MILLIONS of pounds is needed in the coming weeks to save a flood prevention scheme after a red warning was placed on the £120m project.

Almost £10m has been spent so far on the proposed channel aimed at protecting more than 1,200 homes from flooding in West Oxford but the Environment Agency said it could be derailed if more than £4 million in not found by November.

Over £115m has already been raised from a variety of sources, including businesses and the Government, with those behind the project saying the total cost could be reduced by once money set aside for 'risk and uncertainty' was taken off.

But the hunt for the remaining millions has intensified with the EA placing a red warning on the scheme, meaning immediate action is required.

The project's funding manager Jon Mansbridge, of the EA, said: "While we have been very successful in securing 93 per cent of the required funding, if the current £4.35 million funding gap is not closed by November 2017 the project will be unable to demonstrate a fully funded position to support business case approval and commence a Compulsory Purchase Order process.

He added: "This could ultimately result in the project stopping."

Oxford Flood Alliance, a group of flood victims who have worked closely on the project from its beginning, has sent letters to local businesses in a bid to plug the gap.

Chairman Peter Rawcliffe said: "We have sent letters to four of the largest businesses in the city - we thought that maybe a different approach, from a community group rather than a government agency just might tip the balance.

"If we have time we will write to smaller firms too - particularly those on Botley Road and Abingdon Road.

"My gut feeling is someone will come forward with the money, I don't know who or when, but to let it fail now would be unthinkable."

The four-mile channel between Seacourt Park and Ride and the River Thames at Sandford Lock was first dreamt up following the severe floods of 2007 and brought back to the table in 2014 after the rains came again, with the scheme being led by the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the Oxfordshire Growth Board.

It will divert water to the west of the city to avoid a repeat of the flooding to Botley Road and Abingdon Road which left homes devastated and businesses fighting heavy losses.

In February this year, EA announced it had identified sources for all £121m and ground work and archaeological studies have since got under way.

But Oxfordshire Growth Board chairman Bob Price said he believed 'one or two' contributors had since changed their minds.

He said: "I know there are one or two contributors who have said 'definitely no' and they have been taken off the list.

"But I don't whether any have pledged less than they originally did.

"The Environment Agency are currently looking for additional private sector funding."

He added: "The LEP remain confident and yes there is a risk it could be stopped but it's not one we are going to lose sleep over at this stage."

The scheme's engagement support officer, Sally Freeman, said the EA remained confident.

She said: "The partners are confident in the strength of ongoing negotiations with contributors.

"And that the remaining funding will be secured and the scheme delivered."

She confirmed that £66m had been secured from central Government funding and a further £51m had come from Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford City Council and Thames Water.

She added: "Collectively, this is the greatest contribution made towards a flood scheme anywhere in the country.

"The partnership is actively working together to secure the remaining funding, and is confident that this can be achieved for the scheme to go ahead."

Oxford University said earlier this year it had worked with the city and county council to infrastructure improvements in Osney Mead, of which £3m would be spent on flood relief works.

But the University did not appear on a list of contributors provided by the EA.