Environment Agency progresses £121m Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme

The Environment Agency has issued a Compulsory Purchase Order under provisions in the Water Resources Act 1991 and the Environment Act 1995 in order to acquire land and rights over land, for the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme.

The land is required for the purposes of constructing and operating flood alleviation works in areas situated in and to the west, south west and south of Oxford, Oxfordshire.

Compulsory Purchase Order letters have been sent out to landowners and anyone else who may have an interest in land that is impacted by the scheme on a permanent or temporary basis. The Environment Agency has separately published a lengthy 515 page document setting out details of land to be acquired and ownership.

The project team has been negotiating with landowners to obtain permission to use their land. Landowners impacted by permanent or temporary work, and people who have an interest in land impacted by permanent or temporary work have been contacted directly by the project land agents.

The Agency is working with partners on the major new scheme to reduce flood risk to homes and businesses in Oxford, as well as to services and major transport routes into the city. The scheme partners are Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford City Council, Vale of White Horse District Council, Thames Water, Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, Oxford Flood Alliance, Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership and University of Oxford.

The Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme will cost around £121m and is one of the biggest flood schemes in the country, second only to the River Thames Scheme planned for further down the River Thames.

The ambitious project is made possible through central government funding of approximately £65 million and local contributions. A record £56 million has been raised by partners. Oxfordshire County Council, Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, Oxford City Council and Thames Water have all made contributions.

Oxford has had a number of significant floods in past decades that have caused internal property damage and closed the railway and major roads, bringing the city to a standstill. The Environment Agency maintains rivers and streams and operates weirs and locks in and around Oxford. This work reduces flood risk in Oxford from smaller, more regular floods, but more significant flooding cannot be reduced by watercourse maintenance alone.

Flooding is also expected to become more frequent and more severe with the effects of climate change. The Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme is designed to manage flood risk to Oxford over the next 100 years.

A decision on the planning application for the scheme which was submitted in March 2018 is expected by the end of 2018.

If all approvals are granted construction will start in 2019 and is expected to take 3 to 4 years.The planning application documents are available to view on the Oxfordshire County Council planning portal.


New route set to cut commuter journey times

Commuters travelling through the Midlands are set to benefit from a new multi-million-pound route linking the M54 to the M6.

The new route will slash up to 30 minutes off journeys for regular commuters each week. It promises to take around 22,000 vehicles a day from the A460, making that major road less congested.

It will also ease congestion on the A449 and A5 by separating local traffic from long-distance and commuter traffic, and overall the impact on congestion will boost the regional economy.

The route was chosen after a consultation that saw nearly three quarters of respondents give it the thumbs up.

Project Manager Andrew Kelly said:

“We want to provide a road that works for both drivers and the local community living nearby.

“We were really pleased to have so much feedback during the consultation and this route was the clear winner.

“Once completed, it will also relieve traffic congestion on the A460, A449 and A5, improve safety and support economic growth for the Midlands.”

Currently, the M54 merges with the M6 southbound at junction 10a. This means northbound road users must leave the motorway network and take other routes to connect with the M6 north at junction 11 or 12 or the toll road at junction T8 to continue their journey.

The A460 currently carries about 26,500 vehicles each day with heavy goods vehicles making up about 10 per cent of this figure.

We consulted on three options for a new route, and will now take forward its preferred route, which is based on ‘Option B West’.

This option is the shortest route, providing the best journey time of the options and could save regular commuters around 30 minutes a week.

Once complete, the new route will include:

  • a two-lane dual carriageway link road between M54 junction 1 and M6 junction 11
  • an improved junction arrangement at M54 junction 1 and M6 junction 11

The scheme will also support local economic growth for Telford, Shrewsbury, Wolverhampton, Cannock and Tamworth by enhancing east-west and north-south routes.

Sub-national Transport Body Midlands Connect supports the link road. Midlands Connect’s Maria Machancoses said:

“This project is a potential game changer for the Midlands motorway network; it will make both long distance and short journeys quicker and less congested, as well as support ambitious economic growth plans for the region. Motorists, the logistics industry and businesses will all benefit, and Midlands Connect is calling for the earliest feasible construction.

“The link road is also vital to the success of Midlands Connect’s own long term Midlands Motorway Hub strategy, helping to make sure that east-west and north-south journeys are improved, benefiting not only the region, but the country as a whole.

“The link road is a top priority for partners from across the region including Telford & Wrekin, Staffordshire, Birmingham, the Black Country and Shropshire. We will continue to work with them and Highways England as these plans progress, ensuring our road networks serve the future needs of business and people in the Midlands.

“We’ll be carrying out further work including completing surveys and investigation work to help design the scheme in greater detail.”

Those wishing to find out more about the scheme can attend a series of public exhibitions – full details are available on the scheme web page

There will be a further consultation in 2019 when we’ll ask for further views on this more detailed design before applying for a Development Consent Order which is part of the planning process for the new route.

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Scientists develop blood test for motorists to tell if drivers are too sleepy

Drivers could face new blood tests which would tell if they were too tired to drive.

Scientists have developed a check to tell cops if motorists are getting too little sleep.

The blood sample gives vital clues as to whether drivers are sleep-deprived.

Just missing out on two hours sleep in a single night can double the risk of a car crash, research shows.

One in six smashes on Britain’s roads is thought to be fatigue-related.

Now medics at Surrey University have developed a prototype sleepiness test.

It works by using a high-tech computer program to analyse the activity of 68 genes known to be affected by sleep deprivation.

Researchers tested it on 36 adults, some of whom had skipped one night of sleep.

The results, in the journal Sleep, showed the test was 92 per cent accurate in identifying those who had missed out on their kip.

Researcher Dr Emma Laing said: “It is difficult to independently assess how much sleep a person has had.

“This makes it hard for the police to know if drivers were fit to drive, or for employers to know if staff are fit for work.”

Scientists said the experiment shows how quickly sleep loss can affect the body.

Now they hope to develop the test as a way to also measure the long-term health effects of sleep deprivation.

Too little rest is known to increase the risk of heart disease.

Professor Derk-Jan Dijk, director Surrey University’s sleep research centre: “This is a test for acute total sleep loss.

“The next step is to identify biomarkers for chronic insufficient sleep, which we know to be associated with poor health.”

The tests could be absorbed into law to help cops bust those who jump behind the wheel after too little kip.

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Environment Agency begins work on 5 natural flood management schemes in Norfolk

The Environment Agency has started work on the first of five natural flood management schemes along rivers in Norfolk to help manage flood risk to local properties and improve habitats.

Natural flood management helps store flood water upstream and slows the flow of water along river channels, complementing the use of more traditional hard engineering downstream such as flood walls and embankments.

Techniques such as tree-planting, restoring peatland, building leaky dams and reconnecting rivers to natural flood plains can all be used to reduce flood risk naturally.

The first two schemes under construction in Norfolk are on Camping Beck in the Bure Catchment at Buxton, and the River Yare at Marlingford.

The Buxton project is being carried out through a partnership between the Norfolk Rivers Internal Drainage Board, the Broadland Catchment Partnership and the Environment Agency. Works here involve storing flood flows upstream of Buxton village in an area that will enhance the environment through providing habitat, whilst helping to reduce flood risk downstream.

The Marlingford scheme is being carried out by a partnership involving Natural England, the Broadland Catchment Partnership and Environment Agency.

A series of ‘flow deflectors’ and lengths of woody debris will be constructed in the channel of the River Yare to redirect flood water on to the flood plain, so it is stored upstream for longer and reduces the risk to communities downstream.

Sections of the riverbank will also be lowered at strategic locations for the same reason, and ‘scrapes’ will be dug in to the floodplain to increase water storage capacity. This will have the added benefit of providing habitat for wading birds such as lapwing, teal and snipe, plus invertebrates and other wildlife.

Similar techniques will be used at Ingworth on the River Bure, and Weybourne on the Spring Beck, with work due to begin soon.

A fifth scheme will be constructed at Worthing on the River Blackwater in partnership with the Norfolk Rivers Trust, with work taking place late Autumn.

The work is being carried out as part of a £15 million Natural Flood Management programme announced by Defra in 2017.

Environment minister Thérèse Coffey said:

“The start of work on the new natural flood management (NFM) schemes is excellent news for Norfolk. The county is just one of the areas across England benefitting from our £15 million investment in NFM and in the record £2.6 billion we are investing overall to better protect against flooding.

“Once finished, the Norfolk schemes will provide additional support in reducing the flood risks to local land, homes and businesses. On top of this, they will also enhance and restore some of the county’s wildlife habitats and improve water quality in its rivers.”

According to Neil Punchard, Broadland Catchment Partnership officer, the partnership helps co-ordinate farmers and organisations in working together which can cost-effectively provide multiple benefits including wetland wildlife habitat, improved water quality, and reduced flood risk.

Matthew Philpot, Project Engineer for Broads & Norfolk Rivers IDB added:

“The integration of staff, resource and ideas has opened up a number of projects, which have given significant efficiencies along with multiple benefits to wildlife, people and property.

“Working with nature and thinking in new, progressive ways about drainage opportunities has been highly beneficial and will continue to provide positive outcomes for many years to come.”

Natural flood management is an important part of the Environment Agency’s strategy in protecting communities from flood and coastal erosion risk.

It can be a cost-effective and sustainable way to manage flood risk and coastal erosion alongside traditional engineering, while creating habitat for wildlife and helping regenerate rural and urban areas through tourism.

Many flood and coastal schemes feature a mixture of hard and soft engineering and natural flood management.


Northumbrian Water explores virtual system approach to incident response

A virtual system could see Northumbrian Water bringing the future to life, to help protect people and the environment during an incident.

The water company and Newcastle University are working together to progress an idea around incident response, which came out of one of the 13 ‘sprints′ held at the company′s Innovation Festival 2018.

The organisations are exploring the potential of using ‘Digital Twin′ technology – a virtual model of the real world, to help predict the impact of a burst pipe or heavy rainfall.

The ‘Twincident′ idea would allow Northumbrian Water to run simulations of an area during an incident to show what could happen over a 24 hour period, in just a couple of minutes.

This would be used to understand whether homes and businesses are in danger of being flooded, or environments being polluted, and prioritise the appropriate response actions.

Northumbrian Water’s Research and Development Manager, Chris Jones said:

“During an incident, it′s really important to identify problems early, in order to make the best decisions and reduce the impact on our customers and the environment.

“Harnessing the power of digital twin technology to progress our ‘Twincident′ idea would help us to have an even better insight and response to incidents, and we′re really excited about working in partnership with Newcastle University to make it happen.”

Newcastle University’s Chris Kilsby, Professor of Hydrology and Climate Change in the School of Engineering, commented:

“We′re delighted that we will be able to put our research to good use working with Northumbrian Water.

“Twincident is an excellent way of bringing together our new computer models of flooding with real time monitoring data, to enable much better decisions and responses in an important real-world application.”

The idea was developed further at Northumbrian Water′s ‘Day of Innovation′ last week which took place at Hanningfield Reservoir in Essex.

virtual system could see Northumbrian Water bringing the future to life, to help protect people and the environment during an incident.


200 miles of Somerset road resurfaced in multi-million pound project

A Multi-million pound programme to improve nearly 200 miles of road at more than 150 sites across Somerset is now complete.

This is despite the challenges of one of the hottest English summers on record.

Surface dressing is a nationally-recognised maintenance technique for sealing a road, improving skid resistance and preventing water getting under the surface.

This is crucial to help stop potholes forming and prolong the life of the road.

It works by coating an existing road with bitumen, covering it with stone chippings and then rolling it.

The process is highly weather dependent and can often be delayed due to rain or cold temperatures.

This year, however, the main challenge was the heat and teams started work early in the morning to avoid soaring temperatures and ensure the 2018 programme was completed on time.

Cllr John Woodman, Somerset County Council’s cabinet member for Highways, said: “Surface dressing is often wrongly regarded as inferior to resurfacing due to the initial appearance of the road.

“In fact they are very different processes each with their own benefits in different situations. Surface dressing is vital preventative work and without it we’d be carrying out far more disruptive and costly reactive work on a more regular basis.

“This year’s programme means another 200 miles of road have been resealed before winter to improve skid resistance and help stop potholes forming.”

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“It’s my favourite bit of road!” – marking 12 months of the new Tonbridge to Pembury bypass

One year ago today, Highways England opened the new A21 Tonbridge to Pembury Bypass.

35,000 drivers a day are benefiting from the major upgrade on the A21 linking Hastings and London, between Tonbridge and Pembury in Kent, which was officially opened on 21 September last year.

The upgrade to this busy section introduced a new dual carriageway to speed up journeys, improve safety, reduce congestion and boost the economy. Two new junctions were built, as well as better, safer, access to the A21 for the homes and businesses along it, with dedicated new facilities for pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians.

And residents are delighted with how much of a difference the new bypass has made. Melvyn, who has lived in the area for 34 years, said that the new bypass is his “favourite bit of road – it was terrible before but now it is absolutely brilliant!”. Jade, who has lived in the area for four years, said: “It was dreadful before. But now, a journey that used to take me forty minutes now takes four.” And Siobhan who has lived locally all her life, said: “the road was awful before. It has massively improved the flow of the traffic and it has made my commute a lot nicer.”

Local businessman Mark Chapman of Gillman Car Services, said: “From a business transport perspective it’s made life an awful lot better, it really has improved things… It’s easier, it’s quicker and frankly it’s prettier.”

Local people have been making use of the shared use path which runs the full length of the scheme. This is also suitable for cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians. Working with Kent County Council, Highways England extended it to tie in with Tonbridge railway station at the north end of the scheme and Pembury hospital at the south, making it even more useful to residents, commuters and the local community.

New areas of woodland starting to develop

It’s not just the improvements to the A21 which have benefitted the communities and road users this past year. 18 hectares of new woodland have been created as part of the project – twice that needed for construction – with cutting edge translocation techniques, to preserve its ecological make up. New areas of heathland have been created and an ancient barn has been carefully taken down, restored and reconstructed at a heritage museum.


Putting the May Day Barn back at the heart of the community

One of the South East’s few surviving timber framed barns, built originally in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, has been restored as part of a multi-million conservation project thanks to funding from Highways England.

The buildings were in the path of the widening scheme of the Tonbridge to Pembury section of the A21 in Kent, so were painstakingly moved and rebuilt at the Weald and Downland Museum.

Simon Elliott, Highways England construction programme manager said:

“I am delighted that these much-needed improvements to the A21 are delivering such a wide rage of benefits, significantly improving journeys on this busy road and making life easier for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders while simultaneously respecting the environment and our cultural heritage. We will look to take the same approach with the other road upgrades we are delivering in Kent and across the country.”

Work started on the Tonbridge to Pembury bypass in spring 2015. The new road opened in phases, starting with the new flyover at Longfield Road, which partially opened in July 2017. The road layout has also been improved for properties along the A21 with a new junction to provide safer access.

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Labour Party repeats pledge to re-nationalise UK water companies

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has reaffirmed the Labour Party’s commitment to renationalise the water companies in his keynote speech to the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool today.

Referring to what he described as “the scandal of the privatisation of water”, the Shadow Chancellor said water bills had risen 40% in real terms since privatisation, £18 billion had been paid out in dividends and the water companies receive more in tax credits than they pay in tax.

With enough water to meet the needs of 20 million people lost each day due to leakages, “with figures like that, we can’t afford not to take them back”, he told delegates, commenting:

“We are also setting out our plans for a new publicly-owned water system that puts this essential service back in the hands of local councils, workers and customers.

“There will be an unprecedented openness and transparency in how the industry will be managed. We are ending the profiteering in dividends, vast executive salaries and excessive interest payments.

“Surpluses will be reinvested in water infrastructure and staff, or used to reduce bills. Real investment will allow the highest environmental standards.”

Along with the water companies, the Labour Party is also planning to bring energy, Royal Mail and rail back into public ownership – but not “to take power away from faceless directors to a Whitehall office, to swap one remote manager for another.”

Together with Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Rebecca Long Bailey, John McDonnell said the Labour Party was now launching a large scale consultation on democracy in public services.

Water companies warn speech provides no answer to big questions about risks involved

The water companies have responded swiftly to the Shadow Chancellor’s speech. A statement issued by Water UK, the trade association representing water companies, said:

“This doesn’t answer any of the big questions about the risks involved in a government taking over and running water companies. Since privatisation, the water industry has invested around £150 billion to improve services. Bills are roughly where they were twenty years ago in real terms – they are currently around £1 a day – and leakage has been cut by a third since the mid-90s.

“New proposals aim to cut bills and leakage even further, and investment is planned to increase to £10 billion a year. There’s no explanation of how a government-run water industry would match or beat the ambitious plans for the future that we have set out, and there’s still the serious risk that water would be a long way down the list of priorities for government funding, far below health and education.”


£5million work on 2 major Leicester junctions is starting soon

Work is due to start on October 1 and be finished by July 2019.

Two major Leicester junctions are to be improved as part of a £5 million traffic scheme beginning next month.

Work is due to take place at the junction of Blackbird Road, Anstey Lane and Ravensbridge Drive, and also further along at the junction of Ravensbridge Drive, Abbey Gate and the A6 St Margaret’s Way.

Work on the first junction

At the junction of Blackbird Road/Anstey Lane/Ravensbridge Drive, an additional right turn lane will be provided from Blackbird Road northbound into Ravensbridge Drive eastbound.

An additional lane will also be added from Ravensbridge Drive westbound into Blackbird Road southbound to improve traffic flow and increase capacity.

The junction will remain open to traffic throughout the works, although there will be some off-peak lane closures and right-turn restrictions, as well as work during both the day and night.

The work is due to begin on October 1 and should be completed by the end of July 2019.

Work on the second junction

Further along Ravensbridge Drive, improvements are also being made to its junction with Abbey Gate and St Margaret’s Way.

An extra eastbound lane will be added, the alignment of the junction improved and the level of the road raised to remove an incline.

It will be carried out in phases to enable traffic to continue using it for as long as possible.

The work also means that from October 1 to February 2019, Ravensbridge Drive will temporarily become one way, allowing outbound traffic to continue to exit from St Margaret’s Way.

City-bound traffic will be able to use a signposted diversion along Blackbird Road to St Margaret’s Way.

During that period, a complete six-week closure of the Ravensbridge Drive/St Margaret’s Way junction will be needed for re-modelling and resurfacing of the junction.

The exact dates of the closure will be planned to fit in around other nearby roadworks, but will be publicised in advance nearer the time.

During the closure, premises on Ravensbridge Drive will still be able to gain access via a one-way system taking traffic along Woodgate and Abbey Gate.

Both sets of junction works are part of Leicester City Council’s Leicester North West Major Transport Project, which is improving connections to the new developments in the north and western sides of the city, and to the A46 and A50 corridors.

Information is being sent out to residents and businesses near both junctions, to ensure they are kept up to date with the works and the traffic management arrangements.

The work is being carried out by Tarmac Trading Ltd whose staff will be sited at their compound offices.

What does the council say?

Leicester’s director of city highways, Martin Fletcher, said: “These works will significantly improve these two important junctions which are currently constraints on what is a key commuter route in from the north west of the city.

“The result will greatly improved connectivity in the city and help support the economic growth linked to the developments underway around the A46 and A50 corridors.

“Work is being carefully carried out in phases and, wherever possible, at times which mean the least disruption to traffic flow on this busy route.”

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Collisions on A47 could reduce by 50% after dualling says Highways England

Collisions on the A47 in Peterborough could reduce by 50 per cent under plans to dual a stretch of the road. Highways England today revealed its latest proposals to dual the road between Wansford and Sutton which have gone out for consultation.

The proposals follow years of calls for the work to be carried out after a number of serious accidents, including the crash in 2013 which killed couple Stephen and Samantha Durber. Speaking at the Town Hall in Bridge Street at the start of the consultation, Claudia Wegener, senior project director at Highways England, said: “The A47 is part of the strategic road network. It’s important that the road is improved so we can support economic growth and improve the journey times and make it safer for people.

“Safety is the number one imperative of Highways England.”

The scheme is expected to start in the autumn of 2020, with the road open in the winter of 2021/22. The cost is currently expected to be between £50 million to £100 million. Last week Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough James Palmer sent a letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond calling for investment in 20 key transport infrastructure projects across East Anglia to address the years of underinvestment in the region and boost the economy. One of the projects is for the full dualling of the A47 between Lowestoft to Peterborough at an estimated cost of £1.4 billion which the mayor argues will improve journey times and “encourage inward investment in higher value employment sectors in the north of Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and Norfolk”.

Responding to that, Ms Wegener replied:

“Of course we understand there are calls for the full A47 to be dualled. That needs to have a strong business case. At the time of the last feasibility study there was not enough evidence for the justification for spending that amount of money. “Mayor Palmer is looking to put together a business case. If the case was to dual the whole road it will be taken to government to be reviewed.”

The option selected for the A47 will see a new stretch of dual carriageway built around half a mile to the north of the existing A47 at the western end, before crossing to the south at the eastern end to join the existing dual carriageway at Nene Way.

There will also be a dedicated slip road from the A1 southbound to the A47 eastbound to alleviate congestion at the junction, while at the opposite end a new bridge will provide access to Sacrewell Farm. Another bridge will carry the A47 over the disused railway line west of Sutton Heath Road. The new dual carriageway will continue along to the south of the existing road and connect in to an enlarged Nene Way roundabout near Sutton.

Once complete, this new one and a half mile stretch of dual carriageway on the A47 will create a continuous 10 mile stretch of dual carriageway from junctions with the A1 to the A16, northeast of Peterborough. Junction improvements at the A141 junction in Guyhirn are also due to be carried out by Highways England.

You can take part in the consultation, which runs until 11.59pm on Monday, October, 29 by visiting: https://highwaysengland.co.uk/projects/a47-wansford-to-sutton-dualling, by e-mailing your response to A47WansfordtoSuttonRIS@highwaysengland.co.uk, or by writing to FREEPOST A47 Wansford to Sutton.

There will also be four public events at which you can have your say and speak to members of Highways England.

These will be at: . St Michael and All Angels Church, Nene Way, Sutton, Peterborough, PE5 7XD, on Saturday, September 29, from 11am to 5pm. . Haycock Hotel, Wansford, Peterborough, PE8 6JA, on Monday, October 1, from 1pm to 8pm. . Sacrewell Farm and Country Centre, Thornhaugh, Peterborough, PE8 6HJ, on Thursday, October 4, from 1pm to 8pm. . St John’s Square, Exchange Street, Peterborough, PE1 1XB, on Saturday, October 6, from 11am to 5pm.

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