LOW water levels in the River Chess have been blamed on confectionery giant Nestle using too much for bottling.

Cllr Justine Fulford (Lib Dem, Waterside) made the claim at a Chesham Town Council meeting when she explained why they should object to an application by the Latimer Road based company to keep pumping H2O out of the water table at a high volume.

She said that water levels are having a direct impact on wildlife in the area and certain species have disappeared.

She said: "Water voles have not been observed above Weir Mill since 2003. Discussion with Cathy Shelswell, water vole officer at Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust, indicates that water voles are very sensitive to water levels, although the exact reason for decline is uncertain."

Cllr Fulford raised concerns that the low levels of water at Weir Mill and the stretch of river by the recycling centre, in Botley Road, makes the entrance to the town look "depressing" when visitors and residents arrive in Chesham.

She said: "The water levels of the Chess are directly related to the water table level.

"The phenomenon of erratic flow at Canon Mill, Weir Mill and Bois Mill has been observed throughout the summer but is, as yet, unexplained."

Cllr Fulford also highlighted her objections to the "unacceptable increase in traffic" caused by the increase in bottling and in turn the threat to the green belt.

She said: "On at least two occasions lorries from the site have become wedged together between lampposts on the narrow stretch of road between Christchurch and Lords Mill."

She also said oxygenation plants have almost completely disappeared from the main channel above Weir Mill over the last two years.

In 2003, Nestle was allowed to double the amount of water it took out each week, from 35 cubic metres to 67 cubic metres.

Nestl wants to extend its bottling licence for a further two years.

A spokesman for the company said: "The process is highly regulated and monitored by the Environment Agency and this analysis has never shown any relationship between the site's abstraction levels and the river's level and flow. The vehicle traffic from the site has in fact drastically reduced since we closed the distribution depot and the sales/credit control departments in March last year, removing a fleet of 23 vans and 35 staff vehicles from the site."