Politicians have said "urgent action" is needed to clean up the River Thames in a meeting which saw 120 people come to give their thoughts.

A mix of district and county councillors met at Oxford City Town Hall on the evening of April 18 to discuss the "urgent issues" at the event organised by the Oxfordshire Clean Rivers Initiative (OCRI) - a coalition of local environmental organisations.

Questions from the audience focused on a "lack of accountability" on the part of the private company Thames Water and noted the "need for investment".

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Oxford Mail: Thames Water at work in Oxford.Thames Water at work in Oxford. (Image: Albert Tait)

The company, which is the UK’s biggest water firm serving 16 million customers, is reportedly in the process of drawing up a revised five-year spending plan.

It comes as organisation bosses have come under fire from open water swimmers in Oxford following an investigation by TV presenter Steve Backshall into a 12-hour spell of discharge into the river across the border in Buckinghamshire. 

One question at the meeting pointed out that 55 out of 77 sewage works upstream of Oxford have "inadequate sewage treatment capacity", and that this requires "massive investment to ensure the safety of river users".

A spokesman from the OCRI said: "Councillors were in broad agreement, with some differences as to how the government should treat Thames Water. 

"James Wallace, chief executive of the national campaign River Action, chaired the meeting and urged those attending to keep up the calls for action.

"OCRI will be holding a large ‘Clean Rivers Rally’ on Saturday May 25 beside the Thames at the Long Bridges park."

Oxford Mail: Katherine Miles.Katherine Miles.

Councillors attending were Anna Railton, who is a Labour cabinet member on Oxford City Council, Liberal Democrat Katherine Miles who is also a city councillor, and Green councillor Andrew Prosser from West Oxfordshire District Council.

The OCRI said "various Conservatives from across the county had been invited but none were able to join the meeting".

Speaking after the meeting, Ms Railton said the event had been a "very positive cross party meeting where we mostly agreed on how to clean up our rivers".

A Thames Water spokesman said: “We regard all discharges as unacceptable and taking action to improve the health of rivers is a key focus for us. 

"We appreciate how much our waterways are loved and we want everyone to be able to enjoy them.

Oxford Mail: Anna Railton.Anna Railton. (Image: Oxford City Council.)

“We have published plans to upgrade over 250 of our sites, including Cassington and Witney, with both located upstream of Oxford.

"In many cases this will improve performance and reduce the number of overflows during heavy rainfall.

“We were also the first company to provide live alerts for all untreated discharges and this ‘near real-time’ data is available to customers as a map on our website and is also available through an open data platform for third parties, such as swimming and environmental groups to use.”

Oxford Mail: Andrew Prosser.Andrew Prosser. (Image: West Oxfordshire District Council.)