Developer insists solution will be found for Hawkins Brown proposals as EA recommends refusal

The developer behind a nine-block neighbourhood in Oxford has insisted it will go ahead after the Environment Agency (EA) warned the scheme’s flood risk assessments were flawed.

Developer Oxwed, a joint venture of Nuffield College and Oxford city council, is proposing building nearly 500 homes, 500,000 sq ft of office space and a 250-bed hotel on a riverside site which the EA says has a “high probability of flooding”.

An outline planning application for the Hawkins Brown-designed Oxpens development was submitted in December last year.

View from Oxpens Meadow - Credit OXWED

The Oxpens scheme will span 15 acres of a flood-prone riverside site in Oxford

It included a flood risk assessment carried out by AKSWard Construction proposing ways to deal with an expected rise in water levels due to climate change, including means of escape from buildings during extreme weather events.

But earlier this month the EA posted an official objection to the planning application and recommended it for refusal on the grounds the flood strategy failed a key risk test.

The government agency said the floor risk assessment failed to demonstrate that its proposed solutions were “appropriate” for the site and failed to “demonstrate the development will not increase flood risk elsewhere”.

The EA added: “To overcome our objection, the applicant should submit a revised FRA which addresses the points highlighted above. 

“If this cannot be achieved, we are likely to maintain our objection.”

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Kevin Minns, the managing director of developer OxWED, said: “Oxpens is an important regeneration opportunity for the city on an under-used brownfield site which should be working harder to help Oxford address its needs.  

“The relationship with the river is integral to the proposals.  We have engaged with the Environment Agency throughout the development of the application and are confident that a solution will be found that allows the Agency to remove its current objection.”

Oxpens has been designed to be largely car-free, instead offering extensive public transport and active travel links.

The planned phasing and delivery of the scheme has not been finalised and depending on the option chosen the project could be finished between 2028 and 2031.