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.

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.

Experts question need for £123m flood relief channel

100_1086GREEN campaigners have hit out at plans for a £123m flood relief channel for Oxford and claimed upgrading and maintaining waterways could be more effective.

The Sustainable Flood Plan Group (SFPG) said the proposed Oxford Relief River – also called the Western Conveyance Channel – was not yet supported by enough evidence and would be too costly.

The group, made up of climatologists, water engineers, academics and conservationists from Oxfordshire, accused officials from the Environment Agency and leaders at Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council of pressing ahead with the plans “as if it is a done deal”.

Read more.

Also see the Oxford Mail editorial Exploring all options is the only way to stem the tide.

Given past events, it is no wonder that a grand scheme such as the Western Conveyance flood relief channel has captured people’s imagination.

But the Sustainable Flood Plan Group is right in slowing the tide rushing towards this scheme.

Other options need to be considered and a full study carried out to see what is the best use of taxpayers’ money.

SFP Briefing (1) - Proposed Conveyance Channel for West Oxford

Swan_cherwellThis briefing summarises the current state of play regarding the proposed flood relief channel for western Oxford, which the Environment Agency, backed by Oxford Strategic Partnership, argue is the optimal solution for protecting up to 2500 homes and businesses, and the Botley and Abingdon roads from flooding.  A series of recommendations are made, aimed at local and national government policy objectives governing flood defence improvements, including adaptation and mitigation priorities, the need to assess all available options objectively and independently and considerations of Oxford’s needs for long term flood protection in the context of sustainable development.   Download SFP Briefing (pdf)