WITNEY Town Council’s planning and development committee objected to a planning application last week for 110 residential homes in North Witney.

The objections were made on the grounds that there were not sufficient plans in place to deal with sewage for the proposed housing development in Hailey Road.

Issues surrounding sewage have plagued the town and region in recent years.

Andrew Prosser, vice chair of the planning and development committee, said: “There was many reasons, including traffic congestion and air quality concerns, but top of the list were the proposals for adding to the sewage network.

“I think disgrace can be an overused word but in this case I don’t think it is.

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“We looked at the planning application and developers said they had been given the okay by Thames Water.

“The system can’t cope, there is no clear action plan from Thames Water.

“As a planning and development committee, not enough action has been taken to tackle this sewage capacity issue.

“We as councillors want this situation to change and see an action plan from Thames Water.”

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Ashley Smith leads campaign group Windrush Against Sewage Pollution, who aim to raise awareness about water pollution in West Oxfordshire.

Mr Smith said: “Part of the application centred on the land being unsuitable for normal drainage and the consequent flood risk unless they installed a link to the foul sewer to take the surface water from rainfall.”

“It's great to see the town council taking such a firm stance on something that's being ignored for far too long.”

Vaughan Lewis, an independent environmental consultant, added: “The proposal to dump storm water from 110 houses into the already overloaded sewage treatment system is an outrage.

“There’s been a problem in Witney since 2003.

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“Poor infrastructure and failing to keep up with the population expansion has only made the problem worse.

“I think the town council has shown a brave stance, it’s logical and justified.

“We cannot keep doing this, something has to be done.

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“There’s not just a water problem, there’s air pollution issues locally and nationally.

“The standards that are being set by Europe are not being met and I think they’re going to slip and get worse.

“We’re not going to align with Europe for water quality and it’s up to local authorities to stand up and do their part.”

A spokesperson for Thames Water said: “Water and sewerage companies do not have powers to refuse or approve planning applications.

“We work closely with planning authorities and where necessary can request that conditions are applied to approvals, for example that new homes are not lived in until the appropriate water and waste infrastructure is in place.

“It is, however, the responsibility of the planning authority to determine the appropriateness of that request and enforce any such conditions.

“We’re obliged to ensure our network has capacity to accommodate new developments, so in certain situations we will, where necessary, request a condition, as we have in the case of the Hailey Road application.

“Typically the condition will require that developers contact us directly so we can discuss their plans in detail, assess any potential impact on our network and work together to deliver upgrades in line with the development’s needs.

“We’ve carried out thorough investigations in the Standlake, Carterton and Witney areas to better understand the impact excess surface water has on our sewer network during periods of heavy rain.

“This has enabled us to put together strategies which are now being assessed as part of our 2020-2025 planning process.

“During our investigations we ran a find and fix programme which saw any defaults on our pipes repaired as they were identified.”