By good luck the option development phases of both projects are working to similar timetables. EA will help TW understand how the river flooding affects the sewers, and TW will contribute to that work.

There will be one more meeting of the Scrutiny Panel in November/December but from then on formal reports will be given through the Oxford Area Flood Partnership, to avoid duplication of meetings.

8th Annual Public Meeting

APM 2014 welcome13 November 2014

Our 8th Annual Public Meeting attracted a good audience, including local politicians. This year we had three guest speakers as well as presentations from OFA on matters concerning local areas.

John Copley and Barry Russell were made OFA Flood Stars. John has expertly chaired the Oxford Area Flood Partnership since its inception in 2007. Working behind the scenes, he and the partnership have achieved a very great deal in this time. Meanwhile, a well known presence in his waders in every recent flood, Barry, from the Environment Agency, is a key figure in managing flooding on the ground. He has also been involved in many of the flood prevention measures taken here in recent years. We are immensely grateful to them both for all they have done, all the hard work and long hours put in. They have made a real difference.

Ben Ward spoke about Oxford Flood Network’s plans to install water level monitors in the Oxford area to provide live information on water levels, to a computer or smartphone, during flooding, on a much more local scale than at present available. This is an exciting prospect and we welcome it. Ben is looking for people who are prepared to have a (compact) sensor device sited, say, in their garden, or other suitable location.

Nick Ross and Matthew Rose presented Thames Water’s plans for a three-year comprehensive survey (already just begun) of main sewers throughout the Oxford area. This is very welcome as there have been many serious problems with foul sewer overflow, especially during floods.

Richard Harding and Barry Russell of the Environment Agency explained the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme. This c. £125 million scheme is intended to reduce the risk of flooding in Oxford to once in 75 years (though some areas may still be affected more often) – assuming that climate change does not conspire to make things worse (as it well may). A lively discussion ensued, which will no doubt be continued elsewhere.

Thank you to everybody who came and for the generous donations to support our work.

OAFP annual public meeting

16 October 2014

OAFP annual public meeting this evening at which Thames Water announced news of a £1million+ study of the Oxford area catchment sewers, over the next 2-3 years. This will result in a business plan to take appropriate action. That will then have to be funded. Welcome news, well done all who have worked towards this, not least Oxford City Council and local MPs, but most of all to Thames Water themselves.

An interesting meeting, and well attended, but we missed the open floor question session that disappeared last year; hope it’ll be back next year.

OAFP meeting

1 October 2014

OFA attended today’s OAFP meeting:

We asked the EA about progress on our proposals for working with them to ensure that riparian owners maintain the long rural stretches of waterways for which they (the owners) are legally responsible. The EA have prepared an ownership map as we agreed when last we met, so we hope to meet with them again soon.

The problem of flood water (groundwater?) in the back gardens on both sides of Earl Street was discussed. It is hoped  that pumps in two gardens and property-level protection will resolve the problem: OFA and the City Council are working together on it.

OFA’s recent reconnaissance trip by canoe from South Hinksey to Redbridge discovered several serious obstructions, trees and so on. We showed photographs of some of them today and they have been reported to the EA as needing removal.


15 September 2012

The main waterways in the western flood plain, Hinksey Stream, Drain, Bulstake Stream etc. have been cleared of vegetation and a good deal of silt by the EA in the past few years. Clearly, to make the most of them and the new associated structures (such as the large new flood culverts under the railway access road) they need to be kept clear. We have already set up a monitoring system, but it is for dealing with local problems or isolated matters such as fallen trees, see Maintenance. For longer stretches of weed and silt, we need a different approach. We will talk to our partners – the Environment Agency, Oxford City and the Oxford Area Flood Partnership, to see how we can best ensure proper maintenance in the years ahead. We have begun this, and will be pursuing it in the coming weeks and months. We may be able to report some progress by our Annual Public Meeting in November – let’s hope so anyway!

Annual Public Meeting of the Oxford Area Flood Partnership (OAFP)

27 October 2010

Annual Public Meeting of the Oxford Area Flood Partnership (OAFP). (This is not OFA.)

We attended and asked about:

  • Lamarsh Road as a flood route (we presented our report – October 2010)
  • The railway track at Redbridge
  • Munday’s underbridge at Redbridge
  • Why OAFP meetings are held in camera
  • Work that we have been pushing for on Osney Island.

Continue reading

Future short-term measures

16 July 2009

Andy Webber made a presentation on behalf of OFA to the Oxford Area Flood Partnership (OAFP).

OFA’s principal message was to stress the importance of capitalising on the work already done in clearing the Seacourt/Hinksey Stream from the Botley Road to The Fishes in North Hinksey – and the work which has been or is about to be done to remove serious pinchpoints at Redbridge. The Hinksey Stream between these two areas must now be cleared of obstructions, so allowing the good work already done to have maximum benefit.

Our message was well received. The EA is a principal player in this – the local EA team agree how important this work is and are keen to see it done. Let us hope funding is made available.

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.