Flooding fears spark call for river to be cleaned out

Dr Lawrence Harr

Riverside Gardens during the July 2007 floods

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Contact me on 01865 425422

A WITNEY man fears the town could suffer a repeat of the devastating floods of July 2007 if silt is not cleared from the River Windrush.

Dr Lawrence Harr, of Woodford Mill, in Mill Street, says the Environment Agency is being short-sighted after it said there was no need to clear silt from the riverbed near Bridge Street for the time being.

More than 1,600 homes and businesses across West Oxfordshire were affected in 2007, with the swollen River Windrush rising over the bridge in Bridge Street.

Many nearby buildings were out of use for months while the damage was repaired.

The Environment Agency insisted that an inspection of the river through Witney at the end of last year found conditions on the riverbed had not changed and desilting was not required.

Dr Harr, 50, a director of trading risk management at UniCredit Bank in London, who has lived in Witney for 11 years, said: “This costs only £15,000 to get a machine.

“The previous work they have done has had a big impact. It was promised, and it is unbelievable and quite amazing that they are being so short-sighted.”

He has been in regular correspondence with Oxfordshire County Council and Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron’s office, warning that cutting out relatively limited expenditure on dredging could end up costing far more if properties in the town are flooded again.

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An Environment Agency spokesman said: “This desilting work has been done twice since 2007. At the end of 2011 the agency was asked to review if the river needed desilting.

“The results showed the conditions had not notably changed and therefore did not need silt to be removed at this time.

“The agency is currently undertaking annual maintenance on the River Windrush to remove debris, weed and other materials, to avoid blockages to flow in the river.”

Dr Harr added: “It is penny-wise and pound-foolish.

“The cost of fixing just my house is less than that for dredging.

“The river just needs to be maintained.”

County council spokesman Owen Morton said: “We are aware of concerns in relation to the amount of silt and have contacted the Environment Agency regarding this.

“However, we have yet to receive an indication of when work might be carried out.”

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