THE COUNCIL to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has joined the battle to prevent pollution entering the River Lambourn.
The national environmental charity has said it is “very concerned” about proposals to dump treated effluent from a housing development at Weston into the rare chalk stream.
Meanwhile villagers campaigning against the plans were furious when their homes were hit by a day-long power cut to accommodate developers who were connecting the controversial new homes to the mains.
Kirsteen Roberts said: “This was a pre-planned power outage. Why is this work being allowed to proceed while the developers are flouting planning conditions that require them to cease until the sewage issues are resolved?”
The row concerns a new housing development at Teekay Farm in Weston, which was granted planning permission eight years ago.
The developer subsequently sought to bypass sewage mains and to use a cheaper option of discharging semi-treated effluent directly into the river, a globally-rare chalk stream which is doubly protected, both as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and as a Special Area of Conservation.
Council planners consulted the Environment Agency (EA), which controversially granted a permit for the discharge – a decision that “beggared belief” according to the national Angling Trust.
The CPRE has lodged a formal objection with planners, stating: “[We are] very concerned about the likely pollution of the upper reaches of the River Lambourn from this proposed development and cannot understand the Environment Agency granting permission for effluent runoff.
“With increasing extremes in weather, modelling of effluent runoff cannot be relied on and this very special protected chalk stream may well be affected from time to time. [The council] should call on the EA to withdraw its permission and reconsider the matter.”
It adds: “In this day and age any new development should be connected to main drainage where available – as it is, in this village. Laying a pipe... under the river as originally proposed is no problem... and should cost only a small fraction of the project, even if a pump is required.”
Meanwhile the EA has issued a joint statement with Natural England in which it promises to “review” the data which led to its decision to approve the effluent scheme.
It states the review follows a meeting which was held “to discuss whether the impact of the Weston Gate discharge into the River Lambourn to ensure the modelling undertaken and the conclusions drawn from this are correct and no significant impacts will occur.”
Mrs Roberts said: “The statement is unintelligible. It does nothing to instill confidence that the EA can get this thing right on our behalf, let alone protect the river.
“We are taking legal advice about protecting our position with regard to a judicial review... we fear that we will need to go down this route regardless of the review process.”