Prime Minister calls for talks on Oxford's £123m flood relief channel

9:00am Friday 7th February 2014

By Damian Fantato

TALKS are to take place between Oxford’s political leaders and Downing Street officials about plans for a £123m flood relief channel in the city.

Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron has ordered his advisers to meet Bob Price, leader of Oxford City Council, about the scheme which could prevent Botley Road and Abingdon Road from flooding in the future.

The Government also confirmed yesterday that flood relief projects worth a total of £14.4m would commence in 2014/15 across Oxfordshire.

They include an £8m plan in West Oxfordshire, as well as £4.9m on three different schemes in Oxford.

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Last night, the River Thames at New Botley was on an Environment Agency flood warning, alerting residents that more flooding is expected.

News of the meeting comes after the Government announced an extra £130m of funding for flood relief work across the UK.

Officials were unable to confirm last night how much of Oxfordshire’s £14.4m came from the pot of new money.

Last month Mr Price wrote to the Prime s continued from page 1 Minister asking for funding for the channel, otherwise known as the Western Conveyance Channel.

Replying, Mr Cameron said: “As we all know, Oxford suffered very badly in the recent floods and I am determined that all appropriate measures are taken to try and mitigate against risks of future flooding in our local community.

“This seems a worthwhile project. However, I understand that the Environment Agency has some value for money concerns which do need to be looked into.”

Mr Price will be attending the meeting with Government officials – at a date to be fixed – with Rodney Rose, the deputy leader of Oxfordshire County Council, who said the Western Conveyance channel is the only solution to Oxford’s flood woes.

The scheme, which would be as wide as the River Thames, went out to consultation three years ago but never progressed due to a lack of funding.

It would run from Seacourt Stream north of Botley Road to the River Thames at Sandford Lock, diverting water away from Oxford.

Mr Rose said: “If we have that, we are protecting Botley Road, Abingdon Road and the main Oxford to Paddington railway line.”

Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, yesterday said funding for the project could still be available but it would be up to the Environment Agency to say when.

Speaking on a visit to Kidlington construction apprentice firm ACE Training, he said: “I don’t know the details of the position of that particular project.

“But what I would say is as a Government we have set aside both more money for flood defences and over a longer period of time.”

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He said the funding had been set out up until 2020, adding: “I hope that out of that money (the Environment Agency) will be able to find all of the important projects needed in communities like Oxford.”

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Mr Price said: “The economic disruption to the city and the wider area around Oxford is phenomenal and that is something we need to flag up to Government.

“This is not something we can dilly and dally about because there is a window of opportunity now for the next funding round of the Environment Agency.”

The Environment Agency is carrying out modelling on the Western Conveyance scheme to find out whether parts of it should go ahead. It is hoped a section of the channel at Sandford Lock, at around £2.5m, would have the biggest effect and be done first.

The Environment Agency has also reviewed the costs of the scheme and said it could now be done for £123m – £40m less than expected.

Its spokeswoman Colette Walmsley said: “We would support the construction of the Western Conveyance Channel if we can get funding.

“It could be funded from public and private sectors and we’re in initial discussions with potential partners.”

Yesterday, the Government announced approval had been given to 42 new flood schemes in the country – including 11 in Oxfordshire.

They include the Northway and Marston Flood Alleviation Scheme costing £1.5m and the Godstow Weir B refurbishment at £366,000.

Floods Minister Dan Rogerson said: “More money than ever before is being invested in flood defences and the new schemes will give greater security to thousands of homes and businesses that previously feared flooding.”

The Environment Agency is anticipating more flooding as heavy rainfall is predicted for today. Last night 11 waterways in Oxfordshire were on flood alert while the River Thames at New Botley was on a flood warning.

THOSE GIVEN APPROVAL

Government information states these schemes will begin in Oxfordshire in 2014/15:

Eleven new schemes got funding for Oxfordshire costing £368,000. Four are Flooding Grant in Aid funded in 2014-15, and £119,000 of GiA investment has been allocated. The rest are funded from the local levy fund totalling £249,000 in 2014-15:

GiA is money the Environment Agency receives from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, allocated to flood and coastal risk management works in England.

Local levy is raised by councils from householders, from the council tax

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