Oxford residents putting faith in new defences

A narrowboat stranded near Oxford’s Donnington Bridge

Canoeists on the flooded River Cherwell at the Victoria Arms in Marston

First published in News Herald Series: Photograph of the Author by

EXPERTS tonight said the prospect of homes and businesses in Oxford being flooded was on a knife-edge, as more heavy rain was forecast.

The River Thames running through the city is currently on flood alert but the Environment Agency has said this could be raised to a flood warning in the next few days.

A flood warning means the agency expects properties in the area to flood and residents need to take immediate action.

The Met Office said that the county could expect a further 10mm to 15mm of rain overnight and another 20mm to 30mm during the course of tomorrow.

Two sections of the River Thames west of Oxford, the River Cherwell from Lower Heyford to Hampton Poyle, and the River Thame at Dorchester are on flood warnings tonight with many other watercourses covered by flood alert lasts night.

Agency spokesman Dave Ferguson said: “We are monitoring closely and it is possible in the next few days we could see flood warnings in Oxford.

“We want people who live in floodplains, wherever that is along the River Thames, to know what they would do if flooding is due.”

Oxford Flood Alliance spokesman Peter Rawcliffe said: “We are just watching the situation closely. It could go either way at the moment.

“There is another wave of water coming through from the Cotswolds which will put the levels up again.

“Then it depends how quickly the next lot of water comes down and how much water the river can get away before that comes through. It probably would not take much to push it over the edge.”

Oxford City Council today closed its flood barrier off Bullstake Close, in West Oxford, to prevent the water from devastating nearby houses as it did in July 2007.

Operations manager Sean Fry said: “We decided to close it on the basis of information we had from the Environment Agency.

“It is a precautionary measure but Bullstake Close is normally one of the first places to flood and every time it does, it costs us around £250,000.”

Bullstake Close resident Julie Lawrence’s home flooded in 2007 and she has since developed a lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

She said: “I was a bit panicky yesterday. I’m on oxygen and have to wear a mask at night and can’t pack up like I did last time. But I’m putting my trust in the council and I can’t fault them so far.

“They are trying their best and they have put the defences up. Hopefully the defences will all work and we will not flood.”

The agency has spent £2.5m to reduce the extent of flooding to more than 800 properties in Oxford following the 2007 floods.

The work included major channel maintenance, buying of demountable defences for Hinksey Park and Osney Island and the installation of three large culverts on the Hinksey Drain at Redbridge.

Oxfordshire County Council has had about 60 staff on duty over the weekend and has handed out almost 4,500 sandbags to residents since last week.

Spokesman Paul Smith said: “There has been a lot of effort around the clock from fire and rescue, emergency planning and highways workers at the county council over the last few days. “All agencies are now looking to the next few days.

“We advise people to keep on watching Environment Agency, Met Office and county council websites as well as the Oxford Mail and BBC.”

WEATHER FORECAST
THE heavy rain Oxfordshire has been experiencing for the last week should end after today, the Met Office has said.

Forecasters predicted 10mm to 15mm of rain overnight and a further 20mm to 30mm during the course of today.
Tomorrow will feature some showers but they will not be heavy and will only equate to about a couple of millimetres of rain. There is a chance of showers on Wednesday, but again not heavy, and Thursday and Friday should be dry.
The weather will turn colder towards the end of the week, the Met Office said.
Oxfordshire had seen 84.8mm of rain since 7am on Tuesday to 4pm yesterday.

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