ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners say they have devised a cheaper alternative to the £150m Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme being led by the Environment Agency.

The EA revealed last month that the cost of its OFAS scheme – one of the biggest flood projects in the country – had soared from £120m to £150m.

The ‘channel’ will be approximately 5km long and run through the existing floodplain from just north of Botley Road to south of the A423 southern bypass near Kennington, where it re-joins the River Thames.

Now, the Hinksey and Osney Environment Group – which opposes the scheme – has put forward an alternative which it claims would be much cheaper, costing about £100m.

READ AGAIN: Cost of Oxford flood scheme rises to £150m

The group’s spokesman Chris Sugden said: “Is the OFAS the best and only way to deal with the floods? We say it is not.”

Campaigners are proposing an alternative method devised by engineer Jonathan Madden, which involves running a pair of parallel two-metre underground pipes, from a pumping station at Seacourt, under Botley Road and then along the Hinksey Plain to the Old Abingdon Road.

The group is suggesting this alternative scheme to Environment Secretary Michael Gove in order to avoid the disruption it believes the flood alleviation scheme will create.

Mr Sugden said the current EA proposals would cause ‘irreparable damage to the local area’ including congestion on Botley Road and on the A34, with 100,000 vehicle movements expected over a three-year period.

He added: “Everyone wants a viable flood alleviation scheme for Oxford but the OFAS plan is not it.

The Oxford Times:

“The three-year building works will devastate the trade of Oxford’s minor and major hotels, restaurants, tour organisers, Westgate Centre shops and major businesses that depend on bus and other vehicular access and put them at risk of closure.

“It will irrevocably damage the local environment, which will not recover for a century.”

Mr Sugden is chairman of the Ferry Hinksey Charitable Trust, which owns a 10-acre field near Oxford Rugby Club.

He said part of the field was now subject to a compulsory purchase order relating to the flood scheme, which the trust was contesting.

Initially the group considered Port Meadow as a possible location for the pumping station but then switched to land north of Seacourt park-and-ride.

Campaigners say one of the advantages of their scheme is that buried pipes would leave the landscape ‘more or less unchanged from its original state’.

They added that the cost of the project could be ‘compensated’ by the construction of a smaller pipeline from the pumping station to Farmoor Reservoir.

The group’s objections to the flood alleviation scheme have been forwarded to county planners.

The Oxford Times:

Oxford Flood Alliance member Peter Rawcliffe said the campaigners had not yet provided sufficient details about their proposals.

He added: “One engineer cannot do it - you need a team of people with great expertise, using computer modelling - I doubt whether they have had the time or the money to do that.”

The planning application for the flood ‘channel’ was submitted to Oxfordshire County Council last year and public consultation concluded on Tuesday.

Construction is due to start in 2019 and is expected to take three to four years but a date for the planning application to be considered has not yet been set.

Environment Agency spokesman Katie Gumbrell said: “We’ve held two public consultations about the design and route for the (OFAS) scheme, and met with the Hinksey and Osney Environment Group last year to discuss their concerns but we have never had this (pipelines) proposal put to us before.

“If the group feel this is a valid option we are happy to discuss this with them.”

The EA added that it was continuing to work hard ‘to avoid, minimise or mitigate environmental impacts’.

She said: “Where possible we have made changes during the design process. During construction we will be looking for opportunities to further reduce our impact and increase benefits.

“We will ensure there is an overall gain for plants and animals once construction is complete by creating new and improved areas for wildlife.

“The scheme will help to safeguard the Green Belt in this area as it will need to remain as a functioning flood alleviation scheme for at least the next 100 years. This will help to maintain and preserve the openness of this part of the Green Belt.”