A CALL to clean up Oxfordshire’s rivers will go out to the Government.

As Oxfordshire’s county councillors met on Tuesday (September 8), they debated how to end sewage pollution in rivers in the county.

A motion, tabled by Nicholas Field-Johnson, Conservative councillor for Burford and Carterton North, called for a ‘clean river policty’ to be instigated across the UK, in a similar way to the existing clean beach policy.

Mr Field-Johnson’s motion said: “We need to end sewage pollution and make our rivers clean and fit for recreation once again.”

It called on the county council to write to Oxfordshire’s MPs and the Government to take ‘urgent action to ban the dumping of raw and untreated sewage into our rivers and to support a clean river policy including the reintroduction of quality status in order to re-establish the high quality of water in our rivers’.

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The River Windrush in West Oxfordshire has been plagued by issues with sewage overspill in recent years.

Last December, flooding caused sewage to spill into the river and there were reports of 'sewage fungus' blooming as a result.

At the time, Thames Water confirmed the pollution had been allowed to spill into Colwell Brook, a tributary of the Windrush, to prevent homes from flooding.

The company said it was 'undesirable' and permitted by the Environment Agency but only done when there was 'literally no alternative'.

In 2016, 1,700 fish were killed after a chemical leak into Colwell Brook and Queen Emma's Dyke.

And pollution in the UK's rivers has been a problem in other parts of the country in recent years too.

Witney Gazette:

WASP campaigners in the Windrush. Picture: Tim Graham

One of the most high profile recent examples has been the River Wye on the English-Welsh border.

Algal blooms caused by run off from chicken manure has killed fish in the river, and led to other damage to the local environment.

In a speech at the meeting, Mr Field-Johnson added that 'high algal growth in the river' had choked plants, and that fine sediment had prevented some species of fish from laying eggs.

He said: "There are few signs of fish and the turbidity remains very bad."

Oxfordshire councillors across the political spectrum were keen to support the measures.

Labour's Susanna Pressel gave it her backing and said it would be of relevance to residents in her ward of Jericho and Osney, many of whom swam in the River Thames at Port Meadow.

READ AGAIN about when pollution plagued the River Windrush last November

There was also support among the council's ruling Conservative group, including from cabinet member Liam Walker, who was prevented from giving a speech in the debate as time was cut short.

Ashley Smith, a member of the public and campaigner with the group Windrush Against Sewage Pollution, spoke in favour of lobbying for a new policy on clean rivers.

Mr Smith said new regulatory powers were needed to prevent pollution into the UK's rivers.

He added that the new regulations were not just for wild swimmers.

He said: "It shouldn't be divisive, about hordes of people arriving and swimming... it should be about having a pristine environment for people to enjoy in Oxfordshire."