OFA’s Annual Public Meeting, 2010

25 November 2010

Our third Annual Public Meeting was held at the West Oxford Democrats Club, Osney Island today.

Very many thanks to the Club for once again providing us with a warm and comfortable venue – not to mention the bar!

The meeting was attended by over 80 people. We had had some concern that numbers might be down as it is now 3 years since a major Oxford flood, but thanks to Andy Webber’s efforts in distributing flyers, that did not happen. A big thank you to everyone who came out on a very cold night.

It was good to see Andrew Smith, MP for Oxford East, who represents many flooded people along the Abingdon Road and elsewhere. He had with him a copy of our Building on Success, and has asked us to keep him in the picture about things at Redbridge, which affect his constituents as well as those further west. We are delighted that he said he will support us in getting necessary flood risk reduction work done there.

Flooded people from many parts of Oxford were present as were City and County Councillors and officers from City and Environment Agency. Among them it was good to see our previous Flood Stars, Nigel Bray (EA), Susanna Pressel (City and County Councillor) as well as Mary Timbrell (resident of Duke Street).
Andrew Smith MP (L) and Barry Russell, EA

Andrew Smith, MP for Oxford East (left) and Barry Russell, Area Flood Risk Manager, Environment Agency, at OFA’s APM.

keith andy flood star 2010 APM_2

Keith Hutchence (R) of the Environment Agency was awarded our Flood Star for 2010. He was thanked for all he has done and presented with a unique bottle of “OFA Flood Star 2010” by Andy Webber.

Presentation by the EA
We were pleased to be sharing our meeting with the EA. They have been thinking about further ways to protect the Earl and Duke Street and Marlborough Court area, in particular possible ways of keeping water out of the back of properties bordering the Bulstake Stream. Barry Russell, EA Area Flood Risk Manager, presented these ideas to the meeting and answered questions. The ideas are at an early stage and residents will be consulted further; any comments in the meantime can be made direct to the EA or via your local OFA person.
Barry told the meeting about the planned pavement hump for the Botley Road end of Earl Street, which will be topped with a row of sandbags during flooding, keeping water out of the street. The County Council will be installing this in the New Year. There are also plans to provide a removable flood barrier for the alleyway into Duke Street from the east, to stop water flowing into the street from the Bulstake Stream.

Peter Rawcliffe then spoke about:

Events and work completed in 2010
January: Network Rail remove redundant level crossing bridge at Redbridge.

March: publication and launch meeting of our Building on Success, Suggestions for medium-term measures to further reduce the risk of flooding in Oxford and the surrounding area. See list of attendees at the launch meeting here.

EA clear Hinksey Stream from North Hinksey to Redbridge.

November: meeting with EA’s Director of Operations; Head of Operations; and Thames Regional Director, and others.

Maintaining and developing our website.

Still in progress, but now heading for a successful conclusion:

  • Duke and Earl Street – see above.
  • Lamarsh Road as a flood route, to which we have made an important contribution – initiating the idea (March 2010), pressing the case and helping with the assessment (Oct 2010). The City, County, EA and developers Kingerlee have all played active roles and we are together on course to a successful conclusion. The result will:
    • Benefit existing and new businesses in and off Lamarsh Road.
    • Benefit residents who reach their houses via Lamarsh Road – Oriel Mews, and in future Rewley Press and Kingerlee housing.
    • Divert water away from proposed Earl Street pedestrian hump. The level in Lamarsh will be just lower than the height of the hump plus one sandbag.

2011: in the pipeline already:

  • Willow Walk, North Hinksey – culverts are to be installed to move water more quickly down the floodplain. Suggested by OFA and taken up by  EA and City.
  • Hinksey Stream, further clearance at Redbridge (EA).
  • Network Rail, clearing several waterways and renewing weir north of Redbridge.
  • Lamarsh Road – see above.
  • Culvert through causeway at South Hinksey (Vale of White Horse).

OFA’s top 4 for action in 2011:

John Mastroddi described the issues at Munday’s and Stroud’s bridges at Redbridge. See Building on Success.

Richard Thurston spoke about two things that would help Osney Island:

  • West Street Pumping Station: upgrade the current pumping station by installing a pump of greater capacity.
    Redesign the outfall so that the water is discharged with the flow of water in Osney Stream.
  • Build a new spur from the Bridge Street extension road drain via the passageway into the Environment Agency’s land, where a new sump be created. From the sump, excess water would be pumped into the weir pool.

obstructions weir sluice castle mill stream

Mike Hamblett showed us the poor state of the weirs and sluices on Castle Mill Stream – the photo speaks for itself.  Castle Mill Stream has potential to carry more water than it does, having relatively high gradients. We suggest these structures be mapped and listed and their condition and operation be examined, as a first step to improving them.

Mike then spoke of the broken down state of about 500 m of the west Thames bank above Tumbling Bay. See Building on Success. Water pours out of the river here when river levels are high, further damaging the bank in the process. We are concerned that this water may make flooding worse in the Botley Road area. The effect of the water leaving the river, compared to what would happen if it did not do so, should be investigated. As the breakdown worsens with each episode, one can expect that before long the entire bank over the 500m length will be affected – that situation should also be looked at. The bank could be repaired fairly easily.

Resilience and insurance

Nick Hills stressed that the time to install flood resilience measures in your house is when work is being done anyway – including of course after a flood. And that people should make sure this happens, not leave it to insurers – they tend to put back what was there before, chipboard floors and carpets included. Ask that the money be made available to you to spend as you see fit – see articles by Peter Rawcliffe and Nick Hills.

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.

Meeting with senior members of the Environment Agency

8 November 2010

Peter Rawcliffe, representing the Oxford Flood Alliance, met with David Jordan, national Director of Operations at the Environment Agency, John Russon, Head of Operations, Howard Davidson, Regional Director, and Matt Carter and Barry Russell from the local EA area, on a recent visit to Oxford. We were pleased to have such an opportunity.

A wide-ranging discussion included:

A presentation by OFA emphasising the crucial importance of improving things at Munday’s underbridge in north Kennington.

How community flood groups form and become involved (‘the Big Society’) in working with the EA on flooding. The difficulties of establishing such engagement where it does not already exist.

Attitude to risk and particularly how it relates to the Big Scheme (OFRMS) for Oxford. OFA said there was public scepticism about whether the Big Scheme would ever happen and that people would like things done now to remedy obvious deficiencies, making the most of what already exists, even though they together fall short of a 1 in 100 year standard of protection (as is inevitable).

Once such remedial measures were taken, then incremental improvements to existing watercourses, particularly widening Hinksey Stream, working up the floodplain, might be a sensible approach, rather than relying on a possible new grand Western Conveyance which might very well never materialise.

Having said all that, information gathered for the Big Scheme can inform decisions in the meantime and if climate change makes things worse it might then be implemented. We suggested that improvements now should not be put off for fear of jeopardising the value for money of the Big Scheme – because of the very real and widespread doubt as to it ever materialising (even were no improvements made in the meantime).

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

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.

Our response to the EA on their proposals for further short-term measures for Oxford

14 July 2010

Oxford Short Term Measures 2

Thank you for asking for comments on your proposals. Here are ours:

Willow Walk – fine.

Hinksey Stream – welcome. We hope the work will include removal of the trees which seem to be actually in the stream upstream of the bridge.

Wareham Stream – we think that it is hardly worth maintaining the stream if the sluices are not renovated. Both inlets from Castle Mill Stream are useless, and the sluice at the brewery is not operated. Therefore in a flood there is not much flow.

Other ideas
We are disappointed that other, more ambitious, options were not pursued. We believe there are many things in our document “Building on Success – Suggestions for medium-term measures to further reduce the risk of flooding in Oxford and the surrounding area” launched this March, which would be well worth doing and we look forward to discussing them with you soon.

Lamarsh Road
In the meantime, our top priority remains to achieve a new flood route via Lamarsh Road in the now very limited time available. We understand that you share this wish and are working hard at it, which we appreciate. For now we would rather achieve this than anything else, as we made plain at our meeting in South Hinksey in March. If funding is not possible in any other way then we think money should be diverted from one or other of the Short Term Measures 2. They could be done later, whereas Lamarsh can’t.
It would be dreadful to fail to implement the Lamarsh scheme. Doing so, on the other hand, would be a great success and improve the lot of many people who have been flooded repeatedly and remain at high risk.

Oxford Flood Alliance, July 13th 2010.

Earl and Duke Streets, Lamarsh Road – and the role of the County Council

20 June 2010

The City and the Environment Agency have worked hard on the technical assessment of feasibility, which they have completed. This shows that our plan would work.

We now urgently need detailed costings of the work required to lower the southern end of Lamarsh Rd. We are looking to the County to provide these. At our meeting in South Hinksey on 24 March 2010, attended by senior representatives from all the agencies concerned, the County Council made a commitment to assess what services lie below that part of the road and to prepare detailed costings of the work that would be needed. This might include digging a test hole. So far as we can discover this has not been done in the intervening 11+ weeks. Considering the urgency, this is extremely disappointing.

We hope that this work will now be done with the utmost urgency.

Go to Library to download our Lamarsh Road proposal and how it would bring relief to the many people whose homes have suffered repeated flooding.

‘Building on Success’

16 March 2010

‘Building on Success’ is the name we’ve chosen for our new suggestions for further reducing the risk of flooding of the City of Oxford and the surrounding area.

The title reflects the real improvements since 2007 – but that at the same time there is more to be done. Our suggestions are modest, achievable and we believe are very good value for money. It’s not doing them that will be seen to be expensive when the heavy rains come again, as, inevitably, they will.

Reducing flooding is important for the whole community:

• flooded individuals and flooded families, who may be out of their homes for months
• businesses out of action or their trade affected
• travel disrupted, difficulties in getting to work and getting about by road and rail
• power cuts
• emergency services at full stretch
• huge financial costs for individuals and businesses who are flooded
• huge financial costs for everybody else – costs to commerce, to City, District and County Councils, and nationally.

A city that keeps flooding is expensive and bad for everybody. That’s why we’re asking organisations who up to now have had nothing directly to do with flooding to join us in trying to keep Oxford dry. We don’t yet know for sure, but climate change may well make flooding worse.

We’re holding a meeting next week to launch our suggestions. We’ve invited people from various authorities and Oxford groups. We’re asking politicians, at all levels, to help us. We’ll let you know what they say and how we get on.

You can download a copy of ‘Building on Success’ from the Library.

The three pinchpoints

01 February 2010

The three pinchpoints we targeted at Redbridge have now been dealt with. Last to go, the level crossing bridge which was obstructing the Main River at Redbridge known as Hinksey Drain (see here), has now been completely removed by Network Rail.

More work still needs to be done at Munday’s. In the much longer term a way may need to be found to get water under the railway even more effectively.

Medium-Term Measures

20 January 2010

We are well on with producing our proposals for further Medium-Term Flood Measures for Oxford (see 22 Dec, Flood Scheme Postponed). Following a meeting last week of OFA’s Steering Group and our Allies from all parts of Oxford and surrounding area, everybody’s contributions are being assembled into a final document. We have decided how to present this. By the end of the month launch plans should be finalised. We believe that our suggestions will offer real hope of further significant reduction of flood risk – keeping more people dry in their homes and businesses.