A MULTI-MILLION pound scheme to reduce the risk of flooding in Abingdon has been abandoned due to spiralling costs.

The Environment Agency had been working with Vale of White Horse District Council, Oxfordshire County Council and the Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (RFCC) on the plans, which centred around building a flood storage area at Abingdon Common.

Measuring 1.5km long and up to 2.6m high, the structure was set to divert flood waters away from at risk areas.

It was initially estimated to cost £5m, the total set to be split between Vale and government agency Thames RFCC.

READ AGAIN: Originals plans for flood storage area to keep town's head above water

But it has now been revealed new estimates put the true cost at £9.7m, leaving around half to be raised via local businesses and organisations.

The Environment Agency is updating residents on the project and explained the scheme would now be shelved, stating: "Our partnership do not feel there is a realistic prospect of securing this amount of funding in the short term."

In the last 30 years, Abingdon has experienced flooding in 2000, 2003 and most recently in 2007 when 400 homes and 20 businesses were flooded.

The Rivers Ock, Thames, Stert and the Sandford Brook all contribute to flooding in the town.


Ladygrove estate in Abingdon hit by flooding in July 2007. Picture by Peter Thompson.

The Environment Agency has estimated that approximately 200 properties are still at risk of flooding.

Explaining the massive increase in cost for the storage area, the newsletter stated: "We initially thought we would be able to build the embankment on the existing ground. The results of our surveys have found this would not be possible.

"Instead we will have to excavate down and build foundations for the embankment. The amount of clay material for the embankment is much more than previously estimated and will have to be brought in.

"We have also made modifications to the design to ensure the safety of the scheme such as putting in more flow control structures and access routes for maintenance.

"These safety requirements are important both for staff and public and are in line with the Reservoirs Safety Act 1975."

ALSO READ: Cost of Oxford relief channel rises to £150m

The newsletter said this now put the cost of the flood storage area in the region of £9.7m, with current committed funding of approximately £4m.

To be able to continue with plans to build the flood storage area the partnership said it would need to secure the remaining £5.7m from local partners, businesses and other organisations.

The newsletter concluded: "For this reason we will not be able to progress the project design work further until the additional funding can be found.

"Our partnership do not feel there is a realistic prospect of securing this amount of funding in the short term, so we have decided not to continue our work on the flood storage area at this time.

"We will keep this under review and check the scheme’s viability in future as new information becomes available or if government funding rules change."

It added natural flood management options would continue to be looked into.

Vale of White Horse District Council leader Roger Cox, said: “We know the impact of flooding on residents in this area, which is why we funded the flood wall at St Helen's Mill in 2017 and why we have invested in further research into how to reduce that risk.

"The Environment Agency and our other partners have identified suitable methods to help protect people’s properties, such as temporary flood barriers which can be deployed where and when they are needed and are also investigating the use of natural flood management techniques."

Work was anticipated to start in 2020 following the submission of a formal planning application in the spring.

It comes after the announcement last month that the cost of the Oxford flood relief channel had also soared from £120m to £150m.