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."