Hidden deep within the planning application for the £176 million Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme – Oxfordshire County Council, application no. W.0027/22 - is Appendix Q. The scheme would comprise a 5km long flood channel from north of the Botley Road to north Kennington, together with flood embankments, culverts etc. Appendix Q compares the full scheme against a ‘no channel’ alternative that would still have all the embankments etc. It makes for remarkable reading.

Digging out the channel would destroy Hinksey Meadow and Kendall Close; require 2000 mature trees to be felled; reduce access to a huge area of public space for 5 years; and need 240 lorry movements per day to remove spoil from the excavations, requiring 40mph speed restrictions on the A34. Despite the new wetland habitats promised as part of the channel, the scheme would not provide legally-required ‘biodiversity net gain’ on site, only through off-site planting. And any transport of spoil by rail sounds very much like a pipe dream.

Appendix Q shows that the channel would only protect 51 extra homes in a 1-in-50-year flood (at £470,000 per home) or 157 homes in a 1-in-100 -year event (at £150,000 per home). This small number of beneficiaries of an uncertain future reduction in flood risk does not outbalance the definite immediate cost to the environment, recreational amenity and the public purse of a channel. The scheme without the channel would provide significant flood protection, be cheaper, and avoid almost all the damage and disruption: this is what we should be pushing for.

Professor Rki Therivel

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