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12/3/2011 - £1bn Abingdon reservoir plan thrown out


Herald Series

Public inquiry date set for proposed £1bn reservoir between Abingdon and Wantage

CAMPAIGNERS against a planned £1bn reservoir between Abingdon and Wantage are drawing up battle lines after a date was announced for a public inquiry.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has revealed the inquiry into Thames Water’s Water Resources Management Plan will take place next June.

The plan outlines how the company will meet demand for water until 2035 — and a key aspect of it is to build the reservoir on farmland between Steventon, East Hanney and Drayton by the year 2026.

The reservoir would hold 150bn litres of water and supply an extra 350m litres of water a day, mainly to homes and businesses in London.

In August, the Government agreed to hold an inquiry into the project.

Members of the Group Against Reservoir Development (GARD) argue there are better ways to meet the demand for water.

Nick Thompson, GARD’s chairman, said: “We have some extremely strong arguments and this will be an interesting fight. There are lots of other answers for more water, such as repairing the system’s leaking pipes and transferring water from the Severn.”

He said: “We’re not quite sharpening our swords yet but we are poisoning the drink.”

GARD has been told the inquiry will start no later than June 21 and it is expected to last between three and four weeks. A venue has not been set.

The inspector appointed to hold the inquiry is Wendy Burden.

GARD has until January 19 to put in other representations and must have made its statement of case by March 3.

Michael Robson, GARD’s vice-chairman, said: “The appointment of an inspector has absolutely focused our campaign. We don’t feel Thames Water have given proper consideration to the alternatives put forward by GARD.

“The only way we will get an open examination is through an inquiry.”

GARD, which has about 100 members, is launching a recruitment drive and is soon going live with a new website.

Graeme Creighton, 57, of Mill Street, Steventon, said: “Now a date has been set I just hope GARD has enough time to prepare.

“My biggest concern is that it’s steamrollered through and they don’t take any notice of GARD’s arguments. They are just a small group and we’re not convinced there’s a need for a reservoir.”

GARD has been funded by the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Richard Aylard, Thames Water’s sustainability director, said: “A large new reservoir in Oxfordshire remains an important part of our long-term plan to provide enough water for our customers.

“We recognise that the plan raises a number of important issues and we, therefore, welcome the Government’s decision to call a public inquiry.”


Extract from the Oxford Journal

£1bn Abingdon reservoir plan thrown out

Campaigners fighting plans to build a massive reservoir between Drayton, Steventon and East Hanney are celebrating after the proposals were thrown out.

The Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) last week ruled Thames Water’s plans for the £1bn facility should not go ahead.  On Friday, March 4, Caroline Spelman said more detailed work on other technical options for increasing water supplies in the South East should be carried out.

But the Secretary of State asked the utilities firm to come back with a smaller reservoir project for the same location, as well as other possible solutions including transfer from the River Severn and indirect reuse of sewage effluent.

Councillort Tony de Vere, Leader of the Vale of White Horse District Council, welcomed news that the reservoir was to be removed from the firm’s Water Resources Management Plan, which outlines how Thames Water will meet predicted demand to 2035.

Cllr de Vere said: "We are delighted with this decision. We have always argued that the case for this reservoir has not been made and that it is not needed.  Local residents were very worried about the impact of such a large reservoir and we share their relief that the plan has been axed.  We have worked closely with local parish councils and residents to fight the plan."

The decision follows a public inquiry held last summer, which considered objections to the plan.  Thames Water first announced its plans to build a large reservoir on this site back in 1990, and more detailed plans were introduced in 2006.

But campaigners fought a long-running battle against the proposals, and both the Vale and county council authorities argued against the need for a large reservoir on the site, arguing the environmental impact of the scheme had not been properly taken into account.

Bruce Tremayne, vice chairman of CPRE Oxfordshire, said:  “We are delighted with this decision and trust that this is, in effect, the end of the road for the enormous reservoir proposed for Abingdon.  CPRE has always argued that the case for the reservoir, which would have covered 5,000 acres of productive farmland, has not been made and that it is not needed. We showed at the inquiry that it would destroy homes, farms and a landscape created over many hundreds of years - and a heritage and setting that is of great value to us all.”

But Martin Baggs, Thames Water’s chief executive, said: "We supply water to 8.7million people and we take this responsibility extremely seriously. For the next 15 years our plan aims to provide almost all of the additional water our customers will need through demand management.  That means further substantial reductions in leakage, more metering and doing everything we can to promote and encourage the wise use of water.   So we are pleased that the Inspector recommended no changes to our demand management activities.

"The Inspector has recommended an extensive programme of additional work, looking in detail at options to meet demand in the longer term and we will work on this with the Environment Agency, as directed by the Secretary of State."