THE cost of Oxford’s flood relief channel has soared from £120m to £150m, it has emerged.

The Environment Agency, which is leading the scheme, has confirmed that the cost of creating the channel increased significantly in recent months.

But it added that all the necessary funding had been secured for the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme, one of the biggest flood projects in the country.

An EA statement yesterday said: “The project team has completed the tender process to choose a contractor to construct the scheme.

“The scheme cost is now £150m and the team is pleased that the additional funding has been secured.”

The planning application for the 5km channel, which will run from Seacourt Park-and-Ride to Sandford Lock and take about three years to build, was submitted to Oxfordshire County Council earlier this year, with public consultation expected to conclude on January 22.

The EA is now hoping that a final planning decision will be reached in early 2019.

It added: “Oxford has the second-fastest growing economy of all UK cities and the scheme will keep Oxford open for business and allow the successful economy to thrive.”

Peter Rawcliffe, a member of Oxford Flood Alliance, said he was pleased the additional funding for the channel had been secured.

However he also warned that serious delays could be caused in the whole process by objections from the various landowners along the scheme route.

Mr Rawcliffe said there may have been a number of objections from people who have had Compulsory Purchase Orders served on them by the EA, and that could lead to hold-ups.

He added: "It’s good news that the funding has been secured - it’s vital to have this flood channel to protect homes and businesses.

“If climate change predictions come to pass extreme flooding events will become more common.”

Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Paul Smith revealed there have been 55 objections to the plans to date.

It is not known how many of these relate to CPOs.

The EA said: “CPO letters have been sent out to landowners and anyone else who may have an interest in land that is impacted by the scheme on a permanent or temporary basis.

“CPO notices have been put up around the planned Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme area, where a landowner cannot be contacted, or where more people may have an interest in the land.”

The EA said the CPO process was ‘totally separate’ from the planning process and the two were being run ‘in parallel’.

Emma Formoy, funding and benefits realisation manager for the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme, said: “We plan to reach agreement by negotiation where we can to avoid having to go through with a Compulsory Purchase Order.

“However, with over 790 different land plots involved we need to run this process at the same time, to ensure all land and access essential to the scheme is available. This provides assurance to communities and businesses at risk of flooding in Oxford that the scheme will go ahead.”

The channel is being built to manage flood risk to the city over the next 100 years.

The EA said the channel was still good value for money, with additional funding including £10m from Highways England through its Designated Environment Fund and additional government flood risk funding.

It added: “Current economic challenges, as well as specific challenges within the infrastructure sector itself, have led to a general market trend across the country of large cost increases for all major infrastructure projects.”

Once all the necessary approvals are in place, construction of the scheme is due to start in 2019 and is expected to take three to four years.

EA managers have tried to reassure conservationists about the loss of 2,000 trees resulting from the work.

It said in a newsletter that although trees would have to be felled during the construction stage, tree-planting proposals would ensure there would be more woodland within the scheme area after completion.

It added: “We estimate that 2,000 trees will need to be felled. To mitigate for this we will be planting around 4,325 trees. In addition, 15,000 smaller trees, such as hawthorn, hazel and elder, will also be planted, along with many more native shrubs such as dogwood, goat willow, dog rose and wild privet.

“Throughout the design process, our contractors, engineers and ecologists have worked together to minimise tree loss wherever possible. Once a contractor has been appointed we will work with them to further minimise losses of trees wherever possible.

"Our aim is for the scheme to bring a true green legacy to the area.”