Public to scrutinise plan to reduce risk of floods

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First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

PEOPLE will be able to have their say on Oxfordshire County Council’s plans to reduce the risk of flooding after its draft strategy was approved yesterday.

The county council has new powers on flooding issues which means it has to put together the strategy by October. A public consultation is now set to start.

It means that developers wanting to build 10 homes or more will have to submit sustainable drainage plans, which must be approved before work can begin.

The draft strategy was approved at yesterday’s meeting of the county council’s cabinet, but concerns were expressed about whether Thames Water was on board with the scheme.

During January’s floods Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood called for pressure to be put on water companies as residents faced foul water flooding because of sewers being unable to cope.

The strategy includes:

  • Encourage sustainable drainage systems (SUDS) to reduce the potential downstream impact of new and existing developments for surface water.
  •  Encourage self-help and understanding of flooding issues among people who own land which meets a stream or river, particularly knowledge of the law.
  • Use information from past flood events when working with other organisations to decide on which schemes should be built and how money is best spent on flood alleviation schemes.

At yesterday’s meeting county councillor John Sanders, the shadow cabinet member for the environment, said: “I am concerned about Thames Water. As one of the contributors to this system what assurances does the council have that it will co-operate?”

Under the new system, the county council has become the lead local flooding authority while district councils and the Environment Agency have a duty to “act consistently” with the strategy. Water companies, which are private bodies, must only “have regard” to it.

Rodney Rose, the deputy leader of the county council, said: “We don’t have any powers over Thames Water I am afraid, but we are getting into much greater discussion with them and they are showing more interest in helping us.”

Mark Kemp, the council’s deputy director for environment and economy, said the strategy has been put together with Thames Water and the Environment Agency.

As part of its strategy, the council is proposing to encourage sustainable drainage systems, such as ponds and swales, to reduce a development’s impact on flooding.

District councils can grant the planning permission, even if the development does not comply with the county council’s strategy.

However, developers cannot physically enact that permission until the county council has given its approval to the drainage proposals.

The council is also hoping to encourage parish councils to put together flood strategies.

The Oxford Mail contacted Thames Water, but it had not responded at the time of going to press.

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