From Dr Chris Sugden and Dr Rod Chalk, Hinksey and Osney Environment Group
To the Editor
The Oxford Times
Further to my letter published in your pages on 6 May, the Environment Agency (EA) has now issued their consultation on their flood scheme, closing date 31st May. [The link for the consultation is here https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/thames/oxfordscheme/ ]
It is high time local residents, businesses, councillors and community groups started asking questions about the scheme. Readers may be surprised to learn that it involves excavating a vast 200 metre wide trench through the heart of Oxford’s greenbelt. Should this go ahead, Oxford will witness the largest environmental catastrophe in its history. The distinguished Oxford ecologist Dr Tim King calculates a net loss of 160 biodiversity units, not the EA’s miscalculated 40 unit gain.
Readers need to ask how the planned “forest” of 4000 tree saplings will compensate for the loss of 4000 mature trees, 3 miles of hedgerow, and the loss of birds, mammals and insects that depend on them.
Why is Oxford’s rare MG4 grassland to be drained and its Snake’s Head fritillaries “transplanted”?
While Oxford certainly needs a flood scheme, how can the EA justify a cost of over £100,000 per house at a cost:benefit ratio calculated by two independent Oxford economists of just £2 of every £1 spent?
After over forty formal objections by landowners and environmental groups, and the necessary 3-year delay due to repair of the Kennington Railway Bridge, readers should ask why the Environment Agency is still presenting the same flawed scheme?
Several engineering alternatives have now been shown to deliver the same or greater benefits in flood protection at lesser cost and without the wholescale environmental destruction necessitated by the flood channel. Why is the Environment Agency not actively pursuing these?
Why is the EA planning to build two road bridges at Kennington, when one of these will eradicate important archaeology and only a single bridge is required?
Everybody wants to see a flood scheme that protects Oxford residents without destroying its natural heritage. This is 100 % possible. Nobody wants a public enquiry with the delays and costs that entails. We urge readers to make their views known.
Chris Sugden (Chair, Ferry Hinksey Trust)
Dr Rod Chalk
Hinksey and Osney Environment Group www.hinkseyandosney.org