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Greens Win Motion for Better Flood Response in Cherwell

At the full Cherwell District Council meeting in February I brought a motion calling for a more joined up approach to flooding response in our area and across Oxfordshire which was passed unanimously by members of the council.

The motion called for areas that are at risk of flooding to establish a ‘flood resilient community’, including the formation of local flood response groups and forums for residents to feedback information on current and potential flooding risks,

To support these groups I suggested the setting up of local flood response stores to provide locally available flood alleviation equipment. I had hoped that there would be funding for this, but there was some push back on this from the County Council due to shortage of money. I still don’t think that’s good enough and will be pursuing this more fully in the future.

The motion also said that updated surveys and maintenance programs, with maps of drainage and flood defences and associated repair responsibilities should be published regularly to help local groups and response agencies to maintain and monitor them.

Finally I called on risk management agencies across the county to set up a cooperative task force, including the provision of a centralised contact point which can trigger an immediate, proportionate response to all emergency flooding events. It is envisaged that all local councils and other agencies would play a part in this.

Flooding in Yarnton

I was very glad we managed to debate this motion, even though it only just made it before the new 11pm guillotine imposed by the Conservatives in the recent constitutional review.  If it hadn’t been discussed at this meeting, it would have been another 5 months before it would have been heard and obviously we could be facing many more flood incidents before then.

As a councillor, I’ve been trying to help local residents deal with flooding in both my Parish and District council wards.  It’s become apparent that there is no central co-ordination and no single contact point that can be called on to manage flooding at all levels.  Smaller floods are often given a low priority by the relevant agencies and even the new guidance issued by the County and District councils doesn’t provide a timely response to these incidents.

Cherwell District Council recently resumed responsibility for flood defence in the region and as we also work closely with the county council we are in a unique position to take some leadership on this issue and improve responses to these distressing and costly incidents.  This is even more important in areas like Yarnton and Begbroke which have been flooded recently and where the council has recently identified areas for development as part of the local plan review. 

Covering areas in tarmac and concrete is only going to increase the likelihood of flooding and we need to ensure that suitable and long lasting flood alleviation measures are included along with responsibility for maintenance.

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Greens Call for Credible Response to Flooding Threat in Oxfordshire

Flooding across the county is now a perennial and repeated problem, the North Oxfordshire Green Party are calling for a credible multi-agency response to flooding problems in Cherwell and beyond.

Flooding is now a regular occurrence across the district and in areas like, Banbury, Bicester, Kidlington, Yarnton and Begbroke district and parish councillors have been trying to deal with both the aftermath and the immediate threat posed by these challenging and distressing events.

Much of this is due to the impact of climate change, but there are also problems created by lack of proper maintenance of flood defences, culverts and swales.  Increased development on surrounding areas has also exacerbated the problem, and with huge amounts of additional houses planned for the green fields around villages in South Cherwell, there are now serious concerns amongst residents about what the future holds.

Run-off from areas like Spring Hill are sources of flood water which now regularly hit the villages of Yarnton and Begbroke below. These are areas due to be built on as part of Cherwell’s recently adopted partial plan review (site PR9).

I’m regularly being contacted, both as a district and parish councillor, by residents watching flood water approaching their homes, yet there are very few options open to me to help them. 

Flooding in Garden city Kidlington

These incidents often occur out of office hours. As a district councillor I have an emergency response number to call, but the last time I used that when I was trying to help residents facing flooding in Garden City Kidlington, I was told I should call the police and ask them to deal with it.  When I did so, the police operator seemed bemused that I was given that advice

Other agencies such as the fire service are quite understandably reluctant to tie up vital fire and rescue resources unless property has actually been inundated.  This is quite a distressing situation to have to explain to residents who are trying to prevent that from happening in the first place.

Thames water are usually difficult to reach and often do very little when they are finally contacted.  I hear regular complaints about blocked drains and flood channels as well as pumping stations either not working at all or being unable to cope with the level of flood water.  Again, the only emergency contact I have for Thames Water is the same number that any member of the public can call

The county council will deliver sandbags, but usually by that point the situation has reached crisis level and residents have to hope that they will hold back water which may already be at their thresholds

This just isn’t good enough.  We need to stop treating these incidents as one-off events and put together a credible, structured, multi-agency response that can swing into action when councillors and other local agencies need it. It’s very frustrating as a local councillor not being able to help when residents expect you to have levers to pull that just aren’t available to us

Advancing climate change means that we will now have to live with the escalating threat of flooding on a year-round basis.  Increased development on what are now relatively permeable green spaces, such as Spring Hill in Begbroke will only make matters worse.

This is not a criticism of individual agencies.  There just seems to be no credible protocol about what can and should be done and who should be doing it. We need a central control point that can co-ordinate a response to all levels of flooding whenever and wherever it happens, as well as a local flood task force to ensure flood defences are mapped and regularly maintained.

Advancing climate change means that we will now have to live with the escalating threat of flooding on a year-round basis.  Increased development on what are now relatively permeable green spaces, such as Spring Hill in Begbroke will only make matters worse.

Site promoters promise that they will put flood defences in place, but with the frequency and intensity of flooding increasing every year, most defences will eventually be overwhelmed. Developers are also usually more concerned with ensuring new properties don’t flood, with less consideration for the impact of new developments on existing residents.  Areas that may in the past have been flood free will soon find themselves in the firing line with little hope of holding those responsible to account. I made a video about this last year that you can see below