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9:00am Friday 9th July 2010
THE Environment Agency was last night unable to provide any guarantees that £14.9m of planned flood relief work for Oxfordshire will happen.
Flood victims have welcomed the £3.4m spent by the EA on improving the county’s flood defences since a deluge of rain damaged more than 900 homes in July 2007.
'Money spent on flooding is well spent and saves us damage which is more expensive than the cure'(Dr Peter Rawcliffe)
The EA has also spent 487 days maintaining 758km of the county’s waterways between 2007 and 2010 at a cost of £852,000.
But victims insisted more needs to be done to make sure their properties are not hit by future floods.
Dr Peter Rawcliffe, of the Oxford Flood Alliance, voiced his disappointment that the EA is proposing to spend just £800,000 this year on its second programme of work to cure flooding in Oxford.
In 2008, the agency forked out £1.8m to fix pinchpoints of floodwater south of the city at Redbridge and to buy flood barriers for Osney Island and South Oxford.
However, funding for the new project, which includes installing culverts in Willow Walk between Botley and West Oxford, is not certain.
Other schemes which could be affected by Government cuts include the £13m Banbury flood protection scheme and an £800,000 project to alleviate flooding from the River Stert in Abingdon.
Dr Rawcliffe, who has been flooded out of his South Hinksey home three times since 2000, said: “The work done so far has been very good and a lot has been achieved.
“However, there’s more still to be done to get us up to anything like a reasonable standard. It’s certainly disappointing no more schemes have been suggested by the EA.
“Money spent on flooding is well spent and saves us damage which is more expensive than the cure.”
Dr Rawcliffe has also criticised the EA for proposing to splash out £2.4m to replace a 104-year-old weir at Northmoor lock in Appleton in the face of strong local opposition.
The EA wants to motorise the lock to prevent lower back injuries to its lockkeeper.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has reduced flood and coastal risk management funding by £30m this year following the Government’s £6bn cut in public spending in this year’s budget.
Thames Valley Flood risk manager Barry Russell said: “Public money at the moment is very tight.
“There is less money around. We are looking at the activities we do and it could be we say our focus has to be on high priority work and we reduce our involvement in lesser things. What we are trying to do is protect the frontline delivery of flood risk management.
“I wouldn’t say anything in the future is guaranteed, everything will be subject to the funding set out after the comprehensive spending review.”
Last week the EA’s chief executive Dr Paul Leinster said financial contributions needed to come from places other than the Government, such as businesses and residents.
Malcolm Willis was forced out of his home in Crawley Road, Witney, for seven months after three inches of floodwater swept into his home.
His road has since benefited from a £50,000 flood bund but a larger scheme but a £3.7m scheme to build large water storage areas nearby was deemed too expensive by the EA.
Mr Willis said: “I think the EA has done quite well actually. I don’t think they can do much more than they have with the financial constraints they’re under.”
Oxford City Council has installed a removable aluminium flood barrier at Bullstake Close, off Botley Road.
The close was one of the first areas of the city to flood in 2007. The £50,000 barrier is quicker and cheaper to put in place than sandbags.
Abingdon: River Stert Tree Removal – £23,000
Abingdon: Removal of St Helen’s Bridge – £110,000
Abingdon: River Ock Flood Alleviation Study
Ascott under Wychwood: Desilting and flood swale – £54,000
Bicester: Flood Modelling and Mapping Study – £78,000
Bledington: Track raising – £77,000
Bloxham: Redirection of sewage pipe – £5,000
East Hanney: Contribution to Flood Action Group and Self Help – £2,500
Eynsham: Flood Bund– £4,500
Fairford: Flood Alleviation Study
Milton under Wychwood: upstream flood storage on Littlestock Brook – £19,000
Oxford: Short term measures 1 (including Redbridge culverts etc) – £1.8m
Oxford: Flood Alleviation Strategy
Witney: Hailey Road flood bund – £50,000.
Environment Agency workers on the River Cherwell clear obstructions as part of anti-flood work
Members of the Oxford Flood Allliance, from left, Dr Peter Rawcliffe, Nick Hills and Andy Webber in North Hinksey near Hinksey Stream, which has flooded several times in the past few years
Councillor Mike Gotch, left, and Sean Fry, of Oxford City Council, inspect the new flood barrier installed at Bullstake Close, off Botley Road, in Oxford
Flooded fields around Marston Ferry Road