FLOOD SCHEME UPDATE: Remaining £4.35m for project has now been found 

A LEADING councillor has urged landowners on the route of the £120m Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme to stop being so 'selfish' and think of others.

Former Oxford City Council leader Bob Price made the sideswipe as his authority prepares to hand over £450,000 worth of land for the scheme.

A host of landowners along the 3.5-mile channel route in North and South Hinksey are still deciding whether to formally object to the project.

They include the Midcounties Co-operative, Ferry Hinksey Charitable Trust and Oxford Preservation Trust.

The latter said it will continue to 'challenge' the Environment Agency over the scheme's design, but may not 'oppose' it outright.

Director Debbie Dance said: "We are challenging whether there are ways they can make it a better scheme on our land.

"They're obviously trying as hard as they can to reduce the impact... but it feels peculiar in the democratic world that someone can do this on your land.

"It's hard because our living is protecting Oxford in its green setting.

"Once the application comes in then we'll have to decide if we're going to object or not."

The Ferry Hinksey Charitable Trust, which owns one field on the route, has vowed to fight the scheme to the end, and hit out at the Environment Agency saying it could solve much of the flooding problem the scheme is designed to alleviate by dredging streams.

The Environment Agency is now preparing to submit the official planning application for the scheme next month, despite the ongoing battles with landowners.

Spokeswoman Sally Freeman said the agency was expecting to serve all the owners with government Compulsory Purchase Orders for their land this spring.

But she went on: "It is our preference to reach agreements with landowners rather than exercising the CPO, so our landowner negotiations will be ongoing and we expect them to continue throughout the majority of this year.

"If we need to enforce the CPO on any landowner... the transfer of land would be subject to confirmation of the CPO by the Secretary of State and the Environment Agency obtaining planning permission."

Oxford City Council, meanwhile, is set to meet this Tuesday to agree handing over £450,000 worth of land for the scheme for free.

That includes giving the agency 21 parcels of land worth a total of £262,000 and allowing it to use a further 42 bits of land worth £229,000.

Mr Price, who as council leader in recent years helped lead the plans for the scheme, said he was disappointed in other landowners' attitudes.

He said: "From the point of view of the steering group, including the county and Vale councils, we think this scheme has huge benefits, so it's disappointing that some of the landowners aren't taking the same view.

"This is a scheme which has been very, very carefully worked through by the EA and I am very impressed by the work I have seen."

Asked what he would say to landlords challenging the scheme Mr Price replied: "I would say think about other people rather than your own selfish interests."