AN ANGRY shopkeeper has been handed a letter demanding he pay for a water leak to be fixed after a man from Thames Water roamed the streets in a detector van.

Bernie Longhurst, of Longhurst's Butchers in Brucewood Parade in Marlow Bottom, has been told by Thames Water that he has just 14 days to repair the leak after a man from the water company drove around the village last Wednesday, listening out for leaks with a detector rod.

Mr Longhurst, 51, was stunned because he didn't know the leak even existed.

He said: "A guy came to my shop and said: Listen to that bubbling. You have a leak and I am authorised to tell you that you need to have it fixed.' But he didn't even tell me where the leak is. Now I've got this letter saying it's down to me to fix it within 14 days. It's absolutely crazy. Why are they picking on me? "

Mr Longhurst says that just a few months ago the company fixed a water leak that he spotted in a nearby alleyway.

He said: "Why did they did they not pick this up then? They seem to be targeting businesses because we're an easy touch. But we are a small business and we cannot afford this."

Mr Longhurst doesn't know how much it will cost to repair the leak.

Thames Water pay for any leaks that are discovered on residential properties but commercial properties are a different story.

His wife Sharon, 42, of Marlow Bottom News, added: "With all the problems that Thames Water have been having I find it ironic that it is the customers footing the bill. I am sure that I have never seen them actively going around for leaks here before."

Thames Water recently came under fire for not meeting leakage targets in London and its surrounding area and is now being closely monitored by the regulator Ofwat.

Philip Fletcher, chairman of Ofwat, said: "Thames Water's failure on leakage is unacceptable and it has bound itself to spend an extra £150million, at the cost of its own shareholders, to replace more ageing pipes than planned. This will directly address the issue of London leakage and achieve more secure supplies."

Meanwhile, customers are banned from using hose pipes, sprinkler systems and pressure washers.

Lee Cowan, a spokesman for Thames Water, said its policy is to get the number of leaks down as low as possible. She said: "We have more than 1,000 people across Thames Water working on leakage. In the area of High Wycombe and Aylesbury we have reduced leakage by 3.8million litres per day in the last two years. This is enough to supply water to 20,000 people."

Thames Water does not fine companies after the two weeks are up. It gets back in touch with them to find out what's going on.

So far Mr Longhurst has discovered that the water source could actually belong to a residential property.

Miss Cowan added: "Of course we would be happy to investigate where the water is coming from."