COMMUNITIES in Oxfordshire are being urged to be prepared for potential flooding as part of a new campaign to tackle the problem.
The Environment Agency yesterday launched a four-week flood awareness campaign, which will include the official opening of a £17m flood alleviation scheme at Banbury.
The first in a series of Oxfordshire events is due to take place in Oxford tonight, after one of the wettest summers on record.
Residents are being invited to a “flood forum” at the town hall, St Aldate’s from 7pm to 9pm, where the Environment Agency and local councils will discuss the challenges the county faces.
Five years on from the summer floods of 2007, there will be a chance for residents to ask questions about flooding concerns in the area.
Representatives from the Environment Agency, Network Rail, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Vale of White Horse District Council and Thames Water are set to attend.
One of those attending the meeting to raise his own concerns is Andy Webber, of Earl Street, in his role on the steering group of the Oxford Flood Alliance.
Mr Webber said: “Since the floods of 2000, 2003 and 2007, we have had short term measures – one was desilting the streams, the second was maintenance of the streams.
“Maintenance is really what we’re talking about, or we will be back in the same situation we were in.
“It is a bit like a house, if you’re doing things on a regular basis the place looks good and it is not going to cost an arm and a leg. A lot of things have been done in Oxford to reduce flood risk but it has got to be ongoing.
“The other big concern we have is insurance. In 2007 an agreement was struck up between insurance companies and the Government that everybody who had got insurance would keep insurance. That comes to an end next year.”
Richard Thurston, of Osney Island Residents’ Association, said: “It is all part of the work of the Oxford Flood Alliance – we have got some questions for the organisations going along which we hope are answered. We really want to get some of those answers.”
Each week of the Environment Agency campaign has a theme; in the first week it is ‘damage and safety’.
The Banbury Flood Alleviation Scheme began operating at the end of last year and is due to be officially opened by Banbury MP, Sir Tony Baldry, on Friday.
The scheme reduces the flood risk to more than 440 homes and 70 business premises in the town.
Other flood prevention schemes are due to be launched as part of the campaign, including projects in Newbury and East Sussex.
Peter Quarmby, flood and coastal manager at the Environment Agency, said: “Raising awareness is just one of the ways of trying to bring home to people why they need to accept that flooding can happen and how they can prepare for when the worst does happen.”
The campaign hopes to educate the public on how to find out if homes or businesses are in a flood risk area; how to minimise potential damage to properties and what the Environment Agency is doing to reduce the threat of inland and coastal flooding.
The Oxford Flood Alliance will also hold their own public meeting on Thursday, November 8, inviting councillors, members of the public, organisations and local MPs.
To find out more about the risk of flooding, people can sign up for flood alerts and warnings via a free service, Floodline Warnings Direct on 0845 9881188 or go to environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/floods/default.aspx. People can also follow the Environment Agency on Twitter at @EnvAgencySE