Save Radley Lakes – Information for Media and Public



  • In 1982 CEGB given planning conditional permission to fill disused Gravel Pits in Radley (using a method that is no longer permitted.) with Pulverised Fuel Ash (PFA).
  • The history of the two lakes has been established as follows:
    1947: Excavation of 5 acres in NW corner of  Lake E (Thrupp Lake)
    1951: Permission given to excavate remainder of Lake E.
    1955: Permission given to excavate Lake F (Bullfield) given and revoked in the same year.
    1963: Excavation of Lake F begun (without permission).
    Lake E, Thrupp Lake, therefore dates back 60 years while Lake F(Bullfield) is 44 years old.
    Lake E was briefly dewatered for reworking in early/mid 1970s and temporarily dewatered again in Spring of 1992.
    Most of the other lakes were, we are given to believe, dug in the 1970s and 1980s. Aerial
    photographs, , purportedly taken in 1978, but probably later - early 1980s - show most of the lakes (except G, J , P) in existence.
  • NPower say these gravel pits were dug for their use. This is not true.
  • The various quarry owners just dug the gravel out to sell to the building trade although by 1982 (when planning permissions were already in place for gravel extraction) they would have been aware of OCCs longer-term plans for the area.
  • Any quarries created prior to 1982 (most of them) were dug for commercial reasons other than flyash dumping. A-D, for example, were meant to be restored to agriculture and there was no thought then for turning them into toxic waste dumps.
  • It is possible (probable) that the rapid finishing off of H/I by Curtis was 'influenced' by Npower (this quarry was dug from 1970 to c. 2000, i.e., extremely slowly with a rapid finishing
    off in the late 1990s).
  • The reason why H/I was dug so slowly was partly due to his gravel extraction on the south side of Abingdon and because the gravel at H/I was covered in 'concretions' and contained thick layers of
    peat etc within the gravel column.
  • The lake known as Longmead (opposite Sophos) was dug from 1997 by Tuckwell's (their last consent) with no possibility that after use would be for flyash - the planning permission clearly states it must be restored to nature and this process is well under way. Npower refer to this lake in their Environmental Statement and reject its use as a flyash dump because it is too small.
  • G, J and P were dug after 1985. The AAAHS were excavating down there in advance of gravel extraction. These pits were probably dug with the knowledge that Npower would fill them up with flyash. Excavations were still ongoing in 1990-1 and probably were completed by 1999 or thereabouts.
  • The Curtis gravel pits on the south side of Abingdon are on the floodplain and cannot be used for flyash dumping (although a 'deal' with OCC might facilitate the process).
  • A question has been posed that if the gravel lake F was dug out for Npower why was Curtis filling it in with building rubble in the middle 1980s?
  • PFA also known as fly-ash is a very fine grey powder ( with a bulk density of 1.2 - 1.7 g/cc. It consists mainly of a glassy material whose principal constituents are silica, alumina, iron and calcium. 2%-5% is soluble in water. Particles are generally rounded and in the 10 micron range. The actual ash composition depends on the type and origin of the coal and the conditions under which it is burnt)
  • A Public meeting was called and the idea that the land would be returned to agriculture was accepted by the residents, with the proviso that two lakes would be retained as an amenity.
  • NPower took over from CEGB but have denied any agreement to leave an amenity, but have agreed leave two “lakes” – areas previously assigned to gravel extraction - that do not exist!   This offer has subsequently been "improved upon" to donate a puddle in one corner of Lake £ and some land with public access near the Bullfield Lake.  Not a fair exchange at all for 4 million tonnes of fuel ash and a waste-land landcape.
  • The CEGB stated they would need to use the ashfill facility for about eight years and argued that Didcot Coal Power Station would be taken out of service after that, and the ash-disposal facility would no longer be needed.
  • The CEGB agreed to build a dry ash bund (a container) on land adjacent to the Power Station in order to stockpile ash for recycling.
  • The ash bund was demolished when the Gas fuelled Station (Didcot B) was built, which was to take over from the Coal fuelled Station.(Didcot A)
  • The stockpile would have held approximately what they are now planning to dump in Radley .
  • The CEGB said 23 years ago they had acquired land adjacent to the Power Station and were looking to set up a commercial reselling operation to dispose of fuel ash to the Construction Industry. NPower have only just started to consider this option, even though their Best Practice policy back in 2001 implied that they were actually doing this.
  • The Gas-fuelled Station is used, they say, but it is cheaper to burn cheap dirty coal.
  • The coal comes from various places across the world where the extraction is cheap and the Health and Safety Rules are non-existent.  Didcot have said they get their coal from South America , South Africa and Australia .  People who work at Didcot have told otherwise.
  • The cheap coal contains more heavy metal contamination than British Coal which was burnt up until the decline of the British Coal Industry.
  • NPower have applied since taking over for variations in the Planning Application, and the quantity of ash dumped is far in excess of that agreed under the 1982 permission.
  • The Environment Agency insisted at the last planning application (2001) that different measures should be taken to ensure containment of the PFA. This means heavy clay bunds are constructed on the site which stop leachate entering the ground water.
  • Oxfordshire County Council did not ensure proper planning processes were undertaken in previous applications, e.g. carrying out a proper Ecological Assessment or Environmental Impact Assessment, in 2001.
  • The area was de-listed as a County Wildlife Site in error and has not been re-instated by the County Council for reasons which we have been unable to determine.
  • The area is rich in wildlife, including Red Book Protected Species and species and their habitats that are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (schedules 1-5) and the European Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC.
  • The County Council Officers initially appeared only interested in "mitigation".  Mitigation is where you save a few seeds and plant them close by and hope that they grow to replace the trees and plants that will be decimated if NPower get their way. You rescue a few amphibians and mammals but because of their homing instinct, they migrate back to their deaths in the poisonous sludge that takes the place of their habitat.    The Officers were looking at the Planning Application as if it were a "done deal" and had not scrutinised the proposals thoroughly enough to notice that there were plenty of grounds for refusal.
  • The Environment Agency have received complaints about the pollution from the ash fill site.
  • Oxfordshire County Council has received a planning application to vary the terms of the previous planning consents granted. This Planning Application went out to Public Consultation until early August 2005.
  • The public were kindly given additional time until the end of August 2005, because this Action Group had made representations to Oxfordshire County Council about the complexity of the application.  The Environment Agency objected to the first planning application in August 2005 but the Officer who objected suddenly found himself transferred elsewhere. 
  • Faced with huge public opposition on an unprecedented scale and an objection from the Environment Agency that the infilling would compromise the flood plain, NPower put this application into abeyance October 2005. .  They have now put in a brand new application which did not receive such a forceful objection from the EA.  Perhaps pressure was brought to bear from on high.
  • Oxfordshire County Council granted permission after referral to the Government Ministry DCLG.  Strangely Ruth Kelly wrote to Anne Widdecombe saying she was investigating the matter on the same day as her Officers (GOSE) sent the planning application back to Oxfordshire County Council to determine.
  • Oxfordshire CC finally gave planning permission in January 2007 but conditions attached (conditions precedent) have still not been agreed due to problems with various aspects of nPower's plans - seems they didn't get their figures right in some respects.
  • The EA have confirm the IPCC licence for Lakes A-D but NPower have to submit a new application for Thrupp Lake before they can dump ash. 
  • NPower cut down trees at Radley lakes without a proper consent from the Forestry Commission.
  • An application has been accepted by Oxfordshire County Council to make the area  a Town Green.  The public inquiry into this application took place in April and June 2007.
  • NPower don't see any merit in the Town Green Application 


  • The Environment Agency are holding the Government Line that PFA is non-hazardous.
  • PFA is as non-hazardous as Portland cement when it is dry.
  • It is recycled into building materials by other power stations. Good quality PFA makes excellent concrete and is cheaper than Portland Cement – and more environmentally friendly. However its classification as “waste” encourages disposal and discourages reuse.
  • London Power Stations export their fuel ash to Countries who do not have aggregates which they can extract themselves.
  • Didcot Power Station only recycles 45% of its waste fuel ash.
  • PFA contains many possible contaminants, many of which are concentrated by the burning process.
  • Heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, chromium, vanadium and lead,) are known to be present and have been measured (by the Environment Agency ( EA)) in discharged water at concentrations around 0.2mg/l. Boron and some light metals are present in even greater amounts, with Boron concentrations reaching several g/l. The concentrations can always be reduced to below maximum permitted levels by dilution but at the expense of consuming more water. The stuff still goes into the environment where it is subject to bioaccumulation and biomagnification by plants and animals.
  • Reactive metals, including those on the above list, are released when the PFA is mixed with water to form a slurry. This contaminated water is hazardous to the environment, which is why the regulations have changed requiring installation of bunds and clay linings to prevent leaching into groundwater. Nevertheless they still deny that the stuff is toxic. This water is passed into the Thames .
  • The Environment Agency are monitoring only on a narrow range of parameters. They are not including all heavy and light metal contaminants which may be dangerous when allowed to accumulate in the environment.
  • The continued disposal of fuel ash to landfill is questionable under EU Regulations which this Government has not yet enforced. It is illegal to landfill fuel ash in most of Europe and the USA .
  • Even India forbids landfill of PFA.
  • Current research including that by UK Universities, e.g. Derby University , shows that this material is bio-accumulative in plants and that the conversion into slurry exacerbates the release of contaminants into the environment. The ash is then settled out, and the waste water, (now contaminated) is drained into the river system.
  • The County Medical Officer for Health is taking the Government Line that PFA is “Non-Hazardous”. Although Dr. Messenger is now asking for further information on the risks associated with PFA.
  • The huge proportion of fuel ash adjacent to the River Thames has compromised the flood plain.  The Environment Agency have objected to the Planning Application on this basis.  The area is shown in old maps as being "subject to flooding".   
  • The Environment Agency objected on the grounds of flooding on the last infill but agreed to flood gates being installed on Lake H/I.  However, flooding in 2003 showed these to be ineffective.
  • Local residents fear their homes will be at risk and their property devalued. Some local residents are already unable to obtain insurance because of the previous flooding in 2003.
  • Local people are fearful that the contaminants contained in the huge ash lagoons could be released by severe flooding and cause enormous damage to the environment. Some of the elements contained in the waste are carcinogenic.
  • Local conservations are angry that RWE NPower is not observing the requirements under the Countryside and Wildlife Act which prevents species and their habitats from being destroyed. It took a legal letter from SRL's Solicitor to bring a halt the pre-preparation works planned to be undertaken in early August.  The Council had believed this work was able tobe carried out.
  • They thought and NPower believed they could commence work before planning consent (variation) was considered. They were relying on the old 1982 permission and subsequent variations to start work before consultation has been completed. However, it has been pointed out to them by SRL Solicitors that this will put them in contravention of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and the European Habitats directive (92/43/EEC). It is likely that they have not read the Ecological Assessment that they commissioned. This is dated the month after their planning application was submitted.
  • If the disposal is allowed to go ahead, it is unlikely that the land will be returned to any sort of amenity use for at least 20 years. This has been the experience with the lakes that were filled in the 1980s.
  • A topical issue is the use of water in the ash disposal process. Water is needed to make up the slurry and dilute the effluent.  . A volume of water many times greater than that of the lakes is therefore consumed by the process. We estimate approximately one Gigalitre of water (1,000,000,000 litres) is contaminated in this way per year. This is approximately 10% of the capacity of a large reservoir.
  • Thames Water, was until recently a sister company of Npower.
  • Didcot Power Station also emits into the atmosphere each year, up to 1,000 tonnes of PFA dust and 15,000,000 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide.   It is one of the dirtiest power stations in Britain.  It was made to clean up its emissions by the environment agency, but unfortunately, in so doing, the EA rules have made the ash less acceptable to the concrete industry.
  • NPower have only recently invested in one ash treatment plant to recycle the inefficiently burnt coal.  This means the coal is processed so that it can be pushed through the burning cycle with fresh coal.  However, only one machine treating a fraction of the ash is too little too late.
  • The Environment Agency have reissued the maps showing areas at risk from flooding.
  • Didcot said they had burnt more coal in the first 3 months of 2005 than ever before.  This is because the price of gas has gone up and it is cheaper to burn their low cost coal.  Also, the Gas Powered Station suffered a turbine loss last December and they haven't got it back on line yet.  Therefore, they have to burn coal to maintain their tariff.  They must be sitting on a huge pile of fuel ash as a result.  Perhaps they now will knuckle down and get recycling.
  • Didcot Power Station boasted in early April 2006 that they had produced more electricity from coal then ever before.  Sadly, this also produces more ash, and anyone who drove past Didcot Power Station in 2005 could see the heap of ash sitting on the site.  We wanted to know how much ash there is in that pile - as according to their planning application, there should only be 60,000 tonnes, a pimple compared to the huge mound which is evident in September 2005 - we think the ash pile is more like 200,000 tonnes and growing.  Do the really expect us to believe that the ashfill of Lake E will last for 10 years, when they have accumultated this amount of ash in the last twelve months, and misled the planners about how long the ash fill of Lake E will take?  We were not born yesterday - some of us were born when decency and honour were things to be proud of, unlike this Company who think they can shaft everyone and get away with it to pay the corporate shareholders of RWE NPower.
  • Oxfordshire County Council officers railroaded through the planning application despite the wealth of objections and brushed aside queries from their own Councillors as being irrelevant.
  • Ruth Kelly's department for Local Government has referred the planning application back to Oxfordshire County Council with the view that they created the problem, they can solve it.
  • Waste Recycling Group found they had more space than they thought in their big hole next to the Power Station.  In December 2006 a planning application was notified by OCC asking for approval to extend the life of WRG's operations and for more lorry movements to allow more rubbish to be put into their under-estimated hole.  Strangely, the officers knew of this overlarge hole in July 2006 but said nothing to the Planning Committee or Ruth Kelly - perhaps they didn't realise the hole was right outside the Power Station's premises - perhaps they thought it was in another part of Oxfordshire -  and perhaps that is being too kind to them!  Some people are asking questions as to why the Officers failed to notify the Planning Committee of this space.  Instead, at a time when people are considering other things,(Christmas) a planning application slips into the system and no doubt would have meant a delegated decision by the planning officer for WRG to get their permission, NPower get there's and OCC thinking it was a good time to bury bad news.
  • 8th January 2007, NPower get their permission from Oxfordshire County Council despite having the opportunity to revisit the application.  Rumour has it that OCC were afraid of being sued by NPower - Are they the big Corporate Bully using their muscle to get their own way? 
  • 6th February 2007,  NPower send in Thugs to evict Settlers from Sandles.  The Eviction was not peaceful as NPower had stated, but carried out with methods reminscent of a Gestapo Operation with thugs shattering plate glass windows with sledgehammers and showing occupants with glass in the early hours of the morning. 
  • 14th February 2007 Injunction served stopping people photographing.  The EPUK Reporter has an interesting video
  • after which NPower send in men with Chain Saws and without a permit they cut down about 200 mature trees much to the disgust and anger of the local population.
  • 1st March NPower stop work and blame a coot's nest which was conveniently found, when prior to this their contractors had destroyed other nests thinking they were not being filmed but they were.  There were people prepared to breach the injunction to record NPower's activities.
  • 2nd April to 5th April.  Public Inquiry held but only half the witnesses schedule to attend are heard. Inquiry postponed to 20th June for 3 days. 
  • 17th April  Peter Harbour goes to Court as a named Defendant on an injunction issued by the High Court obtained by April in February 2007 just after the squatters were evicted.
  • 28th April  Lawyers acting for Peter Harbour and some of the other Defendants obtain a variation to the injunction.  The Lawyers could not get it lifted because one of the Defendants, Ant Bailey, is ill and was not in court.  The Judge could not act until he had obtained legal aid and was represented.  NPower claim it is all their work that the injunction is watered down. However  this bit of spin is wasted since Peter Harbour saw their revised terms which were still as draconian as the previous ones.  Thanks to Liberty Lawyers the injunction has been reduced in terms and size and now allows people to protest, photograph but not publish the identities of NPower's staff. 
  • 21st May 2007 Oxfordshire County Council Planning Committee decide to give permission to Waste Recycling Group to extend their operations and to allow thousands of lorry movements to fill a big hole that they suddenly found they had, despite the fact that the same planning committee argued that if they didn't give NPower planning permission to fill Thrupp Lake, there would be an unacceptable increase in lorry movements.  What rank hypocrisy.
  • May 2007 Petition made in January 2007 to the EU is accepted as valid for further investigation.
  • June 2007 Public Inquiry re-opens. Inspector's report promised by end August
  • July 2007 SRL attempt a legal challenge of the planning application which was being finally considered by the PRC.
  • September 2007 SRL attempt to have the loss of Radley Lakes and the potential effects considered as part of the Environment Agency review of the July 2007 floods.
  • October 2007  Mr. Chapman, the Inspector, gives his report.
  • November 2007  Oxfordshire poised to decide but a legal challenge is made on the decision by Mr. Chapman not to recommend Town Green Status.  Planning Meeting deferred whilst Oxfordshire consider their position
  • January 2008 Oxfordshire County Council decide to ignore legal advice and refuse Town Geen Status to the application made by Jo Cartmell to have the area declared a village green.
  • 9th February 2008  Huge support at public meeting for Judicial Review
  • 18th February 2008 NPower state they don't need the lake - immediately - but they might do in the future
  • 28th February 2008 Radley Parish Council vote to go for the Judicial Review as the last ditch chance to get the area declared a Town/Village Green.
  • July 2008 WRG are granted permission by Oxfordshire County Council to store ash from didcot Power Station at at their site in Sutton Courtenay.  They will take all the ash the Power Station has surplus to requirements until the Power Station closes in 2015.
  • December 2008 NPower announce finally that they have changed their plans to dump ash at Thrupp Lake.
  • February 2009 Judicial Review due to be heard.  Postponed until May 2009
  • May 2009 Judicial Review Process to be withdrawn following NPower's annouoncement that Northmoor Trust have been selected to manage the area as a wild life conservation site.
  • March 2010 - started work at Sandles, general rubbish clearance.  Regular work parties to take place over 2010 until construction work start in 2011.

What we have done in this campaign

Click on the link for a potted history.


People's main concerns were:

  1. Loss of a valuable amenity
  2. Loss of or damage to an important and interesting wildlife area.  Vole and his friends will be homeless.
  3. Pollution risks
  4. Flooding risks
  5. That large corporations are allowed to flout environmental and wildlife legislation with apparent impunity.
  6. Lack of proper concern for these issues by officers of the County Council
  7. This raises serious questions about the way environmental and wildlife protection policies are implemented and enforced in this Country .This issue is therefore of national as well as local importance. If they can get away with this, then they can get away with anything.
  8. Natural England were too busy changing their name from English Nature to consider the site worthy of designation as a Triple SI (Site of Special Scientific Interest)  They had a ten year case load and couldn't take on any more sites.
  9. The lack of regular monitoring visits by Environment Agency Inspection Staff - they don't have enough of them apparently.
  10. The lack of governance by the Local Authority and the abdication of various responsibilities amongst other Agencies.
  11. The lack of respect NPower has shown to the public and the residents of Radley and West Abingdon.
  12. The fact that 11,500 petitioners' and 3,500 objectors' wishes have been ignored by OCC.
  13. OCC have acted solely in the interests of NPower.  A complaint has been lodged with the Ombudsman who is remarkably slow to respond.
  14. That there was a feasible alternative but it was not fully investigated until the Campaign took action to make the area a Town Green.

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