ANGLERS have hit out against an “assault” on the Thames that they warn will kill hundreds of fish.

They fear 15 hydro-electric projects planned for Oxfordshire will have a devastating impact on the river’s fish population.

With work on the first community-owned hydro power turbine on the Thames soon to start at Osney Lock, the Angling Trust warned that it may turn to legal action.

Osney Lock Hydro, which hopes to see the community scheme operational by next February, says it is investing between £60,000 and £90,000 on a fish pass to ensure its scheme has a beneficial effect on the fish population.

But anglers say the scheme will kill dwindling fish stocks in the Thames, with an unprecedented number of energy projects being lined up without any proper research being undertaken on their impact.

Andy Webber, the former Oxford Mail angling correspondent and a member of the Angling Trust, said: “I hope the trust will get on with it. In my view the sooner legal action is taken by the Angling Trust the better and I have called on local angling clubs to talk to the trust about the situation.

“Fish stocks on the Thames are already low.

“What with water abstractions, pollution, mink and natural predators, I wonder whether the Thames can sustain another assault.

“Every angler who lives along the length of the Thames knows these micro-hydro projects kill fish.

“Can the Thames sustain the deaths of maybe hundreds of fish? But they seem to think putting in a fish pass will sort out the problem.”

The Angling Trust says the potential threat to wildlife could be in breach of a European Union directive, that has already been used to halt hydro schemes on the continent.

Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Angling Trust, as well as its legal arm Fish Legal, said: “We are considering legal action.

“In Holland fishing organisations have successfully taken their government to court on the grounds that hydro plants were shown to be incompatible with the European Union’s Water Framework Directive, which says that rivers must attain good ecological status.

“We would like to do something on similar lines.”

A £3m hydro scheme on the River Trent to provide electricity for 800 homes is now on hold after a successful legal challenge by the Angling Trust five months ago.

However, that challenge, before Nottingham County Court, focused on anglers’ access to the river.

Saskya Huggins, director of Osney Lock Hydro, said: “The technology we have selected for the scheme, a reverse Archimedean screw, is one suggested to us by the Environment Agency because of its fish-friendliness.

“Independent studies have repeatedly demonstrated that Archimedean screw turbines do not ‘mince’ or ‘slaughter’ fish.”