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‘Take them over and good riddance’: Protestors demand action against sewage leaks in Newbury and West Berkshire





At least two hundred people gathered in Victoria Park yesterday (Sunday) to protest against sewage polluting West Berkshire’s waterways.

A coalition of representatives from the Kennet Catchment River Keepers (KCRA), Action for the River Kennet (ARK) and the Angling Trust addressed frustrated crowds from the Bandstand about the thousands of hours’ worth of sewage pouring into the district’s precious chalk streams — and called on the Government take action against Thames Water.

Protestors listening to speeches at the Bandstand
Protestors listening to speeches at the Bandstand

Local politicians also discussed the health and environmental concerns of continued sewage discharges and explained how their parties plan to fix the issue if elected to power come the General Election.

Speakers included Conservative MP for Newbury Laura Farris; former West Berkshire Council leader Lee Dillon; Labour prospective parliamentary candidate for Reading West & Mid Berkshire Olivia Bailey; and Baroness Jenny Jones, of the Green Party.

Actor James Murray, who played Prince Andrew in Netflix’s The Crown, spoke as the founder of Activist Anglers.

Newbury MP, Laura Farris, and the Red Rebels
Newbury MP, Laura Farris, and the Red Rebels

Speaking at the protest, Mrs Farris said: “One of the principal polluting spots in this constituency is the Hampstead Norreys Treatment Works.

“They [Thames Water] had a plan to start an upgrade of that [facility], which would completely eliminate sewage [leaks] in 2026.

“We’ve got them now through political pressure to bring that forward to this year.”

Angling Trust’s head of policy Martin Salter, who served as Labour MP for Reading West from 1997 to 2010, added: “Will the politicians listen; will the politicians act?

“Part of the purpose of these protests is to put pressure both on the political system and on the water industry itself.

“We want this issue to be front and foremost in peoples’ minds when they come to vote at the next election.”

Protestors hold signs speaking out against Thames Water sewage discharges
Protestors hold signs speaking out against Thames Water sewage discharges

KCRA chairman, Sam Marshall, said: “Our water services industry is not only broken but also completely unregulated.

“The governing bodies that should be prosecuting and protecting our waterways are so underfunded they are non-existent.”

Senior project officer for ARK, Anna Forbes, added: “Our water quality testing produced very concerning ammonia, phosphate and bacteria results.

“We want to see long-term solutions, not the expensive sticking plaster reactive responses happening at the moment.”

Environment communications officer for the Angling Trust, Peter Devery, has been campaigning locally about this issue for the past two years.

He said: “Just this year alone, we’ve had about 1,500 hours of sewage pollution going into the River Pang.

“And despite what some of our local politicians say, the problem is not fixed. The problem is far from fixed.”

The Trust’s head of campaigns, Stuart Singleton White, added: “For the last four years, we’ve been running the ‘Anglers against Pollution’ campaign.

“As part of that, we have developed well over 650 anglers across the country who are regularly using citizen science to monitor the quality of their rivers.

“They’re testing on a regular basis and we’re using that data to hold water companies, the Environment Agency and the Government to account.”

Angling Trust head of campaigns, Stuart Singleton White
Angling Trust head of campaigns, Stuart Singleton White

And speaking about how he has been personally affected, he added: “I grew up in the countryside near to the River Thames and River Loddon.

“I spent my childhood swimming and fishing in those rivers.

“And over time, I have seen the quality of those rivers getting worse and worse. That really breaks my heart.”

Spectators bearing placards — many directly affected by sewage flooding their homes and gardens — demanded their politicians to hold Government to account and to nationalise Thames Water.

Red Rebels passing through Victoria Park
Red Rebels passing through Victoria Park

Speaking last, Baroness Jones echoed their cries, blasting the “vulture capitalism” which leaves ordinary people out of pocket.

She said: “We take it over for nothing, because it’s failed.

“We will have to negotiate the debt, that’s true, but it’s still cheaper than to keep it functioning, because it’s not functioning at the moment.

“Make them public, take them over and good riddance.”

The protest lasted about an hour.

A previous protest was held at the River Test in Hampshire, and 12 in total are planned across the country, say the Angling Trust.

Visit https://rb.gy/z8e4uh to watch a video report by newburytoday.



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