MILLIONS of pounds will be spent sprucing up Oxfordshire’s ageing river locks.

The Environment Agency hasannounced a large-scale revamp of locks along the River Thames including Iffley Lock in Oxford, Abingdon Lock, Rushey Lock near Buckland and Buscot Lock near Faringdon.

Work will begin to replace the rotting 30-year-old lock gates at Iffley in November and will last until February.

Replacement lock gates are already being made by the Environment Agency’s carpenters at its Osney base.

Abingdon Lock will have its chamber refurbished. It will be completely drained with barriers built in front of each gate to hold back the water. The lock walls will then be repainted and any other maintenance work will be carried out. That project also starts in November and is scheduled to continue until March.

At Buscot, the lock gates will be resheeted, which means the gates will be removed and inspected before any maintenance is carried out.

And at Rushey Lock, the rubbing timbers that run along the side of the lock and prevent boats from hitting the walls will be replaced.

Both of those projects will start in January and take a month to complete.

Iffley lock keeper Iain Westwood said: “The old lock gates at Iffley are 30 years old and are being replaced following discovery of rot during a scheduled inspection.

“I am sure the improvements will be welcomed by boaters and residents alike, with the new gates ensuring continued safe navigation through the lock for many years to come.”

During the work all the locks will be completely closed to boats.

A temporary footbridge will be constructed over Iffley Lock to keep the public footpath open while the work is carried out.

Liam Challis, of Folly Bridge-based Salter’s Steamers, which runs boat trips between Oxford and Abingdon, said the inconvenience would be worth it.

He said: “It is obviously an inconvenience to us but if the work has got to be done then it has to be done.

“We wouldn’t want the locks falling apart during the summer.

“In the past the Environment Agency has always done this kind of work during the winter, and if it was done during the summer we wouldn’t be very happy.”

Paul Power, Environment Agency waterways engineer for the River Thames, said: “The Thames is used by millions of people each year, from boaters to anglers, and investment in the locks and associated structures is vital to providing those users with a reliable and safe service.

“This year we are investing £2.75m in capital works on 12 of our 45 locks, from scheduled inspections and repairs to replacing lock gates.”

In the next few years the agency will also be refurbishing Culham Lock, Sandford Lock and Cleeve Lock, near Streatley.