PLANS for a flood culvert under the railway near South Hinksey were approved this afternoon.

Network Rail proposed the work as part of its scheme to raise the tracks where flooding has caused 11 closures over the past 14 years. 

Officials say the route is a "critical piece of national infrastructure" and each closure costs about £3m.

The firm, which is allowed to carry out work on its own land under national legislation, did not need permission from Oxford City Council to raise the tracks. 

However it needed permission to add the culvert – suggested to reduce the flooding impact of the track-raising on nearby homes – because it would partly be built on neighbouring land owned by Dairy Crest Ltd. 

The city council's west area planning committee met today and approved the scheme, with councillors rejecting an amendment by Councillor Mike Gotch to ask Network Rail to provide 19 affected homes with extra flood protection.

The homes, which are already at risk of flooding, were likely to suffer from an extra one to three centimetres of flooding because of the scheme overall, planning officers told the committee.

They added Network Rail's "fall back" position would be to go ahead without the culvert and so recommended approval, even though the worsening of flooding for some homes meant it was against local and national planning policies.

An official from Network Rail confirmed that without the culvert more than 90 extra properties in South Hinksey could be at risk of flooding, as well as an unconfirmed number in Kennington.

Its design has also been changed to fit with the planned Oxford Flood Relief Channel, which Councillor Colin Cook said would lessen the general risk of flooding by 2022.