Seacourt: an Important Habitat

Thanks to the Oxfordshire Badger Group for this video, showing the importance of this habitat and what has recently been done to it by Oxford City Council – it is shocking and utterly wrong.

See more on the officially designated wildlife status of the site.

Expensive

An article in today’s online Oxford Mail – £400,000 has already been spent in consultancy fees and other expenses on this unnecessary plan. If it goes ahead the present budget is over £4 million, a lot of public money to no good purpose.

http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/15705321.Revealed__more_than___400_000_spent_on_building_Seacourt_expansion_case/#comments-anchor

Car park usage today, 3 December

There were plenty of empty spaces in both city centre car parks and park and rides.

Click table to enlarge.

 

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

OFA objections to revised Seacourt P&R FRA

We have submitted our comments on the revised Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) submitted by the Applicant, Oxford City Council, as part of its application to extend Seacourt Park and Ride into the floodplain north of the Botley Road, Oxford. It seems that this is being proposed as a panic response to a perceived lack of parking for the new city-centre Westgate development – that development has been known about for years and this application is evidence of a failure to plan properly for it.

We are opposed to this application on flood risk grounds and do not believe that the FRA gives a proper assessment of the risks.

The application is contrary to national planning advice and if allowed would set a most serious precedent nationally. Despite being asked, the Applicant has failed to supply a single example of where a similar development has been allowed,  in Flood Zone 3(b) – the floodplain proper, elsewhere.

There are risks of both groundwater and river (fluvial) flooding of this particularly low-lying site. We are not satisfied that the development, in the floodplain, would not increase risk elsewhere. It would put vehicles, and more importantly people, at risk during flood events: in a very big flood the water could be 2 metres deep and flowing fast. Washed away cars could block the nearby river (whether this is the existing channel or the proposed Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme channel) and bridge, preventing water getting away from the Botley Road area and making flooding there worse.

The car park is likely to be particularly expensive to build as the ground is inherently unstable and will almost certainly need special ‘lime stabilisation’.

It would be unusable during floods and require protracted pumping out and clean up afterwards – expensive in itself and losing revenue while the car park was closed.

It’s our view that the need for for this extension has not  been demonstrated, nor the economic case made. It could easily prove a costly white elephant, an embarrassment to the Council, an extra expense on a already strained public purse, and a risk to public safety.

Oxford is subject to regular and damaging flooding – its floodplain should never be a place for a car park. For its own City Council to be proposing such a thing is hard to understand. When this was first proposed the same Council was simultaneously proposing to remove a large number of spaces at Redbridge P&R a mere 3 miles away – whether that is still the case we do not know but it does rather suggest a lack of co-ordinated planning.

We hope Oxford City councillors will see that this idea is a disaster in the making and show their good sense in abandoning it.

The many objections to the proposal can be seen on the Oxford City Council planning website (search for Seacourt) https://www.oxford.gov.uk/info/20066/planning_applications/328/view_and_comment_on_planning_applications

Our own recent objection is also here as a pdf.

“Flood Update” update – Seacourt P&R

We have ‘A letter from the Oxford Flood Alliance (OFA)’ in the Autumn 2017 Oxford City ‘Flood Update’ which you may have received. In case you wondered why there was no comment by us on the planning application to extend Seacourt Park and Ride, we did include such comment in our letter but it was not published. It read as follows:

Seacourt Park & Ride

We have opposed the application by Oxford City Council to extend this P&R into the flood plain. The present application does not, in our view, show that flood risk will not be increased. We believe that a revised application will be advertised in the not too distant future and we will scrutinise this with care.

Revisions to the application have since appeared. You can find the application by going to https://www.oxford.gov.uk/info/20066/planning_applications/328/view_and_comment_on_planning_applications and searching for Seacourt. Ref. No. is 16/02745/CT3. The closing date for comments is 4 October 2017.

We are consulting with Oxford MPs Anneliese Dodds and Layla Moran on this. We believe that if this is allowed to go ahead in the functional floodplain, and being (we believe) contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), it would set a most dangerous national precedent.

Our comments on Oxford Local Plan 2036

Oxford Local Plan 2036
“Oxford City Council is producing a new Local Plan for Oxford. The Local Plan is important because it will shape how Oxford develops.” (from the ‘Preferred Options’ document for the Plan, Oxford City Council). The Council called for comments and we wrote recently as follows:

We wish to submit the following comments in relation to the proposed Oxford Local Plan 2036. Our comments all relate to flood risk.

Overall we are satisfied that the City Council has adopted an appropriate strategic approach to development and flood risk in the city, with new development targeted towards areas least at risk from flooding. We welcome the recognition in the document that flooding is a significant risk for the city and that this needs to be managed.
 
On the specific sections relating to flooding in the Preferred Option, we would like to see reference to the need to actively maintain watercourses in the city so that they function freely during times of flooding. We’re surprised that the SFRA Decembrer 2016 makes no mention of the need for clearing of trash gates, and the removal of vegetation and fallen trees from streams and ditches. Riparian owners in the city need to be encouraged to maintain water courses.
 
On Option 38A we would prefer to see adoption of a policy which states that there will be no development of previously undeveloped land in flood zone 3b. As the SFRA notes, this is the position in the current Core Strategy and we see no argument for weakening this.The new plan does not designate greenfield sites in zone 3b for development.
We recognise that water compatible structures and essential infrastructure may, in exceptional circumstance, be permitted in zone 3b under the NPPF. But the Council’s recent attempts to argue that an extension to the Seacourt Park & Ride constituted ‘essential infrastructure’ caused the Oxford Flood Alliance considerable concern. While references to NPPF in the Council’s proposed Local Plan may appear to provide safeguards to the public, these are significantly weakened if the Council intends to ‘interpret’ NPPF along the lines argued for the P&R extension or similar. We believe the plan document needs to provide clarity on this.

 If Preferred Option 38A is adopted as proposed we wish to state for the record that we interpret this to mean that NPPF will be strictly applied. It is clear in Table 2 and 3 in this Guidance Note what ‘Water Compatible’ and ‘Essential Infrastructure’ mean. We are therefore interpreting the Council’s policy to mean what the NPPF guidance says it means. This does not include car parks.

In Option 56A we would like to see a reference to riparian owners responsibility to maintain water courses. Simply treating them as a design feature isn’t sufficient.

 

OFA Steering Group

Seacourt P&R extension proposal: potential risk to life

Liz Sawyer, who recently joined the OFA Steering Group, addressed Oxford City’s Full Council on 6 February 2017, about the potential risk to life posed by the proposed extension to Seacourt P&R.

There is also, as the photograph above shows so vividly, the potential for damage to the car park itself – and of course to vehicles. The Automobile Association’s ‘Flood Facts’ quoted in Liz’s address set out the risks of floodwaters very clearly.

Liz’s address can be downloaded here (pdf).