Flood groups calling for better plans to tackle flooding across Oxfordshire

Port meadowFlood groups in the county are calling for more sustainable plans to be put into place across Oxfordshire and the Thames valley.

The Sustainable Flood Plan Group (SFPG) for Oxford and the upper Thames valley has raised concerns that, without a comprehensive plan to tackle climate change, Oxfordshire may be the next county to be overwhelmed by flood water.

Convenor of SFPG and Green Party Oxford City Council candidate for Carfax Dr Kate Prendergast said: "In the last year or so, we have heard politicians extoll the benefits of the proposed western conveyance channel (flood alleviation scheme) in protecting the residents of Oxford from future flooding events.

"Yet, this hugely costly scheme is unlikely to be implemented unless local landowners take on the unknown and ongoing expenses of its maintenance."

Dr Prendergast continued to say that the root causes of extreme flooding - climate change and agricultural and urban development - needed to be addressed in order to tackle the flooding.

Chartered water engineer and Green Party Councillor Holywell Dr David Thomas said: "In an environment where devastating flood events are becoming more frequent, it is still not clear what the current spending commitments for flood protection in Oxford actually are.

"We are no nearer to funding our long-term needs for flood protection in Oxford and beyond.

Read more here.

Can the misguided Oxford relief channel still be halted?

MILLIONS of pounds is needed in the coming weeks to save a flood prevention scheme after a red warning was placed on the £120m project, reports the Oxford Mail on 29.09.17.

Almost £10m has been spent so far on the proposed channel aimed at protecting more than 1,200 homes from flooding in West Oxford but the Environment Agency said it could be derailed if more than £4 million in not found by November.

Over £115m has already been raised from a variety of sources, including businesses and the Government, with those behind the project saying the total cost could be reduced by once money set aside for 'risk and uncertainty' was taken off.

In February this year, EA announced it had identified sources for all £121m and ground work and archaeological studies have since got under way.

But Oxfordshire Growth Board chairman Bob Price said he believed 'one or two' contributors had since changed their minds.

He said: "I know there are one or two contributors who have said 'definitely no' and they have been taken off the list.

"The Environment Agency are currently looking for additional private sector funding."

Flood channel construction could lead to huge HGV increase on A34

LORRIES carrying thousands of tonnes of soil could increase congestion on the A34 for three years during the construction of a £120m flood channel, council transport bosses have warned, reports the Oxford Mail on 03 August 2017.

Environment Agency (EA) officials are working on a solution but admitted excavated material for the four-mile channel – from Seacourt Park and Ride to Sandford Lock – would be removed using the A34.

But Oxfordshire County Council transport bosses said a 'comprehensive' mitigation strategy was needed as the project was taking place on a 'very busy and constrained' part of the city's road network.

The three-year project, which could begin in 2018, would see 400,000m3 of soil, gravel, sand, clay and silt excavated and transported away.

Dr Kate Prendergast, from the Sustainable Flood Plan Group, said the channel was a 'done deal' but cheaper, less disruptive options should have been explored.

She said: "The last thing we want is more traffic coming off the A34.

"I'm sure there are cheaper and less disruptive solutions than the flood channel – I'm concerned what the real drivers of the channel are.


"We are digging up historic flood plain, land with habitats we should be preserving.

"I'm not sure where the channel fits in with the plans to build thousands more homes in Oxford, we certainly need to start thinking about more environmentally-friendly answers."

Oxford Preservation Trust, which owns 25 per cent of the land used for the channel, said it remained 'unconvinced' the benefit of the scheme would outweigh the harm to Oxford's green setting.

Director Debbie Dance said: "There remain a number of unanswered questions on how it will work technically and the extent to which any improvements to the flooding situation can be achieved.

"We cannot see any references to plans showing how public access might be improved or any details as to how environmental improvements to land between North Hinksey and South Hinksey would be incorporated into the scheme."

Oxfordshire farmers criticise proposal by Government committee to flood fields

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee chairman Neil Parish is arguing for a flood policy would aim to protect towns and cities like Oxford by holding floodwater in fields.

At a meeting to review flood resilience with the Environment Agency, Mr Parish said farmers would be compensated for their loss.

But Oxfordshire farmers said the damage would be so great it would make their fields worthless.

Read more here.

UK flooding: How a Yorkshire town worked with nature to stay dry

While the sodden, submerged North of Britain was, literally, wringing out the old year last week, one notorious Yorkshire flood blackspot was celebrating staying dry – despite having been refused a multimillion pound defence scheme. 

Pickering, North Yorkshire, pulled off protection by embracing the very opposite of what passes for conventional wisdom. On its citizens’ own initiative, it ended repeated inundation by working with nature, not against it.

Locals got together with top academics from Oxford, Newcastle and Durham Universities to examine all options. Much the best plan turned out indeed to be to try to recreate past conditions by slowing the flow of water from the hills. Impressed by the intellectual endorsement, official bodies like the local councils, the Environment Agency, the Forestry Commission and even the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, joined in.

They built 167 leaky dams of logs and branches – which let normal flows through but restrict and slow down high ones – in the becks above the town; added 187 lesser obstructions, made of bales of heather and fulfilling the same purpose, in smaller drains and gullies; and planted 29 hectares of woodland. And, after much bureaucratic tangling, they built a bund, to store up to 120,000 cubic metres of floodwater, releasing it slowly through a culvert. 

After 24 hours of rain, just three months after it was inaugurated, Mr Potter climbed up to the scheme and found it working well. Then he went home, “switched on the TV, and saw the all the floodwaters elsewhere”. He adds: “While there was devastation all over northern England, our newly completed defences worked a treat and our community got on with life as normal.” The total cost, he says, was around £2m, a 10th that of the original wall which, he believes, would not have coped with the Boxing Day conditions anyway.

Read more.

This flood was not only foretold – it was publicly subsidised

George Monbiot is arguing in the Guardian this latest bout of flooding is all too predictable - and all-too obviously caused by our management of land:

These floods were not just predictable; they were predicted. There were clear and specific warnings that the management of land upstream of the towns now featuring in the news would lead to disaster. On 9 December [2015] one of my readers told me this. “I live in the middle of Foss drainage board land above York, where flooding would not harm a single property but water is sent down as fast as possible to York.” A few days later another reader wrote to me, warning that “upstream flood banks now protect crops, not the city of York”. On 26 December the Foss exploded into York.

Read more here.