Against the Abingdon reservoir 2010 to 2012

Hulton Park

1st June 2012

The long history of our activities to oppose the construction of a reservoir near Abingdon

14 March 2012 – major reservoir near Abingdon plans scrapped

In January 2012 Thames Water published their revised Draft Final Water Resource Management Plan 2009 after changes by the planning inspector had been demanded. This plan will be used by Thames Water to guide strategic decisions regarding the management and supply of water until 2014, when a new thirty year plan will be proposed.

We welcome Thames Water’s statement that they are no longer considering building a major reservoir near Abingdon, and considers that this demonstrates a much greater regard for local landscape and heritage.

We are also applaud the fact that Thames Water have chosen to change their methodology for assessing cultural heritage in consultation with English Heritage; that more emphasis will will be placed upon water recycling; and that new ways of boosting water supply are being researched. We expect Thames Water to examine thoroughly all alternatives, and would like to see greater co-operation between water companies and the ability of transfers across watersheds to be developed.

We note the Government’s continued insistence on its new planning framework of a presumption in favour of development directly conflicts with its stated aim in the current water White Paper to repair the degraded state of the aquifers, especially in southern England. We believe that this continued disequilibrium will exacerbate existing supply problems in the south east and jeopardise sustainable abstraction. How this is tackled in Thames Water’s evolving plan for 2014 will be of great interest.

See our CPRE South East’s full response to Thames Water’s Draft Management Plan 2009-14(PDF) andThames Water’s statement of response to the consultation.

27 May 2011 – An alternative site for the proposed reservoir?

Following the public inquiry last year, the Secretary of State has called for further technical work, including the option of a smaller reservoir, half the size of the original Abingdon proposal. DEFRA and the Environment Agency are now advising Thames Water on the work required to satisfactorily complete the 2009 Water Resources Management Plan (WRMP), the 2012 Annual Review and the 2013 WRMP.

In their further letter to Thames Water, issued this month, DEFRA has suggested that TW should ascertain whether there may be feasible alternative locations to a 50M m3 reservoir at Abingdon.

Thames Water now needs to comply with DEFRA’s long list of revisions. In the meantime CPRE shall continue to work closely with GARD to ensure Thames’s revised plans result in minimum malign impact on the Oxfordshire countryside. More information here.

9 May 2011 – Environment Agency propose a smaller reservoir at Abingdon

On 14 April 2011, the Environment Agency wrote to DEFRA with its technical advice on the work required by Thames Water to deliver its final water resources management plan (WRMP).

A smaller reservoir at Abingdon is still proposed as an option, as CPRE feared, but there is encouraging instruction to Thames Water to look at large scale Reuse and Unsupported Severn Transfers and even more importantly to radically change their methodology for the next WRMP.

See: Environment Agency advice to DEFRA (PDF) and Annex (PDF) and Letter to Thames Water covering EA advice (PDF)

7 March 2011 – Delight at Government’s decision to reject Abingdon Reservoir

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) finally announced the decision on the Thames Water Draft Water Resources Management Plan on Friday 4th March, following the two month public inquiry in Oxford in 2010. The Secretary of State has decided that as part of Thames Water’s future plans the controversial £1bn reservoir near Abingdon should not go ahead. The report calls for further detailed work on the other technical options for increasing water supplies in the South East, including the option of a smaller reservoir.

Bruce Tremayne, Vice Chairman of CPRE Oxfordshire, and one of the key campaigners, comments:

“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.”

 “The Planning Inspector listened to the concerns of local residents and accepted many of our arguments. The Secretary of State has agreed that alternatives to the reservoir need to be examined. This is the result of tremendous work by local campaigners – notably by GARD, who mounted a long and vigorous campaign against the reservoir.”

“We firmly believe there are other, much better ways to increase water supplies for the South East of England that do not destroy our landscape and heritage. And we have argued strongly that there may not even be a need for increased water supplies if Thames Water can fix the leaks in the mains and everyone has been helped to use less water, by more metering and water saving devices.

We look forward to seeing Thames Water’s revised plan and to working with them to find sustainable solutions to managing water in the South East, which does not involve blighting our treasured countryside for future generations.”

19 August 2010 – Public Inquiry into proposed reservoir concludes

The closing submissions to the two-month public inquiry into Thames Water’s plans for the South East for the next 25 years, including a proposed reservoir near Abingdon, concluded on 19 August.

CPRE Oxfordshire, which was represented at the Public Inquiry, and which made a closing submission, hopes that the Environment Secretary will rule out the reservoir.

GARD Chairman, Nick Thompson said: “The inquiry has been thorough and fair and the opposition to the reservoir has been extremely strong.”

16 July 2010 Presentation of evidence on Abingdon reservoir concludes at Public Inquiry

All parties including CPRE have now given their evidence and the month-long inquiry into Thames Water’s draft Water Resources Management Plan has been adjourned until 16/17/18 August when Closing Submissions will be made.

CPRE, GARD – the Group Against Reservoir Development, Oxfordshire County Council and the Vale of White Horse District (who are offering a combined case), and the Environment Agency have all argued that the draft TW Management Plan is flawed in a large number of respects and have raised many key questions about TW’s case for the Reservoir and the huge environmental damage which it will cause to this part of Oxfordshire. Other options for water supply have been identified which could be much more flexible to future circumstances and much less costly in environmental and financial terms.

The CPRE team of four presented their evidence, taking nearly four hours, including vigorous cross examination from Thames Water’s counsel. The CPRE team comprised: Christine Drury of CPRE Kent who was coordinating the case and three witnesses, Graham Warren of CPRE Kent on Water issues, Bruce Tremayne on Landscape/ Environment and George Lambrick on Archaeology/ Heritage, both of CPRE Oxon. George Lambrick also presented important technical points on the adequacy of TW’s environmental assessments.

GARD brought a very strong team with professional representation to the inquiry and put forward a compelling case against the reservoir and the TW Management Plan.

See: CPRE Opening Statement (PDF) and CPRE South East Statement of Case (PDF) and GARD Opening Statement (PDF) and GARD Statement of Case (PDF)

11 June 2010 – Public Inquiry into proposed Abingdon Reservoir to begin 

The Public Inquiry into Thames Water’s draft Water Resources Management Plan, which includes a proposal to build a huge reservoir on 5,000 acres of farmland near Abingdon, will begin in Oxford, on Tuesday 15 June.

CPRE Oxfordshire, which has for many years been opposing the proposed reservoir, on the grounds that it would result in major environment damage, will be appearing at the Inquiry, along with GARD – the Group against the Reservoir Development. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman, will make a decision on the plans after the Inquiry. If the Water Resources Management Plan is approved in its current form, then the need for the reservoir is effectively proven and Thames Water will continue to plan for it.

CPRE Oxfordshire hopes to persuade the Government Inspector chairing the Inquiry to conclude that Thames Water’s Abingdon reservoir is not needed.

17 March 2010 CPRE Oxfordshire submits its Statement of Case to DEFRA in advance of the public inquiry into the Thames Water Resources Magement Plan, which is proposing a large reservoir near Abingdon

CPRE South East has submitted a single joint submission from CPRE Oxfordshire and CPRE Kent, both Parties to the Public Inquiry to be held in the summer. CPRE Oxfordshire and CPRE Kent are both members of the regional entity CPRE South East Region group, and both wish the Inquiry to be able to take note of the strong case for a regional perspective in resolving the current problems with the Thames Water Draft Water Resources Management.

Bruce Tremayne of CPRE Oxfordshire be the Witness on Landscape and Environment matters, and Graham Warren CPRE Kent will be the Witness on Water matters.

CPRE’s objective is to persuade the Government Inspector chairing the Inquiry to conclude that Thames Water’s Abingdon reservoir is not needed.

The Public Inquiry will be chaired by the Government appointed Inspector, Ms Wendy Burden.

See: CPRE South East Statement of Case (PDF) and GARD Statement of Case (PDF) and Thames Water’s Statement of Case (25 February) (PDF) and Thames Water’s Statement of Common Ground with Environment Agency (2 February) (PDF) and VoWH and OCC Statement of Case (external website) and More information about TW’s public inquiry and timetable (external website)