West Oxfordshire District Council (WODC) has shared some of the details about the ongoing discussions with Thames Water to try and reduce the amount of sewage ending up in local waterways.
For the last six months, District Councillors have been meeting with Thames Water representatives to identify the points of failure and try to solve the issue of capacity in the system.
WODC has now changed its planning regulations to ensure that all development applications declare from the outset whether there is sufficient capacity at the relevant sewage treatment works for the new dwellings.
When there is insufficient capacity, “a planning condition will be added stating that new homes may not be occupied until additional capacity has been installed. Buyers and solicitors will be made aware of this condition upfront,” explained District Councillor Lidia Arciszewska, Executive Member for Environment.
Importantly, she indicated that Thames Water has now agreed to review capacity for all planning applications, not just the larger developments.
District Councillors have raised concerns that Thames Water’s approach to estimating capacity is part of the issue. Their “data takes optimistic approaches towards key data inputs, such as the amount of water used by each person that ends up in the sewage system,” said Cllr Arciszewska.
“Additionally, Thames Water appears to be applying a multiplier below the Environment Agency’s recommended 3.0x in its capacity calculations. Both of these actions potentially lower the estimated required capacity of the sewage treatment works and therefore not enough is invested in improving the sewage treatment capacity.”
The discussions also uncovered the fact that around 40% of the waste being processed by sewage treatment works is water that gets into the system via leaky pipes and manholes. This reduces the capacity and could be part of the reason so much sewage is ending up in waterways.
Eynsham Parish Council is aware that this issue is of great concern to many in our area and we will continue to update you whenever we have more news (see our Thames Water updates page). It’s encouraging that the District Council is taking action and will hold Thames Water to account to ensure we see improvements, especially with so many new developments planned in the parish.