VOTERS on The Herald's online poll have given RWE npower a clear message to stop work at Thrupp Lake, Radley, until the outcome of a public inquiry into the area's town green status.

But the online site was taken down following what Herald editor Derek Holmes called "irregular voting patterns" last Sunday.

A large majority in favour of asking npower to halt work was suddenly overtaken by a large vote in favour of the power company's plans to carry on preparing the lake as a dumping ground for spent fuel ash from Didcot power station.

At 3pm on Sunday, 650 votes had been registered calling for npower to stop work until the decision on town green status was known, while 228 said npower should continue. By 5.30pm, the number in favour of npower halting work had risen to 714, but npower support had shot up to 770.

The Herald found there had been multiple voting from a single IP address.

Mr Holmes said: "There was an irregular voting pattern that skewed the voting figures, so we decided to close the poll.

"It was clear from the genuine voting that there was an overwhelming number of people in favour of asking RWE npower to stop preparation work on the lake until the result of the public inquiry into town green status in April is known."

Save Radley Lakes campaigner Lynda Pasquire said she became suspicious last Friday afternoon when the vote began to swing too much in favour of npower and out of keeping with what she felt was public opinion.

She said: "The Herald told me that someone had voted in favour of npower 650 times from one IP address.

"I would like to thank The Herald for the opportunity to put the issue to a public vote and for acting promptly in response to the gerrymandering, or, more appropriately, the Jerrytampering."

RWE npower spokesman Kelly Brown said: "We had absolutely nothing to do with trying to fix the online poll. We welcomed the opportunity for people to have their say on this very important issue.

"We understand the issue over town green status, but this is a comparatively recent development and comes a long time after our original planning application.

"We have been in the planning process for two years. We have answered every question and have been granted planning permission.

"We have no other option but to use the lake for ash. It is not a cheap option for us to dispose of the ash that cannot be recycled. It is urgent that we use the lake for disposal because without the facility, it could affect power generation next winter."