Residents' Views On Thames Tideway Tunnel Could Be Flushed Away

Despite being set to pay for project and endure decade of construction misery

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Planning applications for the Thames Tideway Tunnel, which has been dubbed the super-sewer, could be referred to the new Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), according to The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The involvement of the IPC, which is a new quango with the power to decide planning applications of national importance, like airports and power stations, has raised concerns of local councils that residents' views will be ignored and the controversial project will be given the go ahead.

Thames Water says the £2.2 billion sewer – which will take at least 8 years to build – is designed to stop some sewage flowing into the river at times of heavy rainfall. However, local opinion is that the scheme will prove too damaging to the lives of residents and not bring enough improvements to justify the huge cost.

Councillor Paul Bristow, H&F Cabinet Member for Residents Services, said, “The council is appalled at the proposed use of the IPC as all along we have been told that this is a London project that should be paid for by Thames Water customers. However, it now appears that when it comes to gaining the necessary planning permissions the views of Londoners can simply be ignored.”

Defra claims the scheme is seen as playing a “nationally significant role in securing UK compliance with the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive” but the council argues that if the pipe is of national significance then it should be paid for by the whole nation.

“If Londoners are to pay for this scheme then we have a democratic right to decide whether or not we want it,” continued Cllr Bristow.

LBH&F have called upon the other ten boroughs which lie next to the river to encourage more intense scrutiny of the proposals.

Speaking after a joint meeting between LBH&F and LBH regarding the entry point of the sewer Cllr Peter Thompson said, “No-one wants to see sewage getting into the Thames, and we want our river to be as clean as possible. However, we also want to question whether there are alternatives to these proposals that are environmentally-friendly, more cost-effective and less disruptive to local residents.”

Up to six construction access sites within 500m of the river, each the size of four football pitches, would be needed along the length of the tunnel, including one somewhere on the Chiswick/Hammersmith border.

Cllr Thompson added, “We have a duty to promote the social, economic and environmental well-being of our local community, and we are committed to working with them when shaping the long-term vision for their area.

“While Thames Water has made its case for the ‘super sewer’, we’re not convinced that there aren’t alternatives, or that the benefits outweigh the financial health and environmental costs."

Thames Water is now being urged to examine more sustainable long-term solutions – like the separation of sewage and flood water instead of using a combined drainage system. The council believes a shorter ‘smarter super-sewer’ may be the best way forward.


November 4, 2014