CAMPAIGNERS are searching for more people to protest against a huge reservoir.

Group Against Reservoir Development (GARD) is suiting up for battle against Thames Water, which is once again leaning towards the long-contested Abingdon Reservoir.

The water company continues to investigate the reservoir between Drayton, Steventon, East Hanney and Marcham, to tackle London’s water shortage.

GARD successfully opposed the plan during a public inquiry in 2010, and now wants to recruit more members after the reservoir returned to the table.

Speaking at a public meeting in East Hanney on Monday, GARD’s chairman Derek Stork said: “We are looking to coordinate active citizens who are prepared to write letters and lobby councillors.”

Thames Water’s largest reservoir would rival the size of Heathrow Airport, becoming the second largest reservoir in the UK at 10km2.

Mr Stork, who lives in Steventon, said construction would likely take seven years and require the construction of a ‘big tunnel’ under Drayton village and hence the closure of part of the A34.

Speaking at the meeting, he rebuffed suggestions that it would make an attractive leisure amenity.

He said: “You can have wonderful experiences in flooded valley reservoirs; look down and watch the boats. But this would be a bunded reservoir. You won’t look over it unless you happen to be 100 feet tall.”

GARD believe the predicted water shortage can be met with a combination of methods including desalination, reducing leaks and transferring water from the River Severn.

He questioned some of Thames Water's figures used to justify the need for the reservoir, branding some of the statistics 'bogus'.

Referring to Thames' predication about a spike in immigration in 2040, he said: "These figures depend on something that nobody knows about. A lot of it doesn't make any sense."

The water company stresses that population growth and climate change mean something must be done to meet demand.

One audience member questioned if Mr Stork felt villagers would be grateful for the reservoir, in 100 years' time.

He said: "I think people will be extremely unhappy and feel really cheated. By that time, we would see if flood frequency has increased and that it's never used to its full potential."

Noting criticism from a previous Oxford Mail article about GARD, in which commenters accused campaigners of being 'nimbys', he added: "We did not win the public inquiry by saying 'not in our back yards'. We won on technical grounds."

GARD members have meetings with the Environment Agency and water regulator Ofwat in the coming months, although Thames Water will not release its final decision on the reservoir until later this year.

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