The Sprout reported in February that ‘the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme (OFAS) will create a new stream with wetland wildlife corridor …. with a gently sloping flood plain’. Hinksey and Osney Environmental Group.

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(HOEG) read with interest the Environmental Agency’s ‘fresh look’ at the scheme and had this to say: A disadvantage of the scheme is the massive amount of spoil to be taken away by road or rail. The good news is that recent research by the scheme has confirmed that the extra volume (which their proposed channel would provide) might not be needed for storing flood water, the existing volume already available may be enough. The OFAS scheme has since written that it will `undertake a separate [model] run with a ‘smoothed’ section of flood plain‘ that might, just possibly, get the same result as Oxford University hydrologists and prove that the ’massive amount of spoil‘ – at least 275,000 tons – does not need to be taken away at all, whether by the A34 or the railway. If not, HOEG’s proposal of a ’pumped underground pipeline' from Seacourt to Kennington will come to the rescue, with a fraction of the ground disturbance and still better value than the present design.

Either would mean that 95% of the existing hedgerows and riverbank wildlife corridors could stay, likewise precious flood plain ecology, meaning a much simpler and less intrusive construction process. Even more important, they could mean a design that passes through the planning process and the compulsory purchase inquiry in no time at all, bringing forward the moment when Oxford can sleep more easily in flood time.

This should be welcome news for the residents of Botley Road and the Hinksey villages. There are other benefits along the 8 km route. The interruption to the scheme caused by the need to replace the A423 bridge at Kennington means, as reported in the Sprout, a chance to make necessary changes. The old scheme showed water levels lowered in all communities except Kennington, where they are actually raised by almost the same amount. So this gives the relevant authorities the chance to revisit a concept raised separately by Network Rail and by the Environment Agency during the last ten years: taking water under the railway to alleviate a long-term silting problem with one of the existing railway bridges.

Further rationalisations are emerging from talks between the OFAS Team and HOEG. The scheme is reconsidering the way it gets water past the historic blockage at the Old Abingdon Road so as to reduce traffic disruption, and they have shown South Oxford residents a new threephase construction process. But, as with the bypass area, there is potential to dust off an alternative that has been around since 2012, a single phase, single bridge design that again will bring forward the completion of the flood-way.

HOEG will continue to liaise professionally with the scheme, working for simpler and (evidently) more economical solutions to elements that contribute to the same reduction of flood risk to Oxford and its neighbouring communities.

HOEG will be making a presentation to North Hinksey Parish Council at their March 25th meeting. Further details of our concerns can be found on http://www.hinkseyandosney.org

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