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Flooding experts say no to housing on paper mill site
ENVIRONMENT experts are seeking to block a bid to build 190 homes on the site of Wolvercote’s former paper mill.
Oxford University wants to sell off the site for housing but first wants to get planning permission for 190 homes there.
But the Environment Agency (EA) has opposed the plans, claiming the university has failed to respond to concerns about existing and future flood risks.
A planning application has been submitted for the site, which would also include employment space, community facilities and public open space.
In a report to the city council, EA planning advisor Jack Moeran said: “Unfortunately we feel the flood risk assessment (FRA) does not adequately address flood risk to the development, future users of the site or third-party impacts.
“While we confirm that we do not object in principle to the proposed allocated development the points below need to be addressed.
“In the absence of an acceptable FRA we object to the grant of planning permission and recommend refusal on this basis.”
The assessment did not give a “suitable basis for assessment” of risk or prove it would be safe, he said.
He also said it did not consider flood emergency planning or confirm that the plans would not increase flood risk elsewhere.
Jean Fooks, an Oxfordshire County Council member for Wolvercote and Summertown, said: “This is very disappointing because they did a lot of consultation and seemed to be aware of the things they needed to do.
“This site does need to be developed, but it can’t be if it’s going to cause flooding.
“We have flooding problems already in the area, and quite clearly the Environment Agency, as the experts, are saying this won’t do and it’s not on.”
The mill was run by Oxford University Press from 1870 until 1998. In 2004 it was demolished and the university came up with a £40m plan for 200 staff homes on the 17-acre site. The plan was scaled back to cut costs and shelved in 2011.
University spokesman Matt Pickles said: “There have been extensive discussions with the Environment Agency, addressing the many complex, technical issues that inevitably arise when examining flood risk.”
He said a letter from the agency had been helpful in clarifying issues that require further discussion and added: “There will be a meeting with the Environment Agency in the coming weeks and we look forward to reaching full agreement prior to determination of the application.”
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