Seacourt P&R expansion is, quite simply, not necessary (including 4 Dec parking data)

It’s easy to get lost in the long and complicated arguments over flooding and planning objections.

But one thing stands out, very, very clear, and very, very important:

There is no need to increase capacity at Seacourt P&R. Oxford has more than enough parking, including enough park and ride.

This is despite the opening of the new Westgate shopping area. If the parking isn’t needed then why does the Council want to spend over £4 million of your, public, money on it? Never mind that it will sit largely unused, and be subject to flooding, and expensive pumping out, maintenance and repair. No, we don’t understand it either.

We looked at online data two days ago, Monday 4 December, 3 weeks before Christmas. At the busiest time, 2pm, there were over 2,700 empty spaces, many in park and rides. Seacourt and nearby Redbridge had 538 empty spaces between them.

Click table to enlarge.


See also our letter to the Oxford Times

For more detail look at these reports:

minerva economics report

minerva further economics report

Westgate Transport Assessment Evidence

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Objecting to Seacourt P&R extension – our latest comments

 

We remain strongly opposed to the planning application by Oxford City Council to extend its Seacourt Park and Ride into Oxford’s vital flood plain. There has been a nibble, nibble attrition of the flood plain over many years leading to worse flooding. That the City Council should itself be seeking to extend a car park into the flood plain that protects our city is quite extraordinary.

Here are our latest comments:

OFA comments on FRA Nov 2017 Final

OFA comment on PS Addendum Nov 2017 Final

Redbridge vs. Seacourt P&R from south + Maps

Letter to EA 30 November 2017_final

Lime stabilization considerations Nov17

Seacourt P&R in the Oxford Mail; smart signs, plus risk to life

This article in the Oxford Mail talks about the possibility of  ‘smart signs’ – electronic boards – on the ring road, to alert drivers to where there are empty park and ride spaces around Oxford. This could obviate the (claimed) need to increase the number of spaces at Seacourt, instead pointing drivers to (say) nearby Redbridge. According to an earlier report in the Oxford Mail there is apparently so much spare capacity at Redbridge that the City Council proposes to remove 270 parking spaces, and is quoted in the newspaper as saying that the loss of these spaces would be ‘marginal’.

It seems to us to be inconsistent for the City Council to argue that removing 270 spaces at Redbridge is perfectly ok, while at the same time arguing a burning need to build new spaces at Seacourt – in the floodplain, on Green Belt land, contrary to local and national planning guidance and, as far as the present application goes, creating a potential risk to life (see towards the end of the first newspaper article and our previous post). Never mind the cost, which has already risen from about £2million to over £4 million.

 

Another letter about Seacourt P&R

Our letter published in the Oxford Times, 29 December 2016

We wrote recently about Oxford City Council’s proposal to extend the Seacourt Park & Ride into the flood plain, providing 658 extra parking spaces.

Now we read that the very same council wishes to abolish 270 parking spaces at Redbridge in order to develop a recycling facility. The core argument put forward by the City Council to justify their proposal at Seacourt is that extra car parking is so badly needed that it should be allowed even though the expansion site is in Green Belt and functional floodplain, and despite the fact that it is clearly contrary to national planning guidance and could put vehicles and people at risk during a flood. The Redbridge plans now make nonsense of the special case being advanced for Seacourt.

If that is not enough, the budget for construction of an extension at Seacourt has recently doubled from about £2 million to £4.1 million. The City Council Executive Board papers for 15 December 2016 show projected net revenue from the Seacourt Park & Ride extension of £160,000 a year, and this relies on an increase in parking charges from £2 to £3 possibly starting in autumn 2017.

At this rate the investment would take more than 25 years to pay back. If this figure assumes that the car park remains fully operational and doesn’t ever flood, when in reality it will do so virtually every year causing closure and expensive maintenance, the payback time will be even longer than 25 years.

We are discussing our concerns with the City Council as we believe that their proposal is ill-conceived and unjustifiable and that it should be abandoned before any more money is spent.

Seacourt P&R planning application vs. proposals for Redbridge P&R – comment

We have made further comments (our fourth) on the Seacourt P&R planning application to the Planning Officer today, 19 December 2016:

Planning Application 16/02745/CT3

We wrote to you earlier with regard to the validity of the so called ‘sequential test’ carried out for the Seacourt P&R extension. In addition to our previous argument about the existence of an option of negotiating with the landlord to erect decking on the current site, we have further grounds for objection to the ‘sequential test’.

The City Council Executive Board papers for 15 December 2016 include proposals for removing 270 parking spaces at Redbridge to accommodate a new waste transfer facility. It appears there is excess capacity at Redbridge P&R. The analysis of occupancy of Redbridge and Seacourt P&Rs included in the Executive Board papers, show that there is existing spare capacity at Redbridge, and but for the planned waste facility this could relieve Seacourt during the week. There is also capacity at both car parks sufficient to adsorb expected increases in weekend traffic once the Westend development completes.

The Planning Statement for the Seacourt extention makes no mention of the surplus capacity available at Redbridge. The review of Redbridge in the ‘sequential test’ simple says that there is limited scope to ‘expand’ Redbridge. This is deeply misleading. There is clearly scope to redirect surplus traffic from Seacourt to Redbridge, which might be achieved at no cost simply by use of differential pricing – i.e. making Seacourt more expensive. In the Seacourt application we’re told Seacourt has to expand because there isn’t an option at Redbridge. But the Redbridge proposal is using the possible expansion of Seacourt to justify closing parts of Redbridge. So the need to expand Seacourt is at least in part being created by the Council’s wish to re-purpose part of the Redbridge site. This is clearly an unacceptable justification for the Seacourt extending into the floodplain on Green Belt land.

Given the existence of sufficient capacity to deal with any increased weekend traffic related to the Westend, the arguments for the extension, contained in 3.20 of the Planning Statement, appear extremely general. Is this really the best justification the Council can offer for breaching its own core strategy, national policy on Green Belt, and guidance on development in the floodplain? The justification for this move appears to rely wholly on longer term projections about potential increases in traffic resulting from a growth in the city and county during the next 15 years. Such needs should be addressed through a strategic planning process.

We understand that the Council has to increasingly rely on the revenue it earns, and perhaps the real, unstated reason why this proposal has come forward is financial. But even this doesn’t make sense. The capital cost has now doubled from the original budget to £4.1m. Extra income from the extension, assuming rates increase from £2 to £3 a day, is projected at £160,000 a year according to the Executive Board papers. Even assuming this revenue is achievable the investment would take more than 26 years to pay back, and that is without discounting for the cost of capital. If, as we believe is likely, the site floods regularly, has to be closed part of the year, and faces significant maintenance costs, the payback period will be much longer.

This scheme is a nonsense and should not proceed.

Thames Regional Flood & Coastal Committee visit Oxford

The Thames Regional Flood & Coastal Committee (RFCC) met in Oxford yesterday. Following the meeting, members visited sites in Oxford related to OFAS. Members of our steering group were on hand to welcome them and, with staff from the Environment Agency, showed the visitors some of the problems which need to be surmounted to alleviate Oxford’s recurrent flooding.

Flooding which, unchecked, is likely to threaten further the proper functioning, and the reputation, of the city in the future if (as a consensus of scientists predicts) climate change makes extreme weather more common. OFAS offers the only practicable way towards reducing this all too real danger in time.

2 Oxford FAS meetings

IMG_6013cropfloodplain2008

Oxford floodplain in 2008, a little water in the fields

27 October 2014
Two meetings.
First: we are represented on the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme (Oxford FAS) (‘the Scheme’) Sponsorship Group – the committee backing these proposals. A few points:
•    There is a long, rigorous assessment procedure to be gone through; it’s up to timetable.
•    The economic case stacks up.
•    The Scheme cannot risk making things worse downstream: this is key and must be established.  [FWIW our view has long been that a successful scheme must keep water moving, getting it away earlier and not allowing it to build up enough to flood roads and buildings. But this will not send MORE water downstream, it doesn’t ‘generate new water’, it will only alter the time course. (Note that our flood plain will still flood, just not quite so deep.) That seems to make sense, but more rigorous evidence will rightly be required re any possible downstream effects.]
•    The Scheme will enhance the natural environment.
•    Public access will be better (cycle paths, footpaths).
•    Climate change projections, if they come to pass, would make things very much worse than now, making the Scheme in our view even more imperative.
•    The Scheme will have as an integral part measures (such as property-level protection) to help local areas/properties that are not ‘saved’ by the removal of existing pinch-points and the more efficient water flow in a redesigned watercourse. (NB that is not a guarantee that every property will be protected.)

Our support for the Scheme is now stronger than ever. But we know others have doubts or other ideas – if you want to discuss these please do come to our APM on November 13th (see below, 16 Oct). We will be there (of course!) and so will the EA.

Second: three of us met with Richard Harding of the EA Project Team for the Scheme. John Mastroddi (of OFA) presented the data from his own observations during the 2013/14 floods: these show that, as in the 1947 and other floods, that there is a 60cm difference in flood levels across the railway near Kennington. This is therefore the serious pinch-point and overcoming it is essential. John also presented his novel ideas about what might be done at Sandford-on-Thames as part of the Scheme: his ideas will now be considered during the assessment process.

Pinchpoints

3 January 2013

River levels are still about 1m above normal in the west Oxford floodplain. This emphasises the difficulty water has in getting away from our area. It  has to get under the main-line railway to reach the Thames. There are three bridges under the railway downstream of the Botley Road.

We have been campaigning about the furthest downstream, Munday’s bridge, a 60ft bridge at Kennington, for some years. We are eagerly awaiting the start of a Thames Water project to greatly improve the flow of water under the bridge. There have been delays, but we are optimistic that the work will go ahead reasonably soon. This should reduce flooding of property and the railway line.

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.

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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.