COMMENT: It is vital we keep pressing for action to tackle floods

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First published in News

WE have reached a critical point in the battle for a permanent solution to the flooding that effectively shut this city in January.

It is only two months since flood waters closed Botley and Abingdon roads and just over a month since the latter suffered a repeat.

These are the latest in a succession of floods to hit the county since 2007. And it is almost certain that unless something drastic is done, they will be back.

But there is a fear that now the floodwaters have receded, so has the will at national level to take the action that is so sorely needed.

Tomorrow, Oxfordshire County Council deputy leader Rodney Rose will host a summit looking for solutions.

He will be joined by representatives from central Government, MPs, the Environment Agency, Thames Water and Oxfordshire’s district councils.

The county is seeking a united front and backing to press home the need for the city’s mooted Western Conveyance channel to be on the schedule of planned projects.

With city council Labour leader Bob Price almost certainly on board, that support is likely to span the usual politicial divide.

Mr Rose wants to be able to tell the Government that the county will contribute towards the huge cost, estimated at £125m if you include a planned flood relief scheme for Abingdon.

There is an interesting fight to be had, though, on the funding criteria set down by the Government.

It is true that, proportionately, this year’s flooding did not cause damage to a huge number of homes.

But Mr Rose is pushing for the economic impact to be taken into account and he is absolutely right to do so.

We have said countless times before that access to a modern city like Oxford cannot be left at the mercy of floodwater because of the huge impact on our economic viability.

Come December, we will see if the very public displays of concern by Westminster politicians for flood-hit counties like Oxfordshire amount to anything.

For the sake of residents, commuters and businesses, we hope Mr Rose and his team get a fair hearing.

If they do, the case for better flood relief measures will surely convince even the most jaundiced Government minister.

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