Major 1,450 home development could be on hold after plans run into trouble

Christ Church College and its partner Dorchester Residential Management’s plans to build 1,450 new homes at Bayswater Brook to the north of Barton.

But the government agency said Thames Water’s Oxford sewage plant cannot cope with more demand and the plant has been running illegally in breach of its permit since 2017.

Oxford Mail: Bayswater Brook delayed

The EA said planning permission for the development with a new primary school, nursery, shops, a restaurant, café and road network, should be refused.

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Developers had intended to begin construction on the site in 2024 with development anticipated to be completed by 2035.

Thames Water had told South Oxfordshire District Council there were no capacity issues with the treatment works.

Developer Bayswater said it had been “engaging with the Environment Agency and Thames Water around sewage capacity”.

“After formal engagement with Thames Water no objections were raised on sewer capacity or other matters,” it added.

Oxford Mail:

In a letter of objection to South Oxfordshire District Council, the EA said: “Oxford Sewage Treatment Works is a site of significant concern”.

It said the Environment Agency inspected Oxford STW in 2021 and “some serious and significant permit breaches were identified.

“While the site is noncompliant with its permit, the risk to the environment remains high.”

Thames Water promised to bring the works up to standard by 2025, but this has been delayed until the 2030s.

“Adding additional flows to the STW before this scheme is completed is not acceptable,” said the EA.

The homes are among 5,000 South Oxfordshire District Council hopes to build around Oxford in its Local Plan – many of which would also require connection to the same sewage treatment works.

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Ash Smith, chair of campaign group Windrush Against Sewage Pollution, said the EA’s objection “must, of course, also apply to every other development that will load Oxford’s sewage works as of now”.

James Stevens, director for cities at the Home Builders Federation, said Thames Water made money from new customers and was ‘thwarting’ house building.

He said: “We face an acute housing shortage and plans to address this cannot be thwarted because of a failure by utility companies to invest in infrastructure.

“House builders have provided billions of pounds to water companies in recent years and it is their legal responsibility under the Water Industry Act 1991 to ensure infrastructure is in place to serve their existing and future communities needs.”

A Thames Water spokesperson said: “We look at each development case by case and where needed will request conditions are added to planning applications, so for example, new homes are not occupied until the necessary upgrades to our infrastructure have taken place. 

“We’re finalising plans for a major upgrade at Oxford sewage treatment works, costing more than £130m. This will provide a significant increase in treatment capacity, larger storm tanks and a higher quality of treated effluent going to the river.”

A council spokesperson said: “This planning application is currently under consideration and therefore it is not appropriate for the council to make any comment at this stage.”

An Environment Agency spokesman added: “Decisions to grant or deny planning applications are ultimately a matter for local authorities unless it gets called in by ministers, but we would not be involved in that.

“At the same time, we are working with Thames Water to agree a plan whereby they can improve the capacity.”

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