Concern in the Oxford area

There is increasing concern today that water levels are high in the Oxford area, with a good deal more water still to come down to Oxford from the Cotswolds catchment. The area is presently (midday) on an EA Flood Alert (the lowest level of concern).

We’re seeing more flooding globally, Venice is badly hit at the moment – and the awful flooding in the north of England continues.

There is no doubt that the climate is changing. Oxford has always flooded but the change will make it more common and more severe. The immediate threat may recede now, let’s hope so, but it highlights again that it’s imperative that Oxford is better protected, not only for the many people directly affected but for the city itself to continue to function and thrive into the future.

The multi-partner Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme is in process and all concerned are working hard to make it happen as soon as humanly possible. As we have said before, “it can’t come soon enough.”

 

 

Severe flooding in Yorkshire

Exceptional rainfall has caused widespread and serious flooding in the north of England. It seems pretty clear (from this, and many other events worldwide) that climate change is happening here and now https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-50343977

Meanwhile in New South Wales a very different emergency, which again seems almost certain to be climate change related https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-50341207

The list goes on.

Flood defences are sorely needed for Oxford’s river flooding, and more than ever now that we’re faced with more frequent extreme weather events. The Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme is being developed to provide that defence.

 

 

Trees

The Environment Agency has looked again at the question of trees in the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme (OFAS) – this is from their recent newsletter:

‘We have listened to local concerns about the impact the scheme will have on trees and recently conducted some additional tree surveys. Although trees will unfortunately have to be felled during the construction stage, we can confirm that our tree-planting proposals will ensure there will be more woodland within the scheme area after completion, than there currently is at present. 

By surveying individual trees by eye, we estimate that 2,000 trees will need to be felled. To mitigate for this we will be planting around 4,325 trees. In addition, 15,000 smaller trees, such as hawthorn, hazel and elder, will also be planted, along with many more native shrubs such as dogwood, goat willow, dog rose and wild privet. Throughout the design process, our contractors, engineers and ecologists have worked together to minimise tree loss wherever possible. Once a contractor has been appointed we will work with them to further minimise losses of trees wherever possible. 

Our aim is for the scheme to bring a true green legacy to the area. We are currently exploring options for the long term maintenance of the scheme to ensure it is not only maintained as a flood scheme, but continues to provide lasting environmental improvements well into the future.’

Upcoming talk on OFAS and wildlife

There is to be a talk, open to all, on ‘The Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme: Maximising the benefits for people and freshwater wildlife’ with Jeremy Biggs of Freshwater Habitats Trust and Penny Burt from the Environment Agency on Monday 26 November 2018 at 6.30 pm in South Hinksey Village Hall.

Gravel mining – Be careful what you wish for

Gravel mining in Oxfordshire

The County Council is responsible for minerals and waste planning in Oxfordshire, including the preparation of a local plan setting out planning policies for mineral working and supply and for waste management. The Council is preparing a new Oxfordshire Minerals and Waste Local Plan, which will comprise: Part 1 – Core Strategy; and Part 2 – Site Allocations.

Sand and gravel is the most common mineral resource in Oxfordshire.

Part 1, the Core Strategy was approved and adopted in September 2017. It sets out the vision, objectives, spatial planning strategy and policies for meeting development requirements for the supply of minerals and the management of waste in Oxfordshire over the period to 2031. Para 4.21 reads:

“4.21 Policy M2: Provision for working aggregate minerals

Provision will be made through policies M3 and M4 to enable the supply of:

  • sharp sand and gravel – 1.015 mtpa giving a total provision requirement of 18.270 million tonnes
  • soft sand – 0.189 mtpa giving a total provision requirement of 3.402 million tonnes
  • crushed rock – 0.584 mtpa giving a total provision requirement of 10.512 million tonnes

from land-won sources within Oxfordshire for the period 2014 – 2031 inclusive.

Permission will be granted for aggregate mineral working under policy M5 to enable separate landbanks of reserves with planning permission to be maintained for the extraction of minerals of:

  • at least 7 years for sharp sand and gravel;
  • at least 7 years for soft sand;
  • at least 10 years for crushed rock;

in accordance with the annual requirement rates in the most recent Local Aggregate Assessment, taking into account the need to maintain sufficient productive capacity to enable these rates to be realised.”

Part 2 is the Site Allocations, currently being prepared. A consultation began in August 2018 (Oxfordshire minerals and waste local plan, part 2 – site allocations, issues and options consultation); comments had to be in by 3 October 2018.

One of the sites that is nominated and so under consideration is Site number SG-37: Land at Grandpont and South Hinksey. This is a 20hA site, with an estimated yield of 1.5 million tonnes.

A map of the area can be seen on p. 63 of this document MWLPSitesIssuesOptionsConsultation

We commented (as did the Environment Agency). Our own objection read:

“Site number SG-37: Land at Grandpont and South Hinksey.

This area is the subject of a major planning application currently being considered by Oxfordshire County Council for the construction of the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme. For this reason we ask that this site should not be taken forward.”

OFA comment

Many of the easiest to mine areas in the County have been mined, increasing pressure on those that remain. While there are logistical difficulties to mining at Site SG-37, Land at Grandpont and South Hinksey, the demand for gravel seems likely to continue unabated with road and rail schemes and new housing very much on the agenda both nationally and in Oxfordshire. In our opinion it is far from impossible that in future this Site might be chosen for mining.

The Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme (the Scheme) is not designed or intended in any way to prevent gravel mining in the future.

However, having said that, it seems to us that having the Scheme in place would make gravel mining at this site much, much less likely. We say this because mining for gravel once the flood alleviation scheme is built would compromise its design and its proper functioning. (The very fact that the Scheme is under consideration is probably already affording protection in the present consultation round.)

Disclaimer: this present brief note is intended to explain the issues as we understand them. There is a great deal more information available in the relevant County documents and on their website, e.g.

https://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/residents/environment-and-planning/planning/planning-policy/minerals-and-waste-policy/new-minerals-and-waste-plan  

https://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/residents/environment-and-planning/planning/planning-policy/minerals-and-waste-policy/core-strategy#adoption

which anyone particularly interested should read for themselves.

Oxford can – and must – be prepared

The BBC reports further today on the serious Welsh floods

“Communities will want new flood defences after many Welsh rivers burst their banks during Storm Callum, Wales’ environment agency has warned.

Parts of Wales saw the worst flooding for 30 years ….

A 21-year-old man was killed after a landslip and many homes and businesses were flooded as Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and south Powys bore the brunt of the storm on Friday and over the weekend.”

We’ve been proactive in Oxford so we’re much further ahead – the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme is currently being considered for planning approval. Whether the Welsh floods are in part related to climate change would require event attribution analysis to give an estimate of the probability that that is the case. But certainly it’s the sort of event that one would expect with climate change. It’s vital that Oxford’s as ready as it can be.

Severe flooding in Wales – a timely reminder

We’ve had a dry summer, river flows are low and flooding may seem a long way off. But it’s always a threat as this article on the BBC website today, about severe flooding in Wales, reminds one:

Storm Callum: Parts of Wales see ‘worst flooding in 30 years’

Whether this event is due in some part to climate change may be impossible to know for sure, but there is no doubt that extreme weather events are becoming more frequent across the world. Now is the time to prepare Oxford for that future.

The planning application for the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme is being scrutinised; if approved Oxford’s flood risk will be reduced. Without it Oxford will remain largely undefended and future generations will rightly ask why something wasn’t done while the opportunity was there.

See too https://oxfordfloodalliance.org.uk/2015/12/08/flooding-from-storm-desmond/

Flood scheme and bridges

There’s an article in the Oxford Mail on the new bridges proposed as part of the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme at Willow Walk and North Hinksey Causeway. We agree with the Oxford Preservation Trust that it’s very important to get these right – with materials and design appropriate for these much-loved and ancient settings.

Note too that Oxford Preservation Trust is hosting a meeting to discuss plans for the channel at The Fishes, North Hinksey, on Thursday, May 31, from 6.30pm to 8pm. At least one of us plans to be there.

Rodney Rose

We were very sorry to hear that County Councillor Rodney Rose has died at the weekend. Rodney was cabinet member for flooding for a number of year and we got to know him well. He attended several of our evening Annual Public Meetings. He was very much involved in organising a ‘Flood Summit’ which led to the start of the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme (OFAS); he then co-chaired the Scheme’s Sponsoring Group until last year. He was an excellent Chairman, not only did meetings always run to time but they were brightened by his lively sense of humour. Provided that OFAS goes ahead, it will be an important and significant part of the public legacy he leaves behind. Our condolences go to his family.

http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/16096673._True_gent__and_former_deputy_leader_of_county_council_Rodney_Rose_has_died/

Flood Alerts and opposition to OFAS – on the same day …

Today there are Environment Agency Flood Alerts for our area. As we write, water from ditches to the west is starting to accumulate in a corner of King George’s Field, behind Duke and Earl Streets, as it does at the start of every flood. More rain is forecast tonight.

And on the very same day we read of opposition to the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme in the Oxford Mail. The Scheme is designed to save many, many hundreds of homes and businesses from recurrent flooding, at enormous stress, disruption, and financial cost – to individuals, families, businesses, and the whole Oxford community. Climate change is widely expected to make things far worse in the future. We’ve been at this for ten years now and in our opinion (and that of many others) there is no viable alternative, “Green” or otherwise. If we don’t get the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme it’ll simply be a disaster for Oxford.