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Guest blog: Keeping Oxford safe – why the city needs a new flood scheme.

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Peter Rawcliffe from the Oxford Flood Alliance talks about his experience of his home being flooded and tells us why a new flood scheme for the city is so important.

We’ve been flooded five times now between 2000 and 2014. In some ways we’re used to it, but it never gets much easier.

We have done a number of things to the house to reduce the damage that is caused each time. And particularly to reduce the clear-up time afterwards.

For those people who are not familiar with flooding, it’s very, very stressful to be flooded. And there is good medical evidence that both physical and mental health are badly affected by being flooded.

The biggest problem isn’t the floodwater while it’s in your house: that’s just for a few days, and you can cope with wellies - though you may be without heat, light and any way of cooking. The much bigger problem is the clear-up afterwards, which often takes weeks or months. Sometimes it’s a year before people are back in their own homes. You can imagine how stressful that is for anyone - think what it’s like for vulnerable elderly people, those with a disability, a family with young children or people with pets. And it’s not just about homes, people lose treasured things, such as family photographs. Things they can never replace.

Flooded properties in Oxford in 2007

Flooding is expensive too: being insured is a help of course, though premiums and excesses tend to be high. Without insurance people can really struggle.

I belong to a community organisation called the Oxford Flood Alliance; we are an action group of Oxford residents affected by flooding. We formed after the large 2007 floods, and since then we’ve been working with organisations with flood remits. This includes the Environment Agency, Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford City Council, and Thames Water. After the 2013/14 floods it became clear that if Oxford were to flourish into the future a more ambitious flood relief scheme was essential. We were among those keen to see such a scheme; the result is the proposed Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme - a scheme that will reduce the flood risk to all properties in Oxford that flood from the River Thames, and a scheme we support wholeheartedly.

Oxford’s new flood scheme will better protect key areas of the city.

There have been a few years now in which there has not been any particularly bad flooding in Oxford. A little bit of disruption, but nothing like we’ve previously seen. But without a doubt Oxford will flood again. Seven rivers meet at Oxford so the city’s very vulnerable. Furthermore, the predictions are that climate change will bring more extreme weather events and still more flooding. As a city we must be prepared by doing something positive about it.

You can check whether your own property is at risk of flooding at is also useful information about preparing for flooding.

Don’t underestimate flooding - it’s disruptive, costly and extremely stressful.

Artist impression of Willow Walk Bridge 15 years after the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme is complete

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