Eight Oxfordshire lock-keepers and their families will be forced to find new homes after the Environment Agency announced it plans to sell off or rent out their properties.

A lock-keeper's house in Laburnum Road, Botley, will be sold and properties at Godstow in Oxford, Buscot, Culham, Little Wittenham, Shifford, Sandford-on-Thames, Rushey and Wallingford, will be put up for rent.

The properties are among 10 being sold and 12 being rented out in the River Thames region as part of an efficiency drive by the agency. Rushey is the only one which is not occupied by a lock-keeper.

Lockstaff currently occupy all the Oxfordshire properties rent free, but will have to move out.

An agency spokesman said the buildings were no longer needed for operational reasons.

He added: "We will not be moving anyone out of a house until they have another suitable house they are able to go to - we will not be making anyone homeless."

Thames waterways manager Eileen McKeever said one of the reasons the agency did not need so many lock-keepers living in riverside homes was because telephones and cars made communications and getting around easier.