A CAMPAIGN has been launched to “save the River Lambourn” from sewage pollution generated by a new housing development.
One riparian expert described the situation as a “scandal”.
The fears concern plans to discharge semi-treated effluent from new homes at Teekay Farm in Weston directly into the river.
Critics claim there has been a lack of consultation and that West Berkshire Council planners have failed to follow proper procedures to safeguard the River Lambourn.
William Daniel, owner of Famous Fishing in Salisbury, Wiltshire, which sells fishing access on the River Lambourn, said: “This is about stopping the insidious creeping pollution that continues to damage our rivers, and the failure of the authorities to acknowledge the damage we continue to do to our most precious resources.
“The River Lambourn merits the very highest level of protection, one of very few that is not only designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) but also Special Area of Conservation (SAC), which affords it the very highest level of protection under European law.”
Campaigners warn that phosphates in the effluent would provide a nutrient-rich source of food for algae, strangling other flora and killing its rich invertebrate life.
For much of its length, the Lambourn is a winterbourne, typically flowing only in the late winter and spring months.
It is feared that effluent will build up in dry months and become concentrated.
The original application included plans to pipe the waste under or over the river and into the main sewer.
But an application to change that is currently before West Berkshire Council.
Mr Daniel said: “The whole thing is a scandal. We don’t believe there has been proper consultation on this.”
Kirsteen Roberts, who lives near the proposed development, said: “We’re appalled at what seems to be happening.
“Eight years ago planning permission for 10 houses was approved but now it seems developers want to install a sewage treatment plant which will discharge into the river.”
Richard Benyon wrote to West Berkshire Council’s planning department as Newbury MP expressing villagers’ concerns and adding: “There is some concern that this was not included in the original plan and that the public have not had an opportunity to comment.”
Head of planning and countryside for West Berkshire Council, Gary Lugg, confirmed that developers sought to change the original foul drainage arrangements.
However, he added: “No development shall commence until further details relating to sustainable drainage measures and information showing that the proposed foul and surface water drainage system will have no significant effect on the River Lambourn shall be submitted for approval on an application made for that purpose.
“Such approved scheme will be implemented in full and maintained thereafter... every effort is being made to secure the full protection of the environment and the River Lambourn in particular.”
The proposals can be viewed in full, and commented upon by interested parties, by visiting West Berkshire Council website’s planning application section and using the reference 14/02257/COND2