I WAS pleased to see the article by Pete Hughes (Oxford Mail, December 29) about Christopher Sugden’s opposition to the proposed Oxford Flood Alleviation scheme.

Your editorial was probably written very quickly. It assumes that the Environment Agency have their calculations correct. It also underestimates the considerable environmental costs. Where on earth did you obtain the idea that it would prove a ‘boon to wildlife’?

The minor advantages of the creation of some new ponds are dwarfed by the damage to existing habitats. I mention some of the problems in the attached summary of the lecture I gave to the Oxford Urban Wildlife group in November 2016.

Many of the current problems are caused by the lack of maintenance of the Thames and the associated streams over the past 15 years. To compensate for this, the EA plans digging a new channel. But although it will have continuously flowing water down the middle, its sides will only be flooded from time to time, during peak floods. This they will have to be continuously maintained, annually, by the landowners.

So the EA is compensating for its (relatively cheap) lack of maintenance of the main channels by raising the money to build a (relatively expensive) new channel and externalising the maintenance cost.

Are you aware that for the first time ever, cattle can cross the Thames at Port Meadow into Binsey, and cross the Seacourt Stream from Hinksey meadow into North Hinksey?

The economic calculations did not include any costs for the problems in aesthetic, historical, pollution, wildlife terms. The main damage will be to Hinksey Meadow, a diverse historic hay meadow of the same status as Port Meadow. Only 200 hectares of this type of meadow remain in Britain and seven are on this site.

To make the whole channel, the removal of 400,000 cubic metres of topsoil and gravel will necessitate over 100 lorry movements a day over three years. And where will it all be dumped? Above the Chilswell valley? Many of the existing streams, mature ecosystems with diverse wildlife, will become silted up, whilst the new channel will take ages to accumulate new wildlife. Relatively, the creeping marshwort, mentioned in your article, is a fickle species which plays a minor role in the environmental objections.

I have called the channel a ‘white elephant’ and promoted my suggestion of a two-stage process.

First, the existing waterways should be cleared, large bunds built, pumps installed, and there should be further works to widen channels around bridges south of the Old Abingdon Road. Only then, if this proves unsatisfactory, should this expensive and environmentally dubious channel be excavated a few years later.


Kingston Road, Oxford