Pledge to maintain Oxford's flood defences

The temporary defences used at Botley Road during flooding in February

The temporary defences used at Botley Road during flooding in February

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

TEMPORARY flood defences in Oxford will still be improved while work to construct a major flood relief channel is ongoing, it has been pledged.

Oxfordshire County Council deputy leader Rodney Rose said efforts are being made to tackle flooding until the channel scheme finishes in 2022.

The £123m Western Conveyance channel will take flood water around Oxford from Botley to Sandford lock and work could start by 2016.

During the floods early this year, Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service kept Botley Road and Abingdon Road open with temporary flood barriers made from lengths of hose filled with water.

This was the first time this method had been used and was considered so innovative that Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles came to see the defences in action.

Conservative Mr Rose said: “We are still exploring putting in some more permanent versions of the defences we had with fire engines in Botley Road and Abingdon Road.

“I hope we don’t stop remembering what the fire service and others did last winter. Whether we would use exactly that method again would depend on the type of flooding and the rainfall.”

Mr Rose added: “I am looking into whether we can get some more permanent pumps in place because you have to ask whether we are lessening our fire cover by using this method.

“Anything we can do we will certainly be looking at doing. I think people will hope we do some interim measures for the six to eight years it will take to get the Western Conveyance finished. People will feel let down if they get flooded in five years’ time knowing that the channel is only a year away.”

A report on last winter’s flooding put together by the Environment Agency says that the rainfall during this period was “exceptional”.

It says that 350mm of rain fell on Oxfordshire compared with a long-term winter average of 170mm.

River levels at Osney Lock reached 3.86m in January, compared with 3.99m in the 2007 floods.

Environment Agency spokeswoman Jo Slimin said: “Following last winter’s floods we have been working with communities and professional partners in Oxfordshire to find ways of reducing the risks of flooding to people, businesses and the environment.

“In Oxford the plans for a new flood relief channel and works at Abingdon are progressing well. These will reduce the risk of flooding to hundreds of homes.

“We have an ongoing annual maintenance programme for watercourses in the county, which includes the selective removal of annual weed growth, major blockage removal and some removal of localised accumulations of silt.”

She added: “We will also be removing some of the larger accumulations of gravels that have built up in some locations as a result of the flooding. This includes work on the Minns Farm Drain, River Thames at Wolvercote, Seacourt Stream, Botley Stream, Osney Ditch, Bulstake Stream, Hinksey Drain, Boundary Brook and the River Thames at Osney.

“We are currently prioritising the removal of fallen trees and large blockages of watercourses in and around the Oxford area. For example, in the next couple of weeks one of our field teams will be out removing a timber landing stage that was washed downstream on the Bullstake Stream in Oxford.”

 

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