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.

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The need for more government funding

12 December 2012

We spent this morning meeting with representatives of the Environment Agency, the Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, County Council, Oxford City Council and others. We hosted a meeting with these partners in July, to discuss what can be done to help further reduce flood risk in the Oxford area, and today’s meeting was the follow-up.
The meeting was positive and forward-looking. But while all involved want to see progress, and variously have the skills, knowledge and dedication to achieve it, what is sorely lacking is sufficient central government funding.
Parts of the Oxford Flood Strategy, and several works proposed by ourselves, have been implemented already. These helped in the recent flooding. Getting more done is a long slow process.

We’ll do what we can to keeping flooding high on the political agenda.

An key meeting planned

10 July 2012

OFA is hosting a meeting with our partners, to develop proposals for further flood relief for Oxford

There have been significant changes in recent months in the way flood risk management is funded. Partners are being encouraged to work together to find cost effective solutions and to tackle all types of flood risk in a joined up way.  Oxford had been identified as a priority area for attention based on the potential number of homes at significant risk. OFA has learned that the Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (RFCC) is keen to promote flood risk management measures in areas such as Oxford and that funding to assist in the development of schemes is potentially available.
The Committee, which approves the programme of schemes in the Thames region, has invited proposals large or small where the cost-benefit analysis can be shown to be positive. The Committee is receptive to proposals from the lead local flood authority, which for Oxford is Oxfordshire County Council, to understand and address surface water risks and the relationship with river flooding. It is also interested in re-examining work undertaken as part of the Oxford Flood Risk Management Strategy to establish whether any of the works can be taken forward under the new funding regime.  Collaboration between local agencies and cost sharing are being encouraged under new government rules.
In response to this opportunity OFA has convened a meeting of the County, City and Vale Councils, the Environment Agency and Network Rail to discuss potential schemes which might be put forward. The meeting will take place on 27 July in South Hinksey.
A considerable amount of time and money went into modelling the aborted £100m Oxford Flood Risk Management Scheme. We believe elements of this scheme could be turned into fundable proposals. Also a number of measures suggested by OFA over the last few years could be taken up.
We have had a very positive response from the various local bodies to the idea of a meeting and are looking forward to working with them. We will keep you informed of the outcomes of the meeting.

Partnership funding

December 2011

New government funding system for flooding

Central government funding is now through a new scheme known as Flood and Coastal Resilience Partnership Funding and run by DEFRA via the Regional Flood and Coastal Committees (RFCCs). The old scheme resulted in ‘all or none’ funding, the new scheme in ‘all or part or none’ – the suggested advantages being to spread funding more widely, to encourage cost reduction and to allow top-ups to central funding from other sources. But see the report on our Annual Public Meeting for how we’re affected – very badly so far – and what we’re doing about it.

OFA Annual Public Meeting, 2011

Our fourth Annual Public Meeting was held on 16 November 2011

We were delighted to welcome, as last year, Andrew Smith MP, County and City Councillor Susanna Pressel and City Councillor Colin Cook. A representative attended on behalf of Nicola Blackwood MP. Apologies were received from County Councillor Rodney Rose and City Councillor Oscar Van Nooijen. Last, but by no means least, about 75 members of the public came, an excellent attendance more than four years after the last flood.

The meeting began with the award of the sole OFA Flood Star of 2011 to Paul Kirkley. Paul works as an engineer for Oxford City. His professional skills, commitment, and cooperative way of working have been instrumental in turning ideas into practical flood relief projects which will help many residents escape the miseries of flooding.

2011 APM Paul Kirkley, Flood Star
Nick Hills presents Paul Kirkley (left) with the OFA Flood Star award

A review of the year included:
Nick Hills on the several measures now in place to protect Earl and Duke Streets, including the completion this year of the road hump at the north end of Earl Street (to be supplemented by a barrier on top during a flood) and a new route for flood water down Lamarsh Road, through Kingerlee’s land to the open meadows to the south. Nick also described the new flood culverts under Willow Walk installed this summer by the Environment Agency and originally suggested by OFA.

Andy Webber told us about the survey which he undertook of Castle Mill Stream. Following this survey the Environment Agency has cleared trees and debris from the channel at the northern end. We now await clearance under badly silted-up railway bridges, removal of sunken boats and a review of the operation of various weirs and sluices.

Paul Kirkley spoke about a possible scheme to reduce risk for residents on the east side of Duke Street, which in the process would further reduce risk for the whole Duke and Earl Street area.

Brian Durham gave an account of the problems of getting flood insurance and how a ‘DIY’ community flood risk assessment might help.

John Mastroddi told the meeting about developments at Munday’s bridge in Kennington, crucial to the drainage of the whole western flood plain. We have been campaigning about this for over four years. It now seems very likely that major improvements will be made here by Thames Water in the spring of 2012.

Richard Thurston spoke about Osney Island. Thames Water has added telemetry to the West Street Pumping station – so if their surface water pump fails, their control centre will receive immediate notification. The City Council’s scheme for property level flood protection in Bridge Street, Doyley Road and South Street (for which the funding is in place) is welcome news and should reassure many Islanders; finally, Thames Water has provided costs for the extension to the surface water drainage scheme (‘sump and pipe’) to relieve South Street and Bridge Street, but there is no funding as yet.

David Macdonald, local resident and senior hydrogeologist with the British Geological Survey, has been studying groundwater in our area for some years. He told us of a project he is leading which, if it is funded, will see Oxford have the UK’s first groundwater warning scheme, available to residents via the internet. OFA is supporting the application for funding of the scheme.

Peter Rawcliffe outlined the new central government funding arrangements for flood-related works. We discovered about three months ago that the Environment Agency had not applied for any money for Oxford under this new scheme. This came as a bombshell: so to remedy this appalling situation we have submitted suggestions to the EA for them to assess (this entails computer modelling) and then to apply the funding formula which tells one how much funding would be available. Proposals that score highly enough will be put forward for consideration by DEFRA’s Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee. Proposals have to be in by the summer and the EA is working to that target. We hope to be able to let you know preliminary results soon.

2011 APM Andrew Smith MP

Andrew Smith, MP for Oxford East (above), kindly thanked OFA for their hard work and success, and offered his continuing support.