A £26m funding boost means a new relief channel will now be built to prevent devastating floods in Oxford.
Abingdon and Botley roads were closed in January following flooding which cost businesses in the city millions of pounds.
Now Oxfordshire’s Local Enterprise Partnership has been awarded £26m for the £123m flood channel, as part of a £108.6m package of Growth Deal measures for the county, announced today.
County council deputy leader Rodney Rose, above, said: “I am pleased the Government has committed £26m towards the development of the flood management project. I am confident this will enable us to move forward with the first phase.”
Civic leaders say the investment could lead to Oxfordshire becoming a “global leader” in science and technology and will create thousands of jobs.
Among the schemes given funding are a package of road improvements in the Headington area, development of a technology and innovation training centre in Oxford to address science and technology shortages, and the expansion of Didcot Parkway’s car park.
Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth said: “The Government has shown its commitment to Oxfordshire’s ambition to be a global leader in science and technology, with more than £100m of funding for major schemes that will support economic growth and job creation in Oxfordshire.
“I am particularly pleased that £35m has been committed to the continued development of the science transit public transport links between major research establishments, and the much-needed improvements to the A40.
“All these improvements will massively improve transport connections within the county and encourage science and technology companies to invest in Oxfordshire.”
About £50m – £38m from the Environment Agency and £12m from the Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee – was pledged to the flood defence scheme earlier this year.
The latest chunk of funding takes the total up to £76m and means the Western Conveyance, a four-mile channel running from Seacourt Stream, Botley, to Sandford Lock south of Oxford, will now go ahead, according to Mr Rose.
He has led the lobbying for funding for the channel and is delighted with the latest cash injection.
He said: “This is fantastic news. The design work is going ahead and hopefully the project can be completed by 2020.
“It’s not acceptable to have Abingdon and Botley roads closed when there is major flooding. I am confident that local and national partners will be able to fund the whole scheme in future years.”
Mr Rose said the Government has also backed a flood water storage scheme in Northway, Marston – a package of measures to combat the flood risk to 4,500 homes.
Oxford Flood Alliance spokesman Peter Rawcliffe said: “We have been waiting for news about funding for the channel. It’s a very large lump sum – I think the Government wants this scheme to happen because Oxford is such an important place locally and nationally.
“The scheme can now move along as the money comes in – you do not have to put £123m on the table from day one.”
The channel would carry flood water round to the west of Oxford. It would be accompanied by flood defence schemes in Abingdon to make sure it does not have a knock-on effect further downstream.
It would be as wide as the Thames and it is believed that it would prevent both Abingdon Road and Botley Road from closing due to flooding.
It is estimated it will cost a total of £125m – £123m for the channel itself and £2m for associated work in Abingdon.
City council leader Bob Price said: “This means we can now go ahead with the channel and engineering work could start as early as next year – I am delighted.”
Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood said the Growth Deal funding was “great news for all local people”.
She said: “Crucially we are closer to fully funding the Oxford flood relief channel.”
Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron said: “This money is going to be used to support an ambitious package of projects to improve transport, boost skills, and drive innovation across the county.”
Former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine, as well as Liberal Democrat peer Lord Shipley, were appointed to advise ministers on the proposals that England’s 39 LEPs brought forward.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “The Oxfordshire Growth Deal will create thousands of jobs, provide incredible new training opportunities for young people, build new homes and improve transport links across the region for people and their families.”
Adrian Shooter, chairman of Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This funding will enable the delivery of more than 4,000 homes, supporting 5,700 new jobs in Oxfordshire and is the start of an ongoing programme for growth to 2020 and beyond.”
Oxfordshire’s Growth Deal is part of £12bn that has been handed out. Earlier this year the Government announced an investment into Oxfordshire of £55m as part of the City Deal.
Where the growth deal money is going
- Headington Phase 1 & Eastern Arc Transport Improvements – a package of junction and local road improvements to support growth in the Headington area of Oxford – a centre for medical research and the location of the bio-escalator at Oxford University Old Road campus, which was part-funded via the Oxford City Deal.
- Oxfordshire Flood Risk Management Scheme and Upstream Flood Storage at Northway – a comprehensive package of measures to mitigate the risks of damage to more than 4,500 homes, businesses and transport connections caused by flooding that has hit the area in five of the past 10 years.
- Centre for Applied Superconductivity – a new centre of innovation to coordinate interaction between key industry players, Oxford University, cryogenics companies, and end users (including small/medium enterprises) on the Harwell campus and at the Culham Centre for Fusion Research Campus.
- Science Vale Cycle Network improvements – improving the cycle paths to allow more people to get to work between Science Vale and the improved Didcot station by bike.
- Oxfordshire Centre for Technology and Innovation – development of a technology and innovation training centre in Oxford with City of Oxford College and Abingdon and Witney College to address science, technology, engineering and mathematics shortages across engineering, electrical, design, and emerging technologies.
- Didcot Parkway station car Park expansion (Foxhall Rd) – packages of measures for car park expansion including construction of a deck access car park on the Foxhall Road car park. Part of the expansion and improvement of the station as a key gateway to Science Vale hi-tec cluster and the Enterprise Zone.
- Bicester London Road – Level Crossing – a pedestrian/cycle crossing to provide alternative access into Bicester town centre, which will be needed to help cope with increased congestion as a result of the increasing train services.
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