Waterways Day 2023-2

Witney Corn Exchange flooded with over 100 attendees for another sellout Waterways Day

West Oxfordshire District Council saw another successful Waterways Day take place on Thursday 23 November, with more than 100 attendees showing up to hear from representatives from flood risk management and water pollution organisations.

The event featured talks from key stakeholders such as Thames Water, Environment Agency, Windrush Against Sewage Pollution, and Oxfordshire County Council. Attendees were presented with eye-opening information and discussions on Thames Water's operations and infrastructure plans as well as extensive talks on clean water supply and natural flood management projects.

Cllr Lidia Arciszewska, Executive Member for Environment, said, "We were delighted to see another fantastic turnout at this year’s event. Waterways Day is of huge benefit to us, local authorities, and residents, allowing for open, honest discussions that raise awareness of critical issues like water pollution and flooding in West Oxfordshire.

We are working hard to do everything in our power to address the state of our watercourses and issues relating to flooding, particularly as we are becoming more susceptible to severe flooding in West Oxfordshire. 

“We are also wholeheartedly committed to tackling the issue of sewage pollution hotspots in the district, with this year’s event being a great opportunity to showcase the Council's ongoing efforts since the last Waterways Day.

Since the previous Waterways Day, a team of West Oxfordshire District Councillors and Officers have been having regular meetings with Thames Water to discuss and resolve the issue of sewage pollution. A positive result of these discussions is Thames Water’s EDM map displaying real-time sewage discharges from storm overflow tanks. Furthermore, Thames Water also recently launched a new online reporting tool, enabling those in trouble spots to report sewage and water supply problems, and track efficient response from the Thames Water team, ensuring swift progress on resolving issues is being made.  

Maintenance of the aged sewer network is on the agenda for every meeting that the team has had with Thames Water. There are a number of trouble hot spots for sewage pollution; Brize Norton, Clanfield, and Eynsham to name a few. A steady progress is being made, but we are not there yet.

As a further result of the discussion with Thames Water, the Council has also aligned its strategic planners with their planning team, ensuring future investment plans align with the plans for housing development set out in the Local Plan 2041. Thames Water and the Council have agreed on the Grampian condition to be included in planning agreements for housing developments built in areas of insufficient sewage treatment capacity.

Cllr Arciszewska added, "We believe that we are the first local authority in the country to engage in such sustained, constructive collaboration with a water company, and have produced a toolkit for other local authorities who would like to follow our footsteps."

The team also made progress on the flood management front. They asked the Environment Agency to review flood maps for the Moors, where a development of 120 houses has been allowed on appeal; the updated map revealed that the Moors are within flood zone 3, the highest risk of flooding. The Council also actively supported Witney Flood Mitigation Group to develop a new flood alert system there.

The Council and environmental partners still have more work to do. With literally only a handful of permits issued by the Environmental Agency for flood management works last year, the Council is particularly committed to strengthening its approach to river and brook management to reduce flood risks. This will involve working more directly with landowners and the Environment Agency.

Contact Information

West Oxfordshire District Council Communications Team

[email protected]