Working together to reduce flooding risks

First published in Letters

Sir – The recent persistent and heavy rainfall has once again impacted on communities and residents in West Oxfordshire.

A few residential and business properties flooded, some of our roads were closed and many householders spent anxious days closely monitoring river levels.

I was proud of the response of council officers who went above and beyond the call of duty to help communities at risk; many worked through the night filling and distributing sandbags, replenishing sandbag bunkers, rehousing those in danger, assisting with disseminating information and liaising with other agencies.

Although, thankfully, devastation was not on the same scale as 2007 in West Oxfordshire, I would like to reassure Gazette readers that flood alleviation remains a priority for the district council.

Since 2007 we now have an annual ditch clearance programme in place, have secured more than £1m in funding to push forward with flood defence schemes and have continued to pressurise other agencies to fulfil their duties.

The Environment Agency will be removing the silt bar from the River Windrush in the centre of Witney and this has happened because of pressure from the council.

We have produced detailed reports clearly setting out the roles and responsibility of authorities and landowners and these continue to be available for communities to use. Flood risk is now also a major planning consideration for future development.

While public bodies and landowners have responsibilities, homeowners also have a duty to protect their homes. It is important that we all work together to achieve the very best possible outcome, particularly at a time of limited funding and increasing demand.

We are expecting the Environment Agency’s flood alleviation report for Witney to be published in the next month or two and I will be meeting Witney’s new Anti-Flood Group so that we can discuss together the recommendations being put forward by the agency.

David Harvey, cabinet member with responsibility for the environment, West Oxfordshire District Council

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