PRIME Minister David Cameron said there was a “strong case” for the proposed £123m flood relief channel around Oxford and has pledged to examine the plan.
The Witney MP visited South Hinksey yesterday to see the work that has been done to protect the village from flooding.
He was shown the 750m concrete barrier that soldiers from Dalton Barracks’ 3 Logistic Support Regiment built two weeks ago with help from the Environment Agency and Oxfordshire County Council’s firefighters.
Philip Hammond, the Secretary of State for Defence, also visited the village near Oxford to meet some of the soldiers who helped protect it.
When asked about the proposed Western Conveyance Channel, which Oxford’s political leaders have been lobbying for, Mr Cameron said: “This barrier demonstrates what can be done.
“I have discussed the Western Conveyance with Rodney Rose on the county council and I am discussing it with the EA and with colleagues and I know (Oxford West and Abingdon MP) Nicola Blackwood is fighting very hard for it, so if it is possible to move ahead let’s look at this.
“If you look at what has happened since 2007 there have been a whole set of flood defence schemes in West Oxfordshire, in Oxford itself, the demountable barriers that helped in places like Osney.
“Good steps have been taken, money has been spent, there is a good forward programme of investment set all the way out to 2020, but let’s look at what more can be done.
“We cannot keep saying these are one-in-100 year events when they keep happening so frequently so Nicola and the Oxford MPs are making a very strong case for action.
“As an Oxfordshire MP I am as keen as anybody to make sure we protect homes and businesses after these floods.”
The Western Conveyance – which would run from the area around the Seacourt park-and-ride off Botley Road, to the River Thames at Sandford Lock – would aim to divert water away from Oxford to stop it spreading across the city.
This would mean it could prevent both Botley Road and Abingdon Road from closing every time the city floods.
Although the Western Conveyance project went out to consultation three years ago, it has never progressed due to a lack of funding.
But the Environment Agency is keen on the idea, and Barry Russell, its area operations manager for Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, said he was “very optimistic” about the channel’s chances of going ahead.
He said: “We are looking to put some of the bids forward on March 5 and we are working closely with the councils, the universities, businesses and Thames Water.
“We have got around about £40m from the Government and I am very optimistic that it will be a project we can put forward.”
The event in South Hinksey was also attended by Sara Thornton, the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, Dave Etheridge, Oxfordshire’s chief fire officer and Matthew Barber, the leader of Vale of White Horse District Council.
Ms Blackwood said: “I think our case is being heard and taken very seriously at the highest level which is why we have had two cabinet ministers visit in one day. There is reason to hope but we have to keep the pressure up.”