Policy paper

Oxford flood alleviation scheme

Updated 25 August 2016

This document is out of date and was withdrawn on 25 August 2016. See the Reducing flood risk in Oxford and Abingdon document collection for the latest information.

Latest news

The Environment Agency is working in partnership to develop proposals to reduce flood risk in Oxford.

Investigations have confirmed that a flood relief channel will bring significant flood relief benefits to Oxford. The Oxford flood alleviation scheme project team have developed a series of options to construct new channels or enlarge existing channels in the western floodplain.

Following the public consultation earlier this year, the team have analysed the options in detail and now have a route for the scheme.

The next stage will be to design the scheme.


There are 4,500 properties in Oxford at a 1% or higher annual risk of flooding. This figure could rise to nearly 6,000 by the year 2080 with the predicted effects of climate change. Major roads, railway lines, schools and businesses could also be affected by flooding. The Environment Agency carries out regular maintenance activities and operates its assets to reduce the flood risk as much as possible, reducing this to 1,800 properties at risk.

In 2009, the Oxford flood alleviation scheme project team carried out the Oxford flood risk management strategy, a detailed study of the flood risk from rivers in Oxford. The strategy described how flood risk can be managed in Oxford over the next 100 years. Since the January 2014 floods, the project team has been working with partners including Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford City Council, Vale of White Horse District Council, Thames Water, Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, University of Oxford and the Oxford Flood Alliance, to develop a scheme in line with this strategy.

The project team has carried out investigations into the flood risk and possible options to alleviate this risk. Their investigations show that capacity can be increased in Oxford’s western flood plain by building a new flood relief channel.

How the flood relief channel would work

During heavy rainfall and high flows on the river, the new channel would provide additional capacity and help manage the movement of water through Oxford. It would reduce the risk of flood water entering homes, businesses and disrupting transport links. Although a channel would reduce flood risk, it cannot remove it entirely. The flood plain would still play an important role in managing flood risk in Oxford.

The Oxford flood alleviation scheme project team works to reduce flood risk, not to transfer it from one place to another. They will carry out modelling and will design the scheme to ensure that flood risk to downstream communities does not increase.

The project team has developed different options for the flood relief channel, including different routes and sizes. To inform this work, they carried out ground investigations in September 2015, which involved digging boreholes and trial pits across the flood plain to help better understand the geology, soil and groundwater levels.

Once the preferred option has been decided, there are various approvals that must be sought (including planning permission) before construction can begin.

The scheme has funding from central government, the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee and local councils, but needs further contributions to enable construction. This is the standard way in which flood schemes are funded today.

Provided the scheme is fully approved and funded, the earliest work can be expected to start is spring 2018. Construction is expected to be completed by 2022.

How you can get involved

From an early stage, the project team has been working with partners and local environmental groups to ensure that the scheme will bring environmental, social and cultural benefits as well as reducing flood risk.

Along with partners, they have been meeting with landowners, community groups, local flood groups and councillors to discuss the scheme. They also held public events across the Oxford area in 2015 and 2016.

The events helped the team to gain useful local knowledge and understand the priorities of the local communities. You told them you are interested in improving the environment and recreational use of the flood plain, and protecting the delicate plant species and archaeology which gives Oxford its unique identity. They are using this information to help develop the scheme.

Drop-in to the next public event at Oxford Town Hall, from 2pm to 8pm on Tuesday 28 June, to view the preferred option and find out what happens next.


For further information, or to sign up to the scheme’s newsletter, please email oxfordscheme@environment-agency.gov.uk.