‘Attitude to flooding has to change now’

HOMES will be ruined and lives put at risk unless Oxfordshire changes its attitude to flood preparation, according to former emergency planner John Kelly.

Following last month’s floods, Mr Kelly said Environment Agency plans to defend against flooding by spending over £100m were “pie in the sky” because the cash wasn’t available.

The scheme he is referring to is the Western Coveyance Channel, an EA plan to build a flood relief channel as wide as the River Thames to the west of Oxford to divert flood water. Although the project went out to consultation three years agop, it has never progressed due to a lack of funding.

Mr Kelly, a man with more than two decades of experience in dealing with countywide emergencies, said homeowners must pressure insurance companies and the Government to make improvements to homes.

He said it would ease the burden of almost inevitable flooding rather than fool themselves it could be avoided.

Mr Kelly, who lives in Oxford, said: “Now these one-in-100-year floods are happening every five years there really has to be a change.

“I think that it is now time to put the emergency response behind us, as most agencies seem to have done what they can in the circumstances.

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“Flooding will never be solved with the poor planning decisions of concrete wastelands in the past such as those off the Botley Road.

“It’s time for everybody to pressure insurance companies, who are are supposedly paying £30,000 per household. If your car is in an accident your insurance firm will never give you a better one to replace it, that’s just how the industry works.

“If it means putting premiums up I don’t think people will mind, but the repairs have to be something that will reduce the damage next time.”

Oxfordshire County Council deputy leader Rodney Rose said: “Insurance company standard is ‘no betterment’ when they pay out on claims; they won’t make improvements. I am of the view that it is very much down to the householder to put those in place and ensure that if it happens again there is a better form of protection.”

EA spokesman Hayley Willoughby said some of 2010 strategy that contained aspects of the Western Conveyance Channel was in the works.

She said: “Building the Conveyance Channel will be a decision that will be made if there is evidence that climate change has increased the benefits to be gained from carrying out what would be major engineering works.

“We continue to discuss the options for reducing flood risk with the Oxford Flood Alliance, which represents local groups of residents in the City. We have agreed to review some proposals that they have put forward.”

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