WORK to start draining water from a beauty spot to fill it with spent fuel ash is due to start on Monday.

Energy firm RWE npower is to fill Thrupp Lake at Radley with spent fuel ash from Didcot power station and preparations for the pipeline to drain the lake are to go ahead.

The work starts as campaigners still await the outcome of their bid to give the area village green status, which would bring the work to a halt.

A pipe will be installed under the public path which runs adjacent to the site and wildlife protection measures - including a newt fence - will also be installed.

RWE npower received planning permission for the work in January, but major activity was halted to minimise impact on wildlife during the bird nesting season.

Marjorie White, of Save Radley Lakes, said: "The vast majority of people thought it wrong for such a beautiful place to be destroyed.

"RWE has lost the battle for public opinion hands down, but still intends to bulldoze through what is the worst piece of environmental vandalism that Oxfordshire has ever seen."

Campaign chairman Basil Crowley said: "They have said all along they would start when the birds have gone, but it is surprising they are starting work before the result of the town green application is known."

John Rainford, manager of Didcot power station, said: "These preliminary works were originally scheduled for earlier in the year, but they have been on hold pending the final agreement of planning conditions.

"We need to complete the preliminary works as soon as possible and our aim is to cause minimum disruption to people who use the path."

Mr Rainford said the station needed a reliable disposal facility for pulverised fuel ash 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

He said: "This is vital if the power station is to meet peak electricity demands for two million homes and businesses during the winter months over the next few years."

Fresh from swimming the English Channel last month, Radley College house master Angus McChesney will swim along the River Thames through Abingdon on Sunday to celebrate his success and support the Save Radley Lakes campaign.

Abingdon mayor Lorraine Oates will start the swim from Abingdon Lock at 12.30pm. Towing a dinghy with eye-catching banners, Mr McChesney will swim past Abbey Meadow, the Nag's Head Pub, Abingdon Bridge, Abingdon Boat Centre, St Helen's church and end at the Old Anchor Inn on St Helen's Wharf.