The Environment Agency is working with its partners to reduce flood risk in Oxford.
What is the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme?
The Environment Agency are working together with 9 organisations dedicated to reducing Oxford’s flood risk and providing wider benefits to Oxfordshire. The Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme is designed to cope with floods of a major scale, to help protect the city in coming decades as flood risk increases with climate change. The scheme forms part of a wider programme to improve flood resilience being planned by the Environment Agency across the Thames Valley area.
The scheme partners are:
Oxfordshire County Council
Oxford City Council
Vale of White Horse District Council
Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee
Oxford Flood Alliance
Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership
University of Oxford
Oxford has a long history of flooding. A number of significant floods in past decades have caused property damage to homes and businesses and closed the railway and major roads, bringing the city to a standstill. Climate change is expected to cause more frequent and more severe floods.
In the face of increasing flood risk due to climate change, the scheme will provide a long term solution to manage flooding in Oxford. It will help protect this world-renowned city from the devastating effects of flooding, benefiting local people and everyone that works in and visits Oxford for many decades to come.
The scheme will keep Oxford open for business and allow this successful economy to continue to thrive.
The scheme will involve lowering parts of the floodplain and working on some of the existing rivers and streams that run through it to make more space for water and reduce flood risk to the city. Some areas will have new flood walls and embankments.
As well as reducing flood risk, the scheme will create over 20 hectares of new wetland habitat, which will link with existing wildlife sites and increase biodiversity.
Visit the scheme Citizen Space website to read more about the scheme, including a page of Frequently Asked Questions. Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme – Welcome – Environment Agency – Citizen Space (environment-agency.gov.uk)
Who will benefit from the scheme?
Oxford is home to around 5,300 businesses, provides 133,000 jobs and has approximately 7 million visitors every year. Everyone who lives, works in or visits the city will benefit from the reduced flood risk to the railway and the Botley and Abingdon roads. The scheme will reduce flood risk to homes and businesses to the south and west of the city. There will also be fewer flood related electricity, telephone and internet disruptions to homes and businesses.
The scheme will safeguard Oxford’s reputation as a thriving centre that is open for business. Oxford has the second fastest growing economy of all UK cities and is home to 4,700 business and provides 135,000 jobs. There are more jobs than people in Oxford that people need to commute to and from.
With the scheme in place, the impact of floods like those of 2007 and 2013/14, as well as much larger floods of the scale of 1947, will be far less. As well as reduced property flooding, the scheme will help keep Abingdon Road, Botley Road and the railway open in times of flood, keeping the city open for business.
How will the scheme work?
The scheme will be approximately 5km long, it will run from north of Botley Road down to south of the A423 southern by-pass where it re-joins the River Thames.
Oxford Scheme update
What stage is the project at
In spring 2022, the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme project team submitted the planning application for the scheme to Oxfordshire County Council as the local planning authority. The council held a public consultation on the application.
In August 2022, Oxfordshire County Council requested further information in support of the application under Regulation 25 of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017. In February 2023 the project team submitted the further information. The Council held a public consultation on the response and will consider this alongside the rest of the application. All the information submitted to the council is available to read on the Oxfordshire County Council ePlanning system, planning reference: MW.0027/22.
The Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme project team has also made a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO). If approved, the CPO will allow them to acquire the land essential for the working of the scheme. They intend to submit a planning application to secure access to Hinksey Rail Sidings for the transportation of excavated materials.
The Environment Agency will need to coordinate construction of the scheme with Oxfordshire County Council’s replacement A423 Kennington Bridge. The A423 bridge is in the south of the scheme area and is crucial to the scheme, as floodwater from the new stream will need to flow underneath it to re-join the River Thames. We have worked closely together to ensure the replacement bridge has been designed to include the flood scheme.
The Environment Agency has formed a new collaboration with the environmental charity Earth Trust. They are working with Earth Trust on the plan for the long term environmental and wellbeing benefits of the scheme. This partnership will help to make the most of this unique opportunity – ensuring the new landscape and habitats continue to enhance the local area for the lifetime of the scheme.
Earth Trust will develop an overarching strategy for how the scheme will benefit the environment over its lifetime. This strategy will include a habitats plan, environmental management and work with local communities. The Environment Agency will work collaboratively with Earth Trust to establish a plan for longer term engagement with scheme neighbouring landowners, communities and stakeholders to support the scheme’s environmental objectives.
Once all the necessary approvals are in place and the scheme is nearing construction a long term environmental partner will be appointed who will be responsible for looking after the wildlife and landscapes of the scheme area. They will continue to bring additional environmental enhancements, involve local people and interested groups and establish educational outreach and opportunities for scientific research. In this way the Environmental Vision will deliver a long term green legacy to the area.
During winter 2019 /20 & 2020/21, Oxfordshire and other parts of the country experienced flooding. Working as part of the Thames Valley Resilience Forum, temporary flood barriers were deployed on South Street, Osney Island, in South Hinksey and at the Bulstake Stream to prevent water reaching homes. Additional temporary defences at Vicarage Lane and East Street, Osney Island were not required.
Emergency response partners ensured communities remained resilient to rising water levels. Officers were out daily supporting communities and checking water levels across the city. Operations staff worked to clear blockages and ensure flooding infrastructure was operating correctly.
Until the scheme is complete, the Environment Agency has well tested flood-protection plans in place for Oxford, working with others, including the fire service and local councils, to help those at greatest risk in the city. We encourage people to check their own flood risk and sign up for Environment Agency flood alerts.
Know your flood warnings!
Want to know more?
More details on the scheme can be found on our citizen space page: Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme – Welcome – Environment Agency – Citizen Space (environment-agency.gov.uk)
This page will be updated as the scheme progresses. You can also keep up-to-date in the following ways:
For current or previous editions of the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme newsletter please see: Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme – Welcome – Environment Agency – Citizen Space (environment-agency.gov.uk)
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