As we enter the winter months, there is an increasing likelihood of severe weather causing disruption to our homes, businesses and communities.
Additional government funding announced earlier in the year has provided the Environment Agency with opportunities to reduce flood risk for vulnerable communities and build resilience in others.
A number of key projects have been completed across the patch, such as improving the way temporary defences are deployed, working with community groups and riparian owners and ensuring Thames weirs are maintained and equipped to cope with the winter period.
Operations Manager for the Environment Agency, Maria Herlihy, said:
Having your house and community flood is a life-changing experience and last winter we saw the significant impacts of this across the UK.
Over the summer months, our teams have been out in the communities working on various projects across the region in order to get ourselves winter ready and to ensure that everything is in place to protect communities at risk of flooding.
The next few winter months are crucial for us. The recently published National Flood Resilience Review showed that even more extreme weather than last winter is possible and we all need to be prepared.
One major project for Oxfordshire has been the Supporting Communities Remaining at Risk of Flooding. This scheme has helped the Environment Agency improve the way it deploys temporary defences and to protect communities that do not currently have a permanent flood defence. Temporary defences include pumps, barriers and other equipment that reduce risk of flooding to homes and businesses, minimising risk to life and reducing costly clean-up operations.
Partnership work has also been a focal point for the Operations Delivery team. Through the summer months, teams of Operations Delivery staff have been working with the Army at Dalton Barracks in Oxfordshire to ensure new stocks of temporary flood barriers are safely stored and ready for deployment. As well as having their own, Thames area stocks 2km to 3km of temporary flood barriers. The Environment Agency has 40km of barriers stored at a number of strategic depots ready for deployment anywhere in England.
Maria Herlihy added:
To have the capability to deploy 40km of flood barriers anywhere in the country at very short notice requires strong logistics support. We have recently secured a contract with haulage company Eddie Stobart Ltd to provide enhanced logistics, ensuring our flood barriers are transported quickly, safely and efficiently to areas at risk.
Over 30 temporary defence deployment plans have been developed over the summer right across the Thames area targeting the communities at greatest risk. Environment Agency teams have built flood walls around restricted properties for the Marlow flood alleviation scheme. This will mean temporary defences can be deployed this winter, if required, ahead of the full scheme being constructed in 2017.
The Eton Wick community, who experienced severe flooding back in 2014, has also benefitted from the winter ready programme of work. Officers from the Asset Performance Lower Tributaries and Jubilee River teams have been working closely with the local residents.
We have cleared the Roundmoor Ditch of excessive weed growth and taken the community on a tour of the Jubilee River to reassure residents that the Jubilee hasn’t increased their flood risk. We also ran a watercourse maintenance demonstration day aimed at riparian owners and interested members of the community.
Ultimately, we want the community to be able to love their local watercourses and not fear them. We all have a role to play in keeping our homes, families, and communities safe. I urge all members of the public to be winter ready and ensure they have checked their flood risk, signed up to our flood alerts and made a flood plan.
Notes to editor
You can check your flood risk to ensure you are winter ready. Photographs available upon request.