PLANS for a new reservoir in Oxfordshire are so controversial that they ‘could cause civil unrest’, according to Oxfordshire County Council.

Thames Water has spent more than 15 years trying to push through plans for the reservoir scheme which could be built on the 6.7 square- kilometres of farmland between Steventon, East Hanney and Drayton.

The reservoir would provide water to the Thames Valley, London, and the wider South East.

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Plans were abandoned after being met with backlash from campaigners but resurfaced in September 2021 when water regulator Ofwat published documents revealing plans for reservoirs across England in a bid to tackle the effects of climate change.

A consultation has since been launched by Water Resources South East (WRSE) which closes on March 21 this  year.

Thames Water are also planning to hold public meetings across Oxford, Abingdon and Steventon next month.

Councillor Pete Sudbury, cabinet member for climate change delivery and environment at the county council, said he is ‘concerned’ about the public meetings.

He said: “It will cause genuine anger among the people who are there but in fact the people we are concerned about are the ones across the world who pick up on stories like this who turn them on their own end to cause civil unrest.”

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Thames Water said they are listening to public concerns and it will be a ‘great resource for future generations’.

The meetings will take place in Westgate, Oxford on Wednesday, February 1 and in Steventon on Saturday, February 18.

A meeting in Abingdon has already taken place on Friday last week (January 20).

Campaigners Group Against Reservoir Development (GARD) also held their own meetings to help keep the pressure on Thames Water and WRSE to ‘drop the ruinous reservoir project’.

They are fiercely against the plans stating the reservoir is ‘unnecessary’.

On its website, it says: “The population figures and reduced water abstraction figures are grossly exaggerated. It is ecologically disastrous - biodiversity cannot be restored and a huge amount of carbon is released in construction, and dangerous - pollution, general flood risk and risk of catastrophic inundation.”

Speaking earlier this year, Abingdon MP Layla Moran said Thames Water should focus on ‘fixing leaks’ across the county before building a new reservoir.

She said: “Climate change and population growth are putting a serious strain on water resources.

“But Thames Water loses more than 600 million litres of water every day to leaks, that’s a quarter of the water in its network.

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“And yet Thames Water have published detailed plans for a mega-reservoir near Abingdon – that’s like filling the bath when the plughole’s open.”

To view the consultation documents, visit:


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This story was written by Gee Harland. She joined the team in 2022 as a senior multimedia reporter.

Gee covers Abingdon, Didcot, Wallingford and Wantage.

Get in touch with her by emailing:

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