THAMES Water's plans to build a reservoir the size of Heathrow Airport near Abingdon have been criticised in Parliament.

Oxfordshire MPs Ed Vaizey and Layla Moran renewed calls for a second public inquiry on the proposals – a move supported by Oxfordshire County Council and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Wantage MP Mr Vaizey, who brought the debate to Westminster Hall yesterday evening, said: "I am neutral on whether or not the reservoir should be built.

"On one hand I am a NIMBY but on the other I do recognise that it is potentially large and important infrastructure for the south east."


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Labelling it 'unarguable' that a second public inquiry should take place on the plan for Steventon, Drayton and the Hanneys, he continued: "I was pleasantly surprised when the last public inquiry [in 2010] concluded that a reservoir was unnecessary. I don’t think a lot has changed since – alternative options need to be explored."

He asked Therese Coffey, parliamentary under secretary of state for the environment, what the department had done to assess the plans and to support an inquiry, which would follow a second public consultation, which finished in late November.

Ms Coffey said the plans would be scrutinised thoroughly and the public would be able to have their say.

Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran, whose constituency borders where the reservoir would be built, said there were some positives to the plans but that her constituents have 'very justified worries' about it.

Calling for an inquiry 'now', she said residents 'simply don’t trust Thames Water on this issue' but that the 'main thing' was to listen to locals.

Stressing the size of the reservoir, she added that it would be ‘a blight' on an 'otherwise beautiful landscape’ and could cause great damage to wildlife and the environment.

Derek Stork, from the Group Against Reservoir Development, said: “We are pleased that both Ed Vaizey and Layla Moran have backed GARD’s call for a inquiry.

"We remain convinced that any inquiry will find the reservoir is not necessary, will be extremely costly and harm our environment. There are better options to meet water needs - Thames Water should pursue those and scrap their plans for a mega reservoir.”

Company spokeswoman Becky Trotman said: “We welcome any discussion around water resources.

"It’s a subject which has to be addressed and while we know that, for some, a new reservoir is unwelcome, others agree it has an important part to play in meeting demand from a growing population, in a changing climate."