The River Cherwell is a much-loved stretch of water that flows through North Oxfordshire, rising in Northamptonshire and ending in Oxford. Many of us locally, including my own family, enjoy bathing in the river and its waterways. We are all understandably concerned about what is being done to safeguard our river and limit sewage discharge into it.
Through the recent Environmental Improvement Plan, the Government set out the steps being taken to improve our whole water system. The includes publishing the Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan, hugely increasing the monitoring of discharges, setting strict new targets on water companies, as well as record levels of fines for water companies that break the law.
The Government went even further in April by launching its integrated Plan for Water with commitments to increasing investment in infrastructure, bringing in stronger regulation and enforcing tougher penalties on those who pollute our rivers and coastlines. You can read more on this here.
The Government has been clear that while storm overflows are necessary to avoid sewage backing up in our streets, water companies should work towards ending their reliance on them. While I welcome the huge progress that has been made so far there is still more work to be done.
In November, I wrote to the Chief Executive of Thames Water sharing my concerns. Just before Christmas, I accepted an invitation to visit the Banbury Sewage Treatment Works. At my meeting with senior representatives, we agreed that releasing untreated sewage into our rivers is unacceptable.
While it is clear that Thames Water are taking responsibility for their performance and investing in Banbury, there is still more to be done to protect our rivers and improve water quality. I continue to monitor progress in Banbury and across North Oxfordshire very closely to ensure that we continue to see improvements in our water quality.
You can read more on my visit below.