Water firm uses VR to show proposed reservoir

A water firm is using virtual reality (VR) to show residents what a proposed new reservoir could look like.

Thames Water is hosting a series of information events for people to have their say on plans for the 2.5sq mile (6.7sq km) site near Abingdon.

The water firm said the VR headsets were being used to give people an idea of how it would look set within the existing landscape.

It is hosting seven events throughout June and July alongside a 12-week public consultation on the plans which runs until 28 August.

The reservoir - expected to take a decade to complete - has previously been described as "destructive" by the county council.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Oxfordshire and the Group Against Reservoir Development (GARD), have have set up a petition opposing plans.

GARD say there is no need for the "mega" reservoir.

"If Thames Water sorted out their leakage, transferred water in from outside the region and got their act together we wouldn't be short of water."

The water firm said the reservoir is needed "to protect public water supplies during periods of drought."

A man wearing a white virtual reality set. He is in the room with other people, only his left profile is visible as he is turned away from the camera
Visitors at Sutton Courtenay Village Hall could use a VR headset to see what the proposed new reservoir could look like [BBC]

Public reaction to the virtual reality demonstration had various reactions.

"Wow, it's just amazing. If this is what they are going to do, it looks fantastic," one participant said while wearing the VR headset.

"It's obvious that with more people, we need more water, you can't just magic it."

Another resident said that it "depends how it's done".

"If it's done well and it's done sympathetically, it could be a good thing. If it's done badly, it would be terrible," he said.

A woman who had also visited the event said she saw "a lot of sewage being discharged" into the River Thames.

"I just feel you need to put your house in order before you start extending your resources," she said.

A man with grey hair is wearing a white virtual reality set. His hand is on his  chin, reflecting he ponders what he sees and his mouth is slightly ajar
Some residents described the VR demonstration as "amazing", while others still raised concerns about sewage [BBC]

The reservoir, between East Hanney and Drayton, would be filled with water from the River Thames over the winter.

Water from the reservoir would be released back into the river when levels drop or demand increases, Thames Water said.

An application for development consent is expected to go to the Planning Inspectorate in 2026.

If granted, construction is set to begin in 2029 with the reservoir planned to start being used in 2040.

It would supply water to homes and businesses in the Thames Valley and also Hampshire via new pipelines.

A reservoir plan has been floated for the area since the 1990s.

Community events are being held:

  • Thursday 27 June, 14:00 - 20:00, Sutton Courtenay Village Hall, Sutton Courtenay

  • Saturday 29 June, 10:00 - 16:00, Royal British Legion, East Hanney

  • Monday 1 July, 11:00 - 17:00, Abingdon Guildhall, Abingdon

  • Friday 5 July, 11:00 - 17:00, Loyd Lindsay Rooms, Wantage

  • Tuesday 9 July, 14:00 - 20:00, Didcot Civic Hall, Didcot

  • Monday 15 July, 14:00 - 20:00, Milton Hill House, Steventon

  • Thursday 18 July, 14:00 - 20:00, Marcham Centre, Marcham

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