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£125m Oxfordshire flood relief plan ‘on hold’ until autumn
OXFORDSHIRE County Council will probably not know until the autumn whether it will get most of the money towards a £125m flood relief channel around Oxford.
Deputy leader of the council Rodney Rose has said Oxfordshire will most likely have to wait for the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s autumn statement to find out if the Western Conveyance could go ahead.
The county council, Oxford City Council and the Environment Agency are keen to go ahead with the channel, which would run between Seacourt Stream and Sandford Lock, saying it would prevent Oxford from closing down every time the city floods.
But the scheme faces a significant funding gap of around £70m which has to be closed before work can start.
And Oxfordshire’s councils and business leaders – who together form the local enterprise partnership – have asked the Government for a 50 per cent contribution towards that gap as part of their bid to encourage economic growth in the area.
Mr Rose said: “I suspect we will have to wait for the autumn statement to find out if we get the funding for the LEP. We have already got the funding in place to get the design and permission for the scheme and we are having a meeting with the landowners shortly but we have not got an absolute route in place yet. But we are waiting to see if we get the growth fund money which comes through the LEP. I am still very optimistic but we have got to find a lot of money.”
Last month the Western Conveyance scheme was given the support of the Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee at a meeting in Wandsworth and was awarded £12m – though this has to be formally signed off at a meeting in July.
This was the first financial committment towards the scheme, though the city council and county council have agreed to contribute towards it.
The growth fund is a £2bn pot of government money that Oxfordshire’s LEP is bidding for to keep the county’s economy growing.
In its submission to the Government, the LEP says: “The past decade has seen four major flood incidents occur in Oxfordshire impacting on businesses and communities.
“The long-term economic success of Oxfordshire will depend on being able to grow and stay open for business.”
The autumn statement is generally given in late November or early December.
County council leader Ian Hudspeth said: “Obviously if we get the money from the government it will mean we will be able to plan for the scheme and move it forward.
“If we don’t get it then it will be back to the drawing board because the gap will be too big to close locally.
“The earlier we find out the better and if we have to wait until the autumn statement it will mean we will find out six months later than is ideal.”
Treasury spokesman Ben King said: “The Government is currently negotiating growth deals with all 39 local enterprise partnerships and will make an announcement in the coming months.”
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