Controversial Flood Scheme Faces Public Inquiry

Hinksey Meadows

27th July 2023

Image credit: Oxford Flood and Environment Group

The Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme, which would see a five km long channel dug through the western floodplain of the city, will be examined by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs later this year. The inquiry was called by Secretary of State Thérèse Coffey following objections from landowners whose land is subject to a compulsory order.

Two community groups, the Hinksey and Osney Environment Group and the Oxford Flood and Environment Group are working to preserve Hinksey Meadows to the west of Oxford. These are used by over 500 people a day for walking, running and taking dogs for exercise.

The campaign groups support 85% of the measures of Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme, however there is widespread opposition in the local community and beyond to the destructive channel element of the scheme on the grounds of:
– devastating environmental impacts,
– ineffectiveness for flood relief
–  poor value for money. 

There is growing evidence from ecologists and independent experts that the channel lacks a hydrological evidence base, will destroy nationally rare MG4a grasslands, and cause the loss of thousands of trees while also failing to reduce flood risks. Hinksey Meadow, is considered “the Mona Lisa of Meadows” but the channel will dig up 1.33 hectares and undermine the under flow, thereby threatening the survival of this rare habitat and community of plants. 

The channel costs nearly a third of the £176 million budget but provides less than 2% of the benefit and this is only providing a  marginal reduction of flood relief risk at best. By the Environment Agency’s  own admission the channel is experimental. The construction will also cause widespread traffic disruption, pollution and adverse impacts on local businesses. 

It is also suspected that the construction of this channel is but the first step to draining the meadows completely to provide land for building.

A short video about Hinksey Meadow was made to accompany a fundraising art auction of a painting by renowned artist Elaine Kazimierczuk. Watch it here.

The campaign groups are currently fundraising to pay for legal representation at the Public Inquiry triggered by the objections to the Compulsory Purchase Orders. This is due to be held in the week of November 13.  Donations can be made via gofundme.

Hundreds of objections have been lodged by both experts and members of the community to the planning application. There is also a petition with nearly 5,000 signatures – sign the petition here.