Vale of White Horse District Council Extra-Ordinary Meeting on Flooding

On Wednesday 12th September 2007 with a packed public Gallery, the Vale of White Horse District Council convened an extra-ordinary Council meting to discuss the recent flooding incident and the lessons to be learnt from the event.  Councillors from a number of wards spoke of the anguish felt by their constituents over the lack of warning from the Environment Agency, the inabilith to obtain sand-bags and the diversion of traffic by the Police into areas which were badly flooded.

Roger Thomas and Marjorie White spoke on behalf of Save Radley Lakes and Councillor Cox proposed a motion that Oxfordshire County Council should re-visit the planning permission given to NPower to fill Thrupp Lake, on the grounds of increased flood risk.

This motion was seconded but was not debated as Cllr Paterson said the Council had to be concerned about increasing its costs if it undertook to carry out flood risk assessments for every planning application as had been suggested.  The motion was deferred to one of the Council's sub-committee's to make a report to the full Council.

  Roger Thomas' address to the Council.


Address to VWHDC, 12 September 2007



Chair, Ladies and Gentlemen


I am speaking in relation to Agenda Item 7. I am going to talk about past planning mistakes, and about avoiding making matters worse for the future.


I am going to speak about Radley Lakes . I feel uneasy talking about lakes, when peoples' actual homes have been flooded, but I think that what has been happening at Radley Lakes is symptomatic of a lot of what is wrong in this area.


I went to Radley Lakes on 23 July. To the south of the old Abingdon Branch Railway Line, the floodplain was completely inundated, and water was lapping at the clay bund which surrounds the 17 hectares of floodplain that RWE npower has filled in with ash from Didcot Power Station.


We estimate that nearly 40 million gallons of water that would have gone into the floodplain there was displaced by the ash that has been piled up in the floodplain.


Where did all that water go instead? There are only two possibilities - either it was forced downstream towards Abingdon, or it backed up further upstream, around Radley and Kennington.


How could this development have been allowed? That's a good question one for Oxfordshire County Council and the Environment Agency, who approved it.


The Environment Agency is now looking at the observations which were made in this area during the July floods. We await their conclusions with interest.


For the part of Radley Lakes I've just been talking about, the damage is already done. I'd like to speak now about Thrupp Lake , where there is still a chance not to repeat the kinds of planning disaster I've just described.


Thrupp Lake is a 30-acre lake, right beside the floodplain. The lake is fed by groundwater it fills up naturally, quite quickly. It probably holds around 50 million gallons of water. It can also act as a reservoir, taking excess groundwater, rainwater, run-off and, very possibly, flood-water from the Thames . It can absorb maybe another 10 million gallons or more, simply through the rise and fall of the water level.


And now, it's proposed to fill this lake in, and to replace it with a four-metre high impermeable mound of clay and ash.


All the groundwater will be displaced (50 million gallons or so) and, in times of heavy rain or flood, all the extra water the lake could have absorbed - will go elsewhere. And where will all this water go? Downstream to Abingdon of course.


Why was this scheme given planning permission, despite comprehensively-researched objections from local people on flooding?


That's a good question again, one for Oxfordshire County Council and the Environment Agency. The Environment Agency is apparently looking at the matter again as well they might.


Now, this scheme hasn't been implemented yet. It's not too late to stop it.


It seems to me that, in the these times of climatic uncertainty, to replace a 30 acre lake adjacent to a floodplain with a four-metre high impermeable mound of ash and clay would be an act of gross folly, and of gross corporate irresponsibility.


So, I call on this council to pass an emergency resolution, calling on Oxfordshire County Council, the Environment Agency and RWE npower to put this disastrous scheme on hold until a full and proper assessment of its likely consequences for the future can be undertaken, in the light of the recent floods.


This is no time to be taking chances with our environment.


Thank you



Roger Thomas

Save Radley Lakes


12 September 2007






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