OXFORD city and Oxfordshire county councils have made formal objections to plans for the biggest ever project to stop flooding in the city.

The authorities, along with the Midcounties Co-op, have objected to the Environment Agency's plan to compulsorily buy their land for the £150 Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme.

They are among a host of landowners along the proposed route of the 5km channel from Botley Road to Kennington now fighting the Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs).

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Both councils support the flood scheme but have made 'technical' objections to the way the EA is trying to use government powers to buy their land.

Other statutory objections to the CPOs, which will have to be dealt with at a public inquiry, come from Network Rail, Oxford Preservation Trust and University College.

The Oxford Times:

The county council’s letter of objection warned there were a large number of plots ‘which contain land whose highway status and/or ownership are uncertain at this stage and will need to be ascertained’. Redbridge recycling centre is highlighted as one of the locations where the EA has identified land that could be required.

County spokesman Martin Crabtree said the local authority hoped the ‘holding objection’ could be dealt with before the public inquiry got under way.

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He said: “We are working with the Environment Agency to ensure that the scheme will be built in a way that minimises congestion and ensures the safety of road users.

“The objection submitted by the county council to the Compulsory Purchase Order is a holding objection. It allows discussion so that the matters raised in the objection can be resolved. The council believes this can be achieved and we are working to reach an agreement with the hope that the objection can be withdrawn.

The Oxford Times:

“The council remains supportive of the scheme and the benefits it will provide to the residents and businesses in the area."

The Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme is designed to reduce the risk of a major flood, the size of which Oxford has not experienced since 1947.

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The county council said it was confident the scheme would 'keep transport networks moving and Oxford open for business, benefitting everyone that lives, works in and visits, and help the city’s economy thrive'.

Mr Crabtree also said the scheme would benefit communities and wildlife by improving existing public footpaths and creating new natural habitat.

The Oxford Times:

Oxford Flood Alliance member Dr Peter Rawcliffe, whose group has long supported the scheme in principle, said he hoped the statutory objections would not cause unnecessary delay.

Environment Agency spokesman Joe Giacomelli said: “We have received 18 statutory objections to the CPO.

“Our partners are fully committed to the delivery of the scheme. Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford City Council and Co-op have placed technical holding objections to the CPO.

“We use a ‘technical holding’ mechanism until agreements on the terms and conditions for land transfer are satisfactorily agreed between parties. Currently we are still negotiating the terms and conditions for land transfers.”

In January the Hinksey and Osney Environment Group – which opposes the Environment Agency scheme outright – put forward an alternative project which it claims would be much cheaper, costing about £100m.

The Oxford Times:

Construction work on the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme was originally due to start this year, taking three to four years to complete.

But a public inquiry - largely about compulsory purchase orders - will hold up the schedule after the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs intervened to confirm it would be staging one.

Earlier this year it said construction work would not be able to start until 2020 at the earliest.

READ AGAIN: Oxford one of the worst areas for flooding in the UK

The EA said earlier CPO letters have been sent out to ‘landowners and anyone else who may have an interest in land that is impacted by the scheme on a permanent or temporary basis’. In total there are 790 different land plots involved.

The city council’s objection relates to four parcels of land, including land at Redbridge park-and-ride, land east of Abingdon Road, Seacourt nature reserve and land north of Botley Road.

The council’s legal team told the EA it was concerned about the possibility of ‘inert landfill’ being disturbed, causing contamination leaks and wanted to be ‘indemnified in perpetuity for any leakage that is attributable to the current proposed works’.

The Oxford Times:

City council spokesman Mish Tullar said: “Much like the county, we are also strongly supportive of the OFAS scheme and working to ensure it proceeds. Reducing flood risk is essential for Oxford.

“Agreement needs to be reached on where future liability/responsibility for controlling the waste contained in the landfill sites sits. The waste is generally considered low risk

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“We have placed a technical holding objection to the CPO. We do not object to the sites being compulsorily purchased.

“This ‘technical holding’ mechanism is used by landowners until agreement on the terms and conditions for land transfer are satisfactorily agreed between both parties. The council and the Environment Agency are working to agree the terms and conditions so that the objection can be withdrawn before the inquiry takes place.”

The Co-op’s objection said it was not convinced that its land, including land around Seacourt Stream, and part of Seacourt park-and-ride, ‘was necessary for the OFAS scheme’.