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‘The existing defences are inadequate to protect city’
THE main lesson to take from recent flooding is that Oxford’s defences remain “completely inadequate”, a campaigner has warned.
The message comes as an Oxford MP says he will ask questions in Parliament to find out what more can be done to protect the city.
Peter Rawcliffe, of Oxford Flood Alliance, said the most recent bout of flooding proved there was still much work to be done.
He said: “I think the main lesson is that the flood defences remain completely inadequate.
“More needs to be done. Properties have been protected this time but that’s only a very small part of the story.
“The city is still reduced to chaos and everybody suffers because of that.
“It is very serious for a modern city in the 21st century and damaging to Oxford’s reputation.
“The only scheme which is really on the table for Oxford is the Western Conveyance Channel [a £160m flood defence scheme to channel away floodwater from Oxford]. Our absolute main goal is to get funding for that.”
The Western Conveyance scheme was raised four years ago but has not got off the drawing board.
It would consist of a channel from the Seacourt Stream off Botley Road to the River Thames at Sandford Lock which would divert water away from Oxford to stop flooding across the city.
Originally costed at £160m, the Environment Agency is currently carrying out modelling on a smaller section near Sandford costing around £2.5m.
Andrew Smith, the MP for Oxford East, said he would be raising the scheme in the House of Commons.
He said: “I have put down some Parliamentary questions about the Western Conveyance, asking the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs where they are and whether it can be brought forward.
“I have also asked the Treasury whether they have done any work on the impact of the flooding on Oxford.”
As the flood water subsides and both Abingdon Road and Botley Road are reopened to traffic, council will discuss how they handled the floods.
Ian Hudspeth, leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “In any situation like this, there are always improvements that can be made, whether that’s about clearer lines of communication or something else.
“We will be having meetings over the next weeks looking at everything that happened and any areas that could be improved upon.
“Generally, I was proud of the work which was done and it is difficult to pinpoint anything which could have been done better now.”
City council leader Bob Price said: “There is always a review of the way in which a particular event has developed and been dealt with, so that will be a matter of standard practice. Having a discussion about the overall lessons will be very helpful.”
Among the issues likely to be discussed is the lifting of traffic restrictions limiting the High Street to buses and taxis during work hours.
Council leaders had released the restrictions after Botley Road closed, after some motorists criticised the council for not opening the road sooner.
The Environment Agency said work on the Western Conveyance scheme – originally intended to be completed this month – has been put on hold while it tackles the flooding in the South East.
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