Flooding: Defences doing their job says Environment Secretary

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is shown the flood defences at Oxford’s Osney Island by Al Wells of the Environment Agency

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is shown the flood defences at Oxford’s Osney Island by Al Wells of the Environment Agency

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The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

THOUSANDS of Oxford homes might this week avoid flooding thanks to measures put in place, the Environment Secretary has told the Oxford Mail.

In an exclusive interview, Owen Paterson, below, said 4,300 properties around Osney Island could escape being flooded because of measures the Government has taken, such as temporary barriers put up in the city.

As floods continued to sweep across the country yesterday, the minister was under attack by critics who say flood defence budgets have been cut too far and will be cut again.

Fifteen flood warnings were yesterday in place in the county, with businesses on Oxford’s Abingdon Road saying they could lose thousands of pounds of income because the road is shut.

Some properties have also been damaged by flood water, while several roads have been shut and thousands of people have had to prepare for the worst.

Evening traffic on the city’s flooded Botley Road ground to a halt, with one-mile journeys from the city centre reportedly taking up to two hours at one stage.

The county council said last night it may have to close the road if river levels kept rising.

And the Environment Agency warned Oxfordshire residents to prepare for more flooding for the rest of the week, with water levels expected to peak today.

It said more unsettled weather over the next few days would see rain falling on already saturated ground, increasing the chance of flooding.

Along the River Thames, water levels yesterday remained high and continue to rise.

But Mr Paterson said things would have been worse without measures such as the Osney Island barriers.

“This is an absolutely brilliant scheme which could protect 4,300 properties,” he said.

“We have protected millions of properties around the country over Christmas and New Year and that’s why this Government is determined to spend more than any previous Government in this spending round on this issue.

“We intend to spend £2.3bn up until 2021. Local councils can come to us and get more projects over the barrier.”

The budget for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been cut by £500m since 2010 and officials there must find £300m in savings by 2016.

But Mr Paterson said Oxfordshire would not suffer as a result.

He visited the Environment Agency’s base in Bridge Street where he was shown Osney Lock and some of the defences around the island.

River levels are expected to rise “over the next couple of days”, the Environment Agency warned yesterday. Further heavy rain overnight was also forecast by the Met Office and again tonight.

David Bedlington, regional flood risk manager for the Environment Agency, said: "It is important to take extra care in deep or flowing water. Do not take risks if you are unsure of the depth of the water or of any hidden hazards.”

City council workers were continuing to pump the water in Bullstake Close, West Oxford, and constructed another flood barrier to prevent homes from flooding. In Abingdon, the mayor Sam Bowring said flooding was at levels she had never seen before – although officials say the flooding compares with that seen in 2012.

Ferry Hinksey Road, off Botley Road, was shut for a time due to serious flooding. Seacourt Park-and-Ride was also closed due to flooding and there were reports throughout the day of traffic delays.

Grandpont Nursery School and children's centre closed yesterday and is not expected to be open today.

A flood warning was issued last night for the River Thames in the Wolvercote area.

Due to flooding blocking the line between Swindon and Bristol Parkway, trains between Didcot Parkway and South Wales were subject to delays and cancellations yesterday. Buses in the city were also severely delayed because of the flooding, while some businesses in Witney reported flood damage.

The county council was urged by readers contacting the Mail yesterday to open the High Street to traffic, but the authority said it only did this when both Abingdon Road and Botley Road were closed.

Comments (2)

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9:20am Thu 9 Jan 14

Osney Island resident says...

The flood defences in West Oxford are inadequate, and partial and if this is the a cause for congratulations by the Home Secretary and the Environment agency we are all doomed . People are having to evacuate their homes along the Botley Road, two people have died in the Oxford area, including one at Osney Lock, the Botley Road and several surrounding roads are impassable. Outside the back gardens of West Street where I live, Osney Stream is a raging torrent and flood levels in our back gardens are rising and approaching 2007 levels. But this is not what the politicians see. Levels are predicted to rise higher. The strategy just seems to be to push the water around in an aquatic game of beggar thy neighbour. What's happening here is just a microcosm of the misery and danger suffered by many communities.
No doubt Mr Patterson will get back in his dry shiny state car, leaving the rest of us to deal with living in a paddy field, closed schools, inaccessible roads and shops drowning under the messy reality of flooding. Is this really the best the government can do? Looking out at my water filled back garden over a barricade of sandbags, it's more like the little boy sticking his finger in the dyke than an occasion for back slapping.
When will we have a proper flood strategy that deals with the dangers of flooding in a concerted, longterm joined up way?
From where I'm standing in my wellingtons its getting worse not better.
The flood defences in West Oxford are inadequate, and partial and if this is the a cause for congratulations by the Home Secretary and the Environment agency we are all doomed . People are having to evacuate their homes along the Botley Road, two people have died in the Oxford area, including one at Osney Lock, the Botley Road and several surrounding roads are impassable. Outside the back gardens of West Street where I live, Osney Stream is a raging torrent and flood levels in our back gardens are rising and approaching 2007 levels. But this is not what the politicians see. Levels are predicted to rise higher. The strategy just seems to be to push the water around in an aquatic game of beggar thy neighbour. What's happening here is just a microcosm of the misery and danger suffered by many communities. No doubt Mr Patterson will get back in his dry shiny state car, leaving the rest of us to deal with living in a paddy field, closed schools, inaccessible roads and shops drowning under the messy reality of flooding. Is this really the best the government can do? Looking out at my water filled back garden over a barricade of sandbags, it's more like the little boy sticking his finger in the dyke than an occasion for back slapping. When will we have a proper flood strategy that deals with the dangers of flooding in a concerted, longterm joined up way? From where I'm standing in my wellingtons its getting worse not better. Osney Island resident
  • Score: 1

8:04pm Mon 3 Feb 14

InsiderintheEA says...

Inside the Environment Agency have been exposing the failings of the Environment Agency for going on a year now: http://www.insidethe
environmentagency.co
.uk
Inside the Environment Agency have been exposing the failings of the Environment Agency for going on a year now: http://www.insidethe environmentagency.co .uk InsiderintheEA
  • Score: 0

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