H & F Council Responds to Thames Water Application

It will urge Planning Inspectorate to reject "white elephant"

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Hammersmith and Fulham Council says it will urge the Planning Inspectorate who are now considering Thames Water's application to build the Thames Tideway Tunnel, or super sewer, to reject it.

H&F Council Leader, Councillor Nicholas Botterill, says:"If Londoners are set to foot the bill for Thames Water’s sewage transfer tunnel then we should have a direct say on the plans – with locally elected representatives formally considering the planning applications.

" We will be pushing the Planning Inspectorate to reject Thames Water’s white elephant but the fact that the elected representatives of London are being side-lined is anti-democratic and is a slap in the face for Londoners.

" There will be severe and long lasting quality of life issues for riverside residents who will be locked into the nightmare of living next to a major construction compound for at least six years if this folly is not stopped."

The Planning Inspectorate is the independent government agency responsible for operating the planning process for what are considered Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects, or NSIPs.

Thames Water officially submitted a 50,000 word application for Development Consent for the Thames Tideway Tunnel to the Planning Inspectorate on February 28.

The Inspectorate now has 28 days to decide if the application is valid before beginning the examination process.

However, the plans are being slammed as "disruptive" by the council, which has waged a long campaign against the project and in particular against the choice of a riverside site Carnwath Road in Fulham as a construction site for the tunnel, which has also had strong opposition from local residents.

It says that if approved, construction of the £4.2billion, 20-mile-long tunnel could begin as early as 2015, with Fulham set to bear the brunt of the disruption. Six primary schools and two secondary schools are all within a mile of Thames Water’s chosen site. Some people live just 10 yards away from where the deep sewer drilling work could happen and there are concerns over the fumes, noise, dust and effect on already congested roads.

Despite the fact that only Thames Water customers will pay for the project, local councils will not hear the planning application as the Planning Inspectorate – which was originally set up to decide on planning applications of national importance  like airports and power stations – has been given the role. 14million Thames Water customers, who are mainly in London, are set to pay for the tunnel through increased water rates of at least £80 a year for life.

The council also claims that unlike other water companies in major world cities, Thames Water spent just £12,000 researching green infrastructure projects that would ease the pressure on the underground sewers by soaking up rainwater.

In 2011 Lord Selborne’s Thames Tunnel Commission recommended that green infrastructure solutions, known as SUDS, which minimise the amount of fresh rain water entering the sewerage system, should be considered instead of the Thames Tunnel.

Lance Pierson, from independent think-tank Clean Thames Now and Always, says: " We will be highlighting the fact that the London super sewer is only designed to address the symptom of rain-water run-off and not the problem. It is a hugely expensive way of continuing to waste all of the city’s rainwater. We will be urging the government to put the whole super sewer scheme on hold whilst it instigates a new up-to-date review and pilot study of the more progressive solutions now being tried and tested elsewhere round the world."

Once the Planning Inspectorate has concluded its examination of the application, a recommendation on whether to grant approval will be submitted to government ministers, who are expected to make the final decision in autumn 2014. If consent is granted, preparatory construction work is scheduled to start in 2015, with main tunnelling due to begin in 2016. The target completion date is 2023.

Cllr Botterill adds: "It is the council’s view that Thames Water should be considering options for making the river cleaner but we do not believe that a convincing case has been made for the Thames Tunnel. Nor do we believe that alternative options have been properly considered."

The council also says the original architect of the tunnel, Chris Binnie, says a revised cost benefit analysis of the multi-billion pound pipe means the benefits no longer justify the cost.


March 8, 2013