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Bid is to be made to build £160m flood relief channel
A BID for funds for a £160m scheme to divert flood water away from the city could be made next month, officials have revealed.
Staff at the Environment Agency are currently carrying out modelling into whether parts of the Western Conveyance Channel – a plan to build a flood relief channel as wide as the River Thames to divert flood water – should go ahead.
The plan, which was raised four years ago but has not got off the drawing board, could help save the city from some of the worst effects witnessed this week.
Officials have a month to submit a plan in order to ask the Government for cash in time for the latest funding round.
There was travel chaos in and around the city after the closure of Botley Road in Oxford followed the shutdown of Abingdon Road earlier in the week.
Journeys into the city were hampered by crippling traffic jams, with some forced to abandon plans to go into work because of the severity of the queues.
Officials cannot say when the two roads will reopen, but there are fears it may not be until the end of the week.
Now a long-term plan to stop the city descending into chaos in the future is being looked at again.
Rodney Rose, deputy leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said it was vital to look at how to prevent the chaos caused by flooding in and around Oxford.
He said: “There are no other schemes that I am aware of that have been remotely looked at which could solve this problem once and for all. It is the only one which solves both the Botley Road and the Abingdon Road problems, if it works.
“It has been priced and some parts of it are now being modelled.
“Part of it at Sandford Lock [at Sandford-on-Thames] will be the one which has the most effect and that will cost in the region of £2.5m. We are fighting like hell to get what funding we can.”
The channel – which would run from the area around the Seacourt Park-and-Ride off Botley Road to the River Thames at Sandford Lock – would aim to divert water away from Oxford to stop it spreading across the city.
Although the Western Conveyance project went out to consultation three years ago, it has never progressed due to a lack of funding.
City council leader Bob Price said it would be the only way of definitively tackling the issue of flooding in parts of Oxford, but added: “It has a lower priority on the Environment Agency’s list than I would like because the number of houses it would protect from flooding is relatively small.
“But if you count the economic impact, then it is very significant.”
On Tuesday, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson visited Oxford and said the Government was investing more money into flood defences than any previous administration.
But Mr Price said the amount of investment locally had been small.
Peter Rawcliffe, of Oxford Flood Alliance, said: “The preliminary assessments show the part of the scheme at Sandford would significantly lower the water level on the western floodplain and that would be tremendous.
“It has to be looked at further but we need to get a move on and get bids in.”
Environment Agency spokesman Joe Giacomelli said: “The Western Conveyance Channel is on our list of priority flood defence projects, but this scheme requires multi-million-pound partnership funding investment in order to go ahead.
“Modelling of the project is under way but due to our ongoing response to flooding taking place across the South East, we cannot currently say when this will be completed.”
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