Sewage protest in Witney
Sewage protest in Witney's Market Square, with Rachel Crouch, centre
Campaigner and celebrity Fergal Sharkey supports Labour
Campaigner and celebrity Fergal Sharkey supports Labour's plans

Update Apr 24 Two years on its still just as bad, and the public anger is mounting.

Its April 2024 and Sewage is constantly injected into our streams and the river Windrush. New homes for local families are welcome in the right place, but put a strain on our environment. Labour fought the local Moors development every step of the way, with the District Council’s planning committee unanimously opposing the development in March 2022. Sadly, since the developers won an appeal against our decision and Tory MP Robert Courts is missing in action. Our pledge to you is that make sure all ongoing developments pay for their infrastructure.

Original 2022 Article

In March 2022, Michael Brooker, Rachel Crouch and Ruth Smith organised a protest march to Thames Water’s Witney Sewage Treatment Works. Untreated sewage is discharged into Colwell Brook behind the works whenever there is heavy rainfall and even at times when there is none. The ecosystem downstream has declined. There was a good turnout, with residents from all over the area and representatives of a range of political standpoints, as well as invited speakers from WASP, Windrush Against Sewage Pollution.

Cllr Ruth Smith speaking at the rally outside Witney Sewage Treatment Works, March 2022
Cllr Ruth Smith speaking at the rally outside Witney Sewage Treatment Works, March 2022

Cllr Ruth Smith ran a petition in 2020 which was submitted jointly to West Oxfordshire District Council and to Thames Water, calling for an upgrade to Witney’s treatment capacity,  caution when granting planning applications that will connect new toilets to a plant that already fails to cope, and an end to release of untreated sewage. WODC debated it that Autumn and resolved to write to the MP, because the water companies need to be compelled to clean up by legislation. When an amendment to the Environment Bill, that would have made water companies end sewage overspills, was proposed in 2021, the MP did not vote for it. The line is that it would cost too much. Yet a look at water company profits and underinvestment throws that into question.

Michael Brooker with the letter to Thames Water
Michael Brooker with the letter to Thames Water

Michael Brooker read out the letter to Thames Water and posted it through the letterbox at Witney STW. Thames Water replied to the protestors, detailing their scheduled upgrade, and saying the case is closed because they can offer no further help. The upgrade is based on a capacity that is exceeded by the new houses being built in Witney. We continue to call for upgrades that meet capacity now and for the future.

Sue Richards holds a placard that says "And the Evenlode"
Sue Richards holds a placard that says "And the Evenlode"
Cllr Andrew Coles addresses protestors on Market Square
Cllr Andrew Coles addresses protestors on Market Square
The treated and untreated sewage outfalls at Witney STW near the A40 bridge by Lidl.
The treated and untreated sewage outfalls at Witney STW near the A40 bridge by Lidl.
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