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Radley’s Lakes Endangered

How the Lakes were Saved


[First posted 19/05/2005 and last updated 04/10/2010]




Can you believe that someone would want to destroy this beautiful lake and its wonderful surroundings and turn it into a wasteland resembling the picture below?




It so very nearly happened. In 2005, RWE npower, which operates Didcot A power station,proposed to fill the Thrupp and Bullfield Lakes, known to them simply as lakes E and F, with pulverised fuel ash (PFA). This is the fate that has befallen all of the other Radley lakes and gravel pits, save one small one. While many of these pits were the result of relatively recent working, the two threatened lakes, which are accessible from Thrupp Lane, are much older and date back to the 1950s and have since become inhabited with a profusion of wildlife.

While the power station operators intended to restore the land to a natural state, this would have taken many decades and would not have included water areas apart from a ‘wetland area’ that would have been little more than a shallow bog. The results of such ‘restoration’ can be seen across the railway line to the east and, while some interesting woodland has been established around the filled lakes, the lake surfaces, which consist of a few inches of topsoil laid on top of the sterile ash, are areas of relative desolation. In their defence, Power Station operators claim that ash-fill sites may eventually become preferred habitats for some species of orchid. While it is true that orchids such as Dactylorhiza are more tolerant of the resulting conditions than many other plants, there are already eight known species of orchid around the threatened lakes and most of these will be destroyed by the proposed operations. Even if conditions are perfect, orchids do not appear spontaneously. The orchid seeds have to come from somewhere. The in-filling will not only involve the destruction of the entire existing site, but the lakes will be fenced off for many years (mainly because of the hazardous nature of the PFA slurry) and there will be no public access.

The reason, RWE npower say, is that the PFA needs to be disposed of. Why is that? PFA, particularly if it is rendered carbon-free (but even if it is not), is a valuable material that can be used used in the manufacture of building materials such as concrete, cement, grout and general fill. Indeed this represented Didcot’s own Best Practice policy under the Cleaner Coal Technology Programme, under which they claim to be already exporting the ash for reuse. So why did they continuing to dump so much of it into Radley’s lakes?

In these times of environmental awareness and when we are all being constantly berated to recycle our waste, you would have thought that RWE npower could have reviewed its policy and expedited its recycling options. It also seemed strange that one operator was busily dumping one excellent building material into the ground, while another has been busy extracting a different material (sand and gravel) with very similar applications from the same land. It should be no surprise if, in a few years time, they will be wanting to recover the buried PFA!

These lakes and their surroundings have become an important part of the locality, not only for the wildlife but also for people, who come, from near and far, to fish, walk, cycle, observe its wildlife and simply to enjoy the place.

The Oxfordshire Local Biodiversity Action Plan listed the Radley Lakes complex as an Ecologically Important Landscape (EIL) as well as a County Wildlife Site (CWS, which, actually it wasn’t at the time). Thus it ought to have been entitled to some protection!

The following is a blog of the campaign history.

[Update 16 June 2005]

Didcot Power Station operators apply for license to dump ash at Radley. See News Item.

[Update 21 June 2005]

It is confirmed the the Power Station Operators have applied for detailed planning consent to fill lakes E and F. This includes some variations to the original consent, but nothing that will save the lakes from destruction. Further details to follow.

[Update 19 July 2005]

The planning application goes to public consultation. See News Item.

[Update 06 October 2005]

The planning application is put in abeyance. See News Item

[Update 31 January 2006]

Didcot submits a new application which proposes “leaving” the Bullfield Lake (F) and filling only the larger Thrupp Lake (E). See News Item

[Update 17 February 2006]

The new planning application goes to public consultation. See News Item.

[Update 13 April 2006]

Save Radley Lakes delivers a 40 page Objection supported by nine separate reports (totalling 341 pages, including 4 page covering letter) to Tony Crabbe, Deputy Chairman of the Oxfordshire County Council Planning and Regulatory Committee, who are planning to meet on May 22 to decide the matter.

[Update 08/05/2006]

Save Radley Lakes forwards a supplementary objection on conservation grounds to the effect that the proposal is contrary to the Oxfordshire Local Biodiversity Action Plan.

[Update 11/05/2006]

Save Radley Lakes forwards a supplementary objection on grounds that the site is geologically unsuitable for the type of disposal being proposed. This objection is supported by a new report on the Hydrogeology and Geology of the Radley Lakes.

[Update 18/06/2006]

Save Radley Lakes forwards four further supplementary objections addressing Npower’s restoration claims, pollution, flooding and detriment to local assets. The updated flooding objection is supported by a reissue of SRL’s Flood Risk Report

[Update 03/07/2006]

Oxfordshire County Council Officers release their report recommending granting permission for the proposal to go ahead. See News Item. However, in addition, the report recommends a large number of conditions, 28 in all, that the applicant will have to comply with. These include (i) a deadline of 31/12/2015 on the filling operation; (ii) restoration to begin immediately and to be completed within 5 years; (iii) removal of security fences upon completion of restoration; (iv) long term aftercare provision (v) provisions that will effectively end further PFA dumping into any of the remaining lakes, dug or undug, at Radley for ever.

There is one chink in the recommendations, which is that they constitute a departure from the Development Plan in that they, in the opinion of the Officers’, contravene Oxfordshire Structure Plan Minerals Policy WM3, which will require that the matter be referred to the Secretary of State for the Environment.

[Update 10/07/2006]

Oxfordshire County Council Planning and Regulatory Committee give their approval for RWE npower to fill Thrupp Lake with PFA from Didcot A Power Station. A black day for Local democracy and the planning system. See News Item.

[Update 12/08/2006]

The Radley Lakes are designated a County Wildlife Site. Unfortunately this new status offers no protection from RWE Npower. See News Item.

[Update 03/09/2006]

The planning application is referred to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Ruth Kelly, for a decision on its determination. See News Item.

[Update 19/09/2006]

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government issues a Holding Order under article 14 of the Town and Country Planning Act preventing Oxfordshire County Council from granting consent without her authorisation. See News Item.

[Update 16/10/2006]

The Secretary of State decides not to call-in Radley Lakes Planning Application, and the Holding Order is lifted. See News Item.

[Update 10/11/2006]

Radley Lakes featured in 6-page article in the Ecologist. See News Item.

[Update 17/12/2006]

Application made to designate the Radley Lakes a Town Green. See News Item.

[Update 11/01/2007]

Oxfordshire County Council finally issued planning permission to RWE npower to destroy the lake. However there is still hope. See News Item.

[Update 16/02/2007]

Following the occupation of the Sandles property adjacent to the lake by “homeless environmentalists” and their subsequent eviction at the hands of the goons, things start to get nasty. Clearance work has now started at the Lake (See Also The St Valentine’s Day Chainsaw Massacre) and is expected to continue until the end of the month. Meanwhile the local people are fighting to get their lake back…

[Update 18/02/07]

250 people participate in march to protest at destruction of lake.

[Update 22/02/2007]

Public Inquiry into Town Green Application announced.

[Update 03/03/07]

Green MEP, Caroline Lucas, visits lakes.

[Update 10/03/2007]

Protest rally in Abingdon followed by march to the lakes. 550 people take part.

[Update 02/04/2007]

Public Inquiry into Town Green Registration gets underway

[Update 05/04/06]

Schoolchildren deliver petition to 10 Downing Street

[Update 05/04/2007]

Public Inquiry adjourned until June

[Update 21/05/2007]

Planning permission granted to Waste Recycling Group to use extra space at Sutton Courtenay Landfill Site, which is situated right next to the power station, for household waste, without exhausting possibility that it should take PFA as well.

[Update 21/05/2005]

Oxfordshire County Council’s Planning & Regulation Committee approve RWE npower’s proposals to comply with the Conditions Precedent but required that 3 outstanding proposals be returned to the Committee for consideration at a later date and not delegated to officers.

[Update 17/06/2007]

Tony Juniper, Director of Friends of the Earth, visits the Radley Lakes, denounces npower for power station operators for their lazy and careless attitude to the problem, and calls on Oxfordshire County Council to reverse their decision. See News Item.

[Update 24/06/2007]

Radley Lakes Town Green Public Inquiry sessions concluded. See News Item

[Update 16/07/2007]

Oxfordshire County Council’s Planning & Regulation Committee resolve to approve, in principle, the details submitted under the remaining conditions precedent, subject the Council Officers and Committee chairman being satisfied that the proper process had been followed in relation to Environmental Impact Assessment. See full story.

[Update 28/08/2007]

Rejecting claims that an Environmental Impact Assessment was needed for additional works proposed to meet certain conditions, Oxfordshire County Council finally approves all of RWE npower’s submissions under conditions precedent thereby finally granting full permission for the development to proceed.

[Update 21/09/2007]

Npower start work.

[Update 16/10/2007]

Inspector recommends rejection of application to register lakes as a Town Green. See News Item.

[Update 25/11/2007]

Inspector’s report questioned by top QC.  Registration decision postponed to New Year. See News Item.

[Update 14/01/2008]

County Council rejects Town Green application. See News Item.

[Update 11/02/2008]

Save Radley Lakes launches fund raising appeal in support of judicial review. See News Item.

[Update 18/02/2008]

Npower announce that they have no need for Thrupp Lake in the short term, and may not need it at all. See News Item.

[Update 29/02/2008]

Radley Parish Council announces intention to launch Judicial Review of town green decision. See News Item

[Update 21/04/2008]

Radley Parish Council applies to the High Court for leave to undertake the Judicial Review of Oxfordshire County Council’s decision of 14 January, and applies for Stay of Proceedings to allow negotiations with the landowners. See News Item.

[Update 23/04/2008]

Oxford City Council and the Lord Mayor of Oxford add their support to the campaign. See News Item.

[Update 21/07/2008]

Oxfordshire County Council gives permission to WRG Ltd to stockpile 400,000 tonnes of PFA on the Sutton Courtenay landfill site. See News Item.

[Update 03/11/2008]

All is set for a High Court hearing of the Town Green Judicial Review in February 2009. See News Item.

[Update 17/12/2008]

RWE npower announces that Thrupp Lake is no longer required for ash disposal and set out their vision for an environmental legacy for Radley. See News Item.

[Update 18/12/2008]

The Radley Lakes are saved! See News Item for an update of the events of yesterday and for an account of what it all means.

[Update 27/05/2009]

Northmoor Trust appointed to manage Thrupp Lake. See News Item.

[Update 28/05/2009]

Radley Parish Council decides to end judicial review. See News Item.

[Update 20/11/2009]

RWE npower and the Northmoor Trust enter into a formal agreement over the future of Thrupp Lake. See News Item. The Radley Wetland Centre is conceived and the Northmoor Trust launches a public consultation. See News Item.


[Update 04/10/2010]

New Quality Protocol for the production and reuse of PFA was launched on 4th October 2010. See News Item .




To prevent this desecration, local people formed the SaveRadleyLakes Action Group.

Thanks to your support, these lakes have been saved!

[Aerial Photographs of the Lakes in 1982 and 2005]

Permanent link to this article: http://www.radleyvillage.org.uk/radleys-lakes-endangered/