Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme evaluated

Oxford hosts European workshop to evaluate decision-making processes for flood risk reduction investment.

On May 24, Oxford University’s Distinguished Research Associate, Professor Edmund Penning-Rowsell, convened stakeholders from across Europe, at a workshop to evaluate decision-making processes for investment in flood risk reduction schemes. The meeting, jointly promoted by the Flood Hazard Research Centre at Middlesex University and the Oxford Flood Alliance, was part of FLOOD-CBA2, an EU-funded knowledge platform which facilitates the sharing of good practice to improve decision-making and investment efficiency of flood prevention measures.

Visitors from Spain, Portugal and Greece met with the Oxford Flood Alliance, the Environment Agency, and the Chair of the Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, to discuss decision-making processes, with participants sharing experience from across the EU. The meeting heard talks from David Cotterell of the Environment Agency, Adrian Porter of the Oxford Flood Alliance and Jeremy Biggs of the Freshwater Habitats Trust, as well as two presentations on suburban flood problems in Lisbon, Portugal and Ecija, Spain.

The proposed Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme, which involves a major bypass channel in the Oxford floodplain, served as a UK case study, with delegates visiting the proposed route which runs from Botley Road, to downstream of Sandford Lock, passing the villages of North Hinksey, South Hinksey, and Kennington. The floodplain, which is predominantly used for agriculture, has been built on in the areas adjacent to the Botley Road, and also at Grandpont. These developments are now at risk of flooding, especially as flood flows are likely to increase with climate change.

The building of residential properties and commercial premises likely occurred around the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, perhaps at a time when floods were relatively rare and there was a lack of awareness of the real nature of the flood risk.

The current proposal for the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme will see the excavation of a very shallow “scrape” in the flood plain. This will deepen the floodwaters, creating a less peaked hydrograph as floods pass the city. The design aims to avoid channeling excessive volumes of water downstream to Abingdon.

The meeting concluded that while flood safety can never be fully guaranteed, a broad-based decision process is necessary to appraise flood risk reduction options, in order to ensure they are economically efficient, environmentally friendly, and socially acceptable.



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