H&F Council have gone on the offensive over what they call the "super sewer crater", the Thames Tunnel project proposed by the Government, Thames Water and now supported by London Mayor Boris Johnson to deal with the huge sewage outflows into the Thames River due to our dilapidated centuries-old sewer system. This often results in properties in H&F being flooded with foul water and is therefore an issue that sparks strong local emotions, as in this meeting at the Town Hall recently.
I have to say I thought the last straw for our Council on this campaign might be being overruled by their own conservative Mayor. I even thought that this intervention by Thames Water using this blog might deal the final blow, but no!
Our Council instead have gone very much on the atack with the below letter having been sent to all councillors throughout London who represent a local authority with a Thames River coastline, urging them to join H&F in rejecting the project. It's a very long letter so I won't respond to it point by point here but I wanted to bring the letter to your attention - it was sent today and has been until now private, but you can't send a letter as widely as that without it getting leaked and sure enough a mole has forwarded a copy to me. And I have pleasure in passing on to you what your Council is saying about this project to others. For some reason I just didn't trust propaganda-dressed-as-news to bring you the full lowdown.. the text of the letter is as follows, make your own minds up:
London Borough of Hammersmith & Fuiham ~_,tIiW
Councillor Paul Bristow
Cabinet Member for Resident Services
Hammersmith Town Hall, King Street, London W6 9JU
Tel:• [censored - by me!]
Web: www.lbhf.gov.uk putting residents first
TO: ALL COUNCiLLORS OF RIPARIAN COUNCILS 1 6TH December 2009
AFFECTED BY THE SUPER SEWER
THAMES T1DEWAY TUNNEL
I write to seek your support for our campaign opposing Thames Water’s proposais for
the construction of the Thames Tideway Tunnel. It is our view that the Government
should be considering options for making the Thames cleaner but we do not believe
that a convincing case has been made for this particular scheme. Nor do we believe
that alternative options have been properly considered.
The Thames Tideway Tunnel is the Government’s response to meeting the
requirements of the EU’s Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive. Hammersmith
and Fulham Council believe this to be a seriously flawed and short-sighted option
that needs review.
Our objections to the tunnel proposal are that:
• The scheme will generate unacceptable disruption during construction and
the major access points could seriously impose on several of London’s
riparian parks and open spaces;
• The scheme is about water quality improvements to avoid EU fines and does
not address the major residents’ concerns about sewer flooding in homes;
• The scheme will be very expensive and does not represent value for money
for water charge payers it will put many into ‘water poverty’;
• The environmental benefits of the scheme will be outweighed by the carbon
footprint that the construction and ongoing maintenance of the tunnel will
in the future we shall need flexible and adaptable approaches to drainage and water
storage that can be developed incrementally to respond to climate change as our
knowledge and understanding of the impacts develop. The tunnel is not an
adaptable nor flexible solution but rather locks us in to a single drainage solution for
the next century and beyond. A more sensible, long-term, incremental approach
should be through a strategy which deals with the long term segregation of surface
water drainage from foul sewage at critjcal sewers, in tandem with other partial
solutions which encourage the avoidance of surface water entering into the sewerage
system and the treatment of the Thames to improve water quality.
The super sewer will not even prevent all raw sewage entering the Thames as it is
not going to connect to all of the combined sewer overflows (CSOs). It will reduce
the discharge volumes, of course, but as the costs escalate, and given the
complexity of some of the outfalls, it is likely that fewer connections will be made
rendering the entire project less viable.
As well as an access shaft for the main tunnel, which will require a 30 metre diameter
hole to be excavated, the construction of the tunnel will also require a number of 10
metre wide shafts to be opened at the sites of combined sewer overflows. This
construction will seriously obstruct the route of the Thames Path for eight years.
The estimated £2.2billion cost of this construction, which will almost inevitably
escalate over the eight years it will take to complete, is not conducive to the
economic well-being of London or Londoners. The only economic benefits of the
tunnel will be the possible avoidance of EU fines that the Government may incur if it
fails to meet targets set by an EU Directive. The Consumer Council of Water is most
concerned that the cost of the construction will be borne by Thames Water
customers and is objecting to any scheme that exceeds customers’ willingness to
pay — which their evidence suggests this certainly does.
The social costs of the scheme will be felt most acutely at a local level and these will
be severe and long lasting. Those affected by the works would be locked into the
nightmare of living by a major construction site for eight years. It is most unlikely that
many people would be able to sell up and leave as property prices in the affected
areas would undoubtedly be affected. A total of 11 riparian boroughs along the
planned route of the tunnel will suffer these social costs.
The key benefit of the scheme is supposedly an environmental one it will reduce
the incidence of flood waters causing sewage overflow into the Thames. The
Thames, however, is acknowledged to now be one of the cleanest metropolitan rivers
in the world. The clean up over the last twenty years has seen the return of a wealth
of river life, including 120 species of fish. While no one wishes to see any raw
sewage at all in the Thames, this benefit needs to be considered against the much
greater environmental impact i.e. a huge carbon footprint that the construction of
the tunnel would produce. The energy use and the carbon emissions that will be
produced over eight years in the construction of this enormous tunnel will be far more
detrimental to the long term environmental well-being of the planet than the
occasional overflow of raw sewage into the Thames.
fully accept the need to look for solutions to the problem of flood waters taking
sewage into the Thames, but this plan is most certainly not a sustainable solution.
A more sensible long term approach has to be the segregation of surface water
drainage from foul sewage. I am aware that Thames Water has rejected this option,
on the grounds of cost, but there is more than one way to tackle this problem.
The segregation of surface water drainage can have long term economic, social and
environmental benefits by providing much needed reserve water supplies for the
Capital. The development of the Thames Gateway is expected to increase water
demands in the region by 8%. If this additional demand is not planned for then we
will see increasing water shortages in London.
It is my view, and that of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, that all London
authorities should oppose this project on the basis of its negative impact on the
economic, social and environmental well-being of the local area. I hope you will
agree with this position and lend your support to our opposition to this scheme.
I am particularly alarmed by the recent letter from DEFRA to London Borough Chief
Executives proposing to bypass London councils’ planning committees by referring
the scheme to the Infrastructure Planning Commission. This proposal must be
challenged. If Londoners are expected to pay for the scheme then the planning
decisions should be made by London authorities.
If you wish to discuss our campaign against the tunnel or lend it your support please
do not hesitate to contact me.
Councillor Paul Bristow
Cabinet Member for Resident Services