FLOODING: No promise from Pickles on relief channel for Oxford

Oxford Mail: Eric Pickles, right, surveys the floods behind Bullstake Close, off Botley Road, with Oxfordshire County Council chairman Ian Hudspeth Eric Pickles, right, surveys the floods behind Bullstake Close, off Botley Road, with Oxfordshire County Council chairman Ian Hudspeth

ONE of the Government’s most senior cabinet ministers has made no promises of extra cash after visiting flood-hit Oxford yesterday.

While Prime Minister David Cameron vowed at a press conference yesterday that “if money needs to be spent it will be spent”, the Communities and Local Government minister Eric Pickles was less forthcoming.

As he surveyed anti-flood measures off Botley Road, he pledged to look at what could be done after a summit next month on long-term plans to tackle flooding – but offered nothing up front.

When asked by the Oxford Mail whether more money was on the way, he refused to give a clear commitment, but said: “We’ve got to look to the future in terms of looking at other schemes to answer this.”

The minister made no pledges committing the Government to fund a £123m flood relief channel, called the Western Conveyance as he visited on a day when the county was poised to deal with more bad weather this week.

This came despite the Prime Minister calling for talks to be held on the scheme – and after Mr Cameron yesterday said money was no object in tackling the national flooding crisis.

Mr Pickles met flood-affected residents on Bullstake Close, off Botley Road, and was told by one resident to take action as soon as possible.

But although he offered no guarantees of help, he did praise the work being done on the city route – and said it should be used nationally to tackle floods.

The Conservative MP said: “In fairness to the authorities here, these are pretty exceptional weather conditions and I have got nothing but praise for the fire service and the councils for the way they have worked together.

“I have been briefed about the Western Conveyance by the Environment Agency and there is a flood summit taking place next month, so we will look to see what comes out of that.

“I have been very impressed in terms of keeping Botley Road open and the firefighters are using a very unusual method of using high-pressure hoses to keep the water at bay and I think it may well have other applications elsewhere.

“I would say to residents that it is dreadful being flooded and I know from my own patch [Brentwood and Ongar] what it is like to deal with.”

He said the city’s way of keeping the floods at bay was so unique he was considering rolling it out across the country and referred to it as the “Oxford Method”.

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has set up makeshift barriers at three locations along Botley Road – at Bridge Street, Bullstake Close and McDonald’s – which are made of three hoses full of water, weighing around a tonne each, piled on top of each other.

So far this has managed to keep Botley Road open.

But Bob Price, the leader of Oxford City Council, said the only long-term solution would be to create the flood relief channel around the city to the west. He said: “The Western Conveyance is the only scheme which will reduce to risk of flooding to one in every 75 years, according to Environment Agency calculations.

“They are very confident it will be successful and it will make flooding a thing of the past.”

While visiting Bullstake Close, Mr Pickles met Jalal Khan, 49, who has lived there for around 14 years.

Mr Khan said: “Since I moved here in 2000 it has flooded three times and it is very stressful.

“I told Mr Pickles that we need some sort of permanent barrier against this because we need this matter solved as soon as possible.”

Another Bullstake Close resident, 67-year-old Clive Soames, said: “In 2007 we had no chance, but this time the guys have been absolutely fantastic. They cannot do enough for you. “I told Mr Pickles they are doing a fantastic job.”

Mr Pickles also visited the incident command unit in the Toys ‘R’ Us car park along Botley Road, from where the efforts to prevent flooding in the area are being coordinated.

Comments (6)

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10:07am Wed 12 Feb 14

Oxonian says...

So much for David Cameron's promise that money is no object in the way of flood-prevention schemes.
Just more hypocrisy and not much action from the Government.
So much for David Cameron's promise that money is no object in the way of flood-prevention schemes. Just more hypocrisy and not much action from the Government. Oxonian

11:56am Wed 12 Feb 14

mytaxes says...

For goodness sake give them a bit of time.
For goodness sake give them a bit of time. mytaxes

12:07pm Wed 12 Feb 14

gel says...

Why are they so reluctant to grab aid from bloated/wasteful Foreign Aid/Junkets budget to use in flooded English areas?

Camerloon's statement yesterday of funds for flooding not being capped would undoubtedly have not come out of Foreign aid, but from UK taxpayers, by way of more cuts in services & possible stealth tax hikes, so flood victims suffer again.
The UK are the most generous in world when it comes to foreign disasters, as witnessed in Philippines crisis where we contributed more than the USA.

However, such contributions should be ours to make, and not be taken from our tax. All Political leaders here seem intent on outbidding each other to give our money away, as did Blair & Brown in past whenever they went on a foreign junket.
Why are they so reluctant to grab aid from bloated/wasteful Foreign Aid/Junkets budget to use in flooded English areas? Camerloon's statement yesterday of funds for flooding not being capped would undoubtedly have not come out of Foreign aid, but from UK taxpayers, by way of more cuts in services & possible stealth tax hikes, so flood victims suffer again. The UK are the most generous in world when it comes to foreign disasters, as witnessed in Philippines crisis where we contributed more than the USA. However, such contributions should be ours to make, and not be taken from our tax. All Political leaders here seem intent on outbidding each other to give our money away, as did Blair & Brown in past whenever they went on a foreign junket. gel

1:44pm Wed 12 Feb 14

Sophia says...

A relief channel would simply ensure Abingdon Reading etc flood more quickly, more seriously.

It is a daft idea

So I am amazed PIckles hasnt approved it
A relief channel would simply ensure Abingdon Reading etc flood more quickly, more seriously. It is a daft idea So I am amazed PIckles hasnt approved it Sophia

2:06pm Wed 12 Feb 14

Oxonian says...

mytaxes wrote:
For goodness sake give them a bit of time.
The Government has had since before Christmas, when there were the floods in Norfolk - or even longer than that, since the signs of the climate changing have been evident for a long time.

I'll gladly give them a bit of time - ten years in Pentonville!
[quote][p][bold]mytaxes[/bold] wrote: For goodness sake give them a bit of time.[/p][/quote]The Government has had since before Christmas, when there were the floods in Norfolk - or even longer than that, since the signs of the climate changing have been evident for a long time. I'll gladly give them a bit of time - ten years in Pentonville! Oxonian

3:44pm Wed 12 Feb 14

Cityview says...

The proposed western relief channel is costed at £123 million and there are still questions about its possible effectiveness and value for money in protecting property. All it will do is possibly move more water downstream faster towards the narrow exit from the Oxford basin at Kennington / Sandford. Best science seems to be to slow and hold water flow on flood plain so it can be discharged slower.

This is what has happened on a small scale behind the portable barriers being used by fire and rescue at the low points on Botley Road, Ferry Hinksey Rd etc. For example Oatlands Road rec is now flooded a few inches deeper but the substation in Ferry Hinksey Road has not been flooded and Osney Mead has remained open. In terms of protecting local properties, power supplies and keeping Oxford open for business these temporary barriers have been incredibly cost effective.

Surely a cheaper solution is to make these temporary barriers permanent. Replace the inflated hoses and sandbags with low waterproofed block walls along existing fence / hedge lines. Put in a couple of underground sumps and electric pumps under the road and you should be able to do the job for less than a £million. My understanding is that similar underground pumps in the dip under the Botley railway bridge have kept it dry for years.

Such a scheme could easily be in place before next winters floods.
The proposed western relief channel is costed at £123 million and there are still questions about its possible effectiveness and value for money in protecting property. All it will do is possibly move more water downstream faster towards the narrow exit from the Oxford basin at Kennington / Sandford. Best science seems to be to slow and hold water flow on flood plain so it can be discharged slower. This is what has happened on a small scale behind the portable barriers being used by fire and rescue at the low points on Botley Road, Ferry Hinksey Rd etc. For example Oatlands Road rec is now flooded a few inches deeper but the substation in Ferry Hinksey Road has not been flooded and Osney Mead has remained open. In terms of protecting local properties, power supplies and keeping Oxford open for business these temporary barriers have been incredibly cost effective. Surely a cheaper solution is to make these temporary barriers permanent. Replace the inflated hoses and sandbags with low waterproofed block walls along existing fence / hedge lines. Put in a couple of underground sumps and electric pumps under the road and you should be able to do the job for less than a £million. My understanding is that similar underground pumps in the dip under the Botley railway bridge have kept it dry for years. Such a scheme could easily be in place before next winters floods. Cityview

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