Oxfordshire's politicians urged to act now at summit or it's 20 years of flooding

The Oxford Times: County council deputy leader Rodney Rose at Seacourt Stream, near Botley Road    Picture: OX66060 Jon Lewis Buy this photo County council deputy leader Rodney Rose at Seacourt Stream, near Botley Road Picture: OX66060 Jon Lewis

OXFORDSHIRE’S political leaders are preparing to seize a once-in-a-generation chance to tackle some of the county’s flooding problems.

Tomorrow, Oxfordshire County Council will hold a flood summit with representatives from the Government, the Environment Agency, Thames Water and councils across the county.

It is hoped this summit will lead to the creation of the so-called Western Conveyance flood relief channel which would start in Botley and carry water downstream to Sandford-on-Thames. The county council plans to use the summit to get as much support for the scheme as possible and get an idea of what the bodies taking part could contribute.

Rodney Rose, the deputy leader of the county council, said this summit represents the best chance to get the £123m scheme approved – otherwise it risks two decades of inaction.

He said: “I need some ammunition to make sure that the Western Conveyance stays in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ six-year plan for flood alleviation projects and that its value is raised even higher in political circles.

“I want to say that Oxfordshire will join in funding some of this but request that national Government does some more. If we don’t do this now we probably won’t see it for 20 years.

“We want to make sure that economic impact is accounted for because the number of houses this would protect is not that great.

“My feeling is that it is not now or never.”

During the flooding this winter both Botley Road and Abingdon Road were closed and the city’s political leaders have estimated that this – combined with the impact on the railway line – caused millions of pounds of damage to Oxford’s economy.

Mr Rose said the flood relief channel, which would be roughly the width of the River Thames and carry floodwater around Oxford rather than through it, would be accompanied by prevention measures in Abingdon to make sure it wouldn’t increase the risk of flooding in the town downstream Matthew Barber, the leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “I have had some useful conversations with the EA leading up to this summit and I am sure these will go on for some time.”

Ann Ducker, leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “I am not against the Western Conveyance in principle but my concern is that they don’t do something which pushes the water down into our area.”

The Oxford Times:

  • Botley Road during the floods earlier this year

Bob Price, the leader of Oxford City Council, said: “The summit should be the first step towards the construction of the Western Conveyance but will only succeed in achieving this if the partners and stakeholders are willing to make clear commitments towards funding. Critically, it needs political support from the top to follow up their encouraging words in recent weeks. If the project fails to get through to funding approval this year, the next chance won’t come for a very long time and in that period we could see Oxfordshire homes and jobs hit by increasingly frequent flooding.”

With the flood relief scheme for Abingdon included the cost would rise to £125m.

Peter Rawcliffe, chairman of Oxford Flood Alliance, said: “Oxford has suffered increasingly frequent flooding in recent years, a problem which is only likely to increase in future. Action needs to be taken to rid Oxford of this threat once and for all.”

Following tomorrow’s summit, the EA said the deadline for funding bids to process for Defra is Monday.

All of these projects will then be considered and subject to final approval for submission to its national team in May.

The decisions on final allocations will not be made until December.

There is a further deadline at the end of April for the council to apply for flood funding from the Local Levy pot.

Environment Agency spokes-man Joe Giacomelli said: “It would be inappropriate for us to comment in advance on any agenda items until they have been fully discussed by those in attendance.”

The summit will be held tomorrow at County Hall in Oxford but it is not open to the public.
Representatives from the EA, Defra, the district councils and Thames Water will be present.
It will be taking place from 10am.

SCHEMES WHICH THE EA SAYS WILL BE PUT FORWARD THIS MONTH

  • The Western Conveyance
  • Abingdon Ock Flood Alleviation Scheme
  • St Helen’s Wharf, Abingdon, flood scheme
  • River Sturt, Abingdon, culvert replacement

Residents’ concern over new flooding insurance plan

HOMEOWNERS across Oxfordshire hit by flooding could benefit from a new scheme agreed by the Government and insurance companies.

Under the new Flood Re scheme, payouts for flood damage will come from a central pool of money and annual flood insurance premiums will be capped.

The Association of British Insurers has agreed to cap the premiums of households covered by the scheme, which would be funded by a £10.50 levy on all household customers and come into effect from the summer of 2015.

But yesterday concerns were raised that those who did not spend money to flood-proof their homes, but repeatedly claimed, could be excluded. Association of British Insurers spokesman Malcolm Tarling yesterday confirmed that such a condition was being considered.

Mr Tarling said: “It is an option that is on the table. Everything is being looked at.”

A Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs spokeswoman denied that it would be a factor after initially refusing to comment.

Comments (3)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

10:21am Thu 20 Mar 14

Gunslinger says...

It is important that this scheme only goes ahead with the safeguards for Abingdon.

A similar bypass scheme for Windsor some 15 years ago is widely held to have contributed to the recent severe flooding in Wargrave and Datchet.
It is important that this scheme only goes ahead with the safeguards for Abingdon. A similar bypass scheme for Windsor some 15 years ago is widely held to have contributed to the recent severe flooding in Wargrave and Datchet. Gunslinger
  • Score: 0

10:29am Thu 20 Mar 14

Cityview says...

Whilst the EA report claims that the Western relief channel would only add a few millimetres to downstream levels I can understand the concerns of Abingdon residents.

Abingdon is fortunate in that it already has its own historical flood relief channel, Swift ditch. This runs from above Abingdon lock to Culham Bridge and is the reputed original course of the Thames and certainly in the past the navigable channel from Oxford to London. It is however like the majority of our minor waterways clogged with fallen trees and in need of dredging. I am sure that if restored to its original width and depth it could take 20% of the Thames flow.

I have rowed on this stretch of the Thames for over 40 years. In the 1970s the flow coming from swift ditch in times of flood was really noticeable. Now its negligible.

The issue of fallen trees seems to be ignored by the EA. Since being cleaned and dredged a few years ago Hinksey stream / Bullstake stream now has at least four large fallen trees restricting its flow as have one of the new channels under Willow Walk. These improvements cost a couple of million, for the sake of a few tens of thousands they are already losing their effectiveness.

The Cherwell inside the Oxford ring road is even worse with over a dozen fallen trees in a one mile stretch. As the floods have receded you can see the quantity of debris caught in these trees, quickly becoming effective dams.

Fine, spend £120 million on the relief channel but get the chainsaws out and keep our existing waterways at full capacity for a fraction of the cost.
Whilst the EA report claims that the Western relief channel would only add a few millimetres to downstream levels I can understand the concerns of Abingdon residents. Abingdon is fortunate in that it already has its own historical flood relief channel, Swift ditch. This runs from above Abingdon lock to Culham Bridge and is the reputed original course of the Thames and certainly in the past the navigable channel from Oxford to London. It is however like the majority of our minor waterways clogged with fallen trees and in need of dredging. I am sure that if restored to its original width and depth it could take 20% of the Thames flow. I have rowed on this stretch of the Thames for over 40 years. In the 1970s the flow coming from swift ditch in times of flood was really noticeable. Now its negligible. The issue of fallen trees seems to be ignored by the EA. Since being cleaned and dredged a few years ago Hinksey stream / Bullstake stream now has at least four large fallen trees restricting its flow as have one of the new channels under Willow Walk. These improvements cost a couple of million, for the sake of a few tens of thousands they are already losing their effectiveness. The Cherwell inside the Oxford ring road is even worse with over a dozen fallen trees in a one mile stretch. As the floods have receded you can see the quantity of debris caught in these trees, quickly becoming effective dams. Fine, spend £120 million on the relief channel but get the chainsaws out and keep our existing waterways at full capacity for a fraction of the cost. Cityview
  • Score: 1

10:31am Thu 20 Mar 14

OutToPasture says...

Nice to see no provision for West Oxfordshire. The existing flood defence strategy in Oxford forces the water levels to back up along the Thames causing major flooding issues for areas like Bablock Hythe, Windrush Valley, Stanton Harcourt.

But as long as Oxford and Abingdon are safe, that's OK then?
Nice to see no provision for West Oxfordshire. The existing flood defence strategy in Oxford forces the water levels to back up along the Thames causing major flooding issues for areas like Bablock Hythe, Windrush Valley, Stanton Harcourt. But as long as Oxford and Abingdon are safe, that's OK then? OutToPasture
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

click2find

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree