A SLY street sweeping company has been fined for the second time in just 18 months after illegally tapping into Thames Water hydrants.

Wooldridge Plant Ltd will have to pay more than £6,500 after pleading guilty to two charges under the Water Industry Act 1991 at Reading Magistrates' Court on Friday last week.

It was revealed that the company used illegal standpipes to connect to the supply and fill up road sweepers in Lower Icknield Way in Chinnor and Church Lane in Reading.

Thames Water had previously prosecuted the firm that is based in the village of Bagshot in Surrey in June 2019, resulting in a fine and costs of more than £6,000.

ALSO READ: Plan for 169 more homes at former airfield

This was before the latest offences were uncovered.

Director of Wooldridge Plant Martin Taylor admitted in court that his firm stole the water from the roadside hydrants in October last year.

Mr Taylor explained that he runs regular talks and vehicle checks with his staff.

He was fined £650 fine for each offence, along with more than £5,000 in costs and a £65 victim surcharge.

ALSO READ: Cash reward offered to catch 'disgraceful' fox killer

Claire Rumens, Thames Water's illegal connections manager, commented: "We work hard around the clock to cut leakage and ask our customers to use water wisely, so it is not fair for others to take water without paying.

"Our work to find and stop illegal connections has ramped up in recent years, helping us to uncover hundreds of offences and save millions of litres of water, but there is still more to do.

"We are disappointed that, despite being fined last year, this company has continued to take water and not pay for it.

"We will always look to work with individuals and companies before going to court but if lessons are not learnt then we have no hesitation about taking further action."

Herald Series: • Wooldridge Plant Ltd must pay more than £6,500 for illegally connecting to roadside hydrants • Wooldridge Plant Ltd must pay more than £6,500 for illegally connecting to roadside hydrants

Over the last three years, Thames Water has recovered more than £450,000 from contractors, landowners and other third parties who illegally took water from hydrants.

With climate change and population growth putting a strain on water resources, the provider has clamped down on those using water but not paying for it.

More than 200 separate offences were uncovered, with the perpetrators either asked to pay a retrospective charge or prosecuted in court.

ALSO READ: Mini plant's future 'unclear' after EU deal

The company pointed out that all of the money recovered is reinvested back into crucial work to provide clean and wastewater services to 15 million customers across London and the Thames Valley.

Anyone found using a standpipe without the provider's permission will be given the opportunity to pay a charge.

However, those who fail to pay and repeat offenders will be prosecuted, Thames Water vowed.

To report any water network abuse email illegalconnections@thameswater.co.uk or call customer service on 0800 980 8800.

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

For news updates straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on news@nqo.com or 01865 425 445.