Flood management: Culvert in Hinksey best option to reduce rail closures and protect residents

Published: Wednesday, 4th May 2016

The Oxford City Council West Area Planning Committee carefully weighed all the evidence yesterday and approved a planning application from Network Rail to build a culvert.

The culvert will be built under the railway between Hinskey Drain and Hinskey Stream.  Network Rail intends to raise the track to reduce the flooding risk on the railway and proposed installing a culvert to minimise the impact on neighbouring premises.

The Committee heard that no additional homes will be affected by flooding with the proposed scheme. There is however a relatively small increase in flood depth (between 1 to 3 cm) at 19 properties, which are already at flood risk, if a one in 100 years flood event should occur. This compares with raising the track without installing a culvert which would cause at least 90 homes in Hinksey and others in Kennington to be put at risk of flooding.

Experts from the Environmental Agency confirmed to the Committee that the culvert was the best possible option to balance overall flood risks.

Oxford City Council along with the Environmental Agency and Oxfordshire County Council are working on a long term strategy for managing risk in and around the city by introducing the Oxford Flood Relief Scheme. The Committee concluded this was the only way to remove the risk from these 19 and the other 1800 properties in the city at risk from a one in 100 year event.

Tim Sadler, Executive Director, Community Services at Oxford City Council explained: “It was a difficult situation to have to go against National Planning Policy and we understand people’s concerns. Having carefully considered all the evidence the members were persuaded that what was proposed by Network Rail was the best possible solution for the sustainability and viability of the city”.

Local businesses have stressed the importance of keeping the Hinksey railway line opened during floods, highlighting the financial costs of line closures. Delays and closures caused by flooding on the tracks affect commuters and tourists travelling through and it is a key strategic freight artery. Since 2000, the line has flooded 11 times causing disruption. This closure will allow the track raising and simultaneous building of the culvert to be timed to coincide with a two-week shutdown of the BMW mini plant in August.