Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Council warn Tunnel could make people homeless

Our Council have dramatically escalated their campaign against the Thames Tideway Tunnel by releasing a video in which one of the key supporters of their campaign warns of people actually losing their homes as a result of the project.  The hugely provocative claim is made in the opening sequence of a film the Council have produced to showcase their approach to public services in the Borough.

This very professionally done film opens with the Chair of the Stamford Brook Residents Association (and Des O'Connor lookalike), Raj Bhattia. He talks enthusiastically of a local partnership between residents and the Council, who he claims are united in their opposition to the Thames Tideway Tunnel, or "super sewer" as he on-message calls it, which he warns could cost jobs, parks and even homes!

Sorry, but when did the Council escalate this campaign into warning that people were going to actually LOSE THEIR HOMES as a result of this project?! And what evidence is there of this? And if there is no evidence how can the Council justify spending our tax payers money on even putting this allegation out into the public domain, which will only cause huge worry among those living by the waterside? Note I said - put this into the public domain. Let's not hear any weasel words about they being the words of someone other than the Council - he says it on a Council video which they had full editorial control over and have chosen to release to the public with a claim that people may lose their homes.

Thames Water have been in touch in the hours since this story went up to say that they have pointed out - in exasperation - that their Site Selection Methodology document, which is available on the company's website, and which all local Councils have seen and commented on, makes it clear that existing housing is not at risk. Any such demolition would, in any case, be contrary to the Mayor's London Plan.

What is a real shame is that there is a fair amount of other really good information on this film, particularly on new NHS and Police services which all sound really really good. Some of the unique projects they talk about and the real results are hugely credit worthy - 40% better burglary rate than the rest of London according to the Borough Commander is not something to be sniffed at. I would happily be reporting this as a good news story if it wasn't for the shock claim at the start - did the Police, TfL and Health staff realise they were going to be featured in such a politically explosive film?

So well done Council for the things you've done right - but why start the video with such unsubstantiated rubbish about the Tideway Tunnel?


  1. Last year I wrote to Thames Water asking why they couldn't put the 25m shafts in the river on the foreshore. I received a long and detailed explanation from Nick Tennant - Communications Manager which I'll spare you except to say that he recommended I read their Site Selection Methodology' (SSM) and Site Selection Technical Background Paper from the link below.


    I did so and it became clear that their preferred sites were open land within 500m of the foreshore for the length of the river under consideration. At no time did I get the impression they intended to knock down houses to dig shafts. If you find otherwise please quote the relevant passage.

  2. Mark / London Tonight2 February 2010 at 11:45

    Dear Chris, please contact me urgently re: Thames Water. Thanks, Mark, London Tonight - 7430 4664

  3. I regret that - ultimately - existing housing is not excluded from the threat. I have printed below the last sentence of item 2.2.19 of Site Selection Methodology which clearly states that housing is NOT EXCLUDED.

    Excluded Areas
    2.2.19 -------------- Should it be impossible to identify potential sites without including areas of housing – which is thought unlikely – the back-checking exercise would allow Thames Water to return to this point and reconsider whether there are in fact potential sites within this category of land use.

    Without acquiring large sites inland from the river the present scheme cannot be built. Tunnel is proposed to be built in 5 sections, each section requiring a two hectare construction site at each end and, on average, a 3/4 hectare site in the middle - all in heavily congested parts of London. On last count the start of the tunnel was proposed near Hammersmith and Chiswick boundary.

    It is about time people in Hammersmith and elsewhere became more aware of the scheme. If Hammersmith is lucky enough not to have construction sites the scheme should not become more acceptable. WHAT ABOUT OTHER PARTS OF LONDON?

  4. Thanks Raj - and congratulations on your cameo appearance.

    Just to be clear, are you therefore saying that Thames Water, when they categorically deny that any such plans exist, are being untruthful?

  5. More on tunnel

    I note that my earlier comment is awaiting 'moderation' The word implies that I have over-stated something. For more than a year I have liaised with Thames Water, the Council, The Consumer Council for Water and Ofwat. I am absolutely sure of my ground and what I state:

    I am appalled at the level of ignorance that prevails concerning this project, simply because it became a political football preventing a constructive debate. Parks and opens spaces ought to be least of the worries when the likely cost, its unaffordability by poorer families and the acute disruption, and devastation for those who loose properties they own, are taken into account.

    £2.2 billion is repeatedly stated as cost of the project. That was a December 2006 estimate when, as now, no scheme design existed. Issues with serious cost implications still to be resolved are: design in the widest possible sense; establishing geological data; tunnel route; location, size and cost of sites to be acquired; consultation and its implications; planning; construction and maintenance, transportation and highways; access to major roads and to the riverside, asset replacement, health & safety and other regulatory obligations and accurate assessment of the time-span of the project for purposed of the borrowing requirements. It is possible that the timescale may not be predictable.

    It is not uncommon for promoters of major infrastructure projects to keep estimates low, otherwise schemes may not get off the ground. Most are overspent - some many times their original estimate.

    The option selected by Defra and then speeded up is so complicated that it is unlikely to be possible to pre-determine its cost. It certainly wont be £2.2 billion.

    Modelling based on the 2004 estimate of £1.7 billion predicted that more than 20% of poorer households will not be able to afford water bills by 2012. Cost of many billions more will trap much larger number in water poverty

    The Government has written to the affected Councils that it plans to change legislation to fast-track planning (and by implication the use of CPO's) via the Infrastructure Planing Commission bypassing Local Authorities to consider the implications on their boroughs. This will deny any meaningful consultation with, not only the Local Authorities but also their residents and businesses.

    These are only few of the problems. There are scores of others which the limited space here does not allow me to unfold.

    I am happy to provide more back up information about the above and other issues, if anyone is interested.

    Raj Bhatia
    Chairman, Stamford Brook Residents Association
    4 Emlyn Road
    W12 9TD

    Tel: 020 8743 6613
    Fax: 020 8743 6533

  6. Hello again Raj

    Simple question - so I ask it again in the hope of an answer. Given Thames Water's categoric denial that any homes are in danger - are they, in your view, being untruthful?

    If you continue not to answer I think people will just draw their own conclusions


  7. Seems they are all a bit self congratulatory and a bit distant from those of us who live here. Too much higher level stuff about stragegic partnership blah blah and community facility blah blah blah, after the event. Not much communication before hand. No one ever admits to planned/allowed losses of homes or businesses in the planning. Wonder why? The word dispensable never appears but is there, between the lines.

  8. With these kind of figures in play, I would take with a large pinch of salt *everything* that any supporters say about cost and environmental impact and particularly property blight.

    I know it's H&F Council saying this stuff, and I'm not their biggest fan, but this doesn't sound unreasonable to me. I have some experience of this kind of thing.

    I used to work for another huge tunnelling project: Crossrail - back before it was approved - from 97 to 99. We used to say it would cost £2bn. It was a large but acceptable number. Behind the scenes, they knew the reality was that it would be £10+bn. Now that it's approved, the cost is given as £16bn, and no doubt in the end it will be over £20bn. 10 times what we were saying 10 years ago.

    My job was to tell people buying properties along the route what would happen to them if Crossrail went ahead. Subsidence, compulsory purchase orders, living next to a massive work site for 7 years, etc. The worksites for tunnelling are not little - they have to remove enormous quantities of earth and deliver construction materials. The human cost of its construction was not really considered important by Crossrail's team and supporters - they wanted to build their enormous train set, and were convinced of its importance. Now there's going to be an enormous impact on all these places, right across the most expensive and sensitive areas of London. And by the time it's built, it's going to provide zero relief for congestion. It's really just an express route between Heathrow and the City/Canary Wharf. Which is why The Corporation of London have pushed it so hard and forced it through.

    Maybe we need the Thames Tunnel - I don't know - but if it goes ahead, I would *expect* it to cost many times what they say - and to cause incredible chaos and inconvenience and blight. Those considerable costs mean that its supporters need to do a very good job of explaining exactly what its benefits will be.

  9. Queen Caroline Resident3 February 2010 at 09:51

    Test bore holes were drilled at the bottom of Queen Caroline Street and letters were sent to residents in the blocks on the estate which were closest to the river.

    They wouldn't have gone to the trouble to get a court order for the drilling if they weren't considering using the area as a site.

  10. "They wouldn’t have gone to the trouble to get a court order for the drilling if they weren’t considering using the area as a site."

    You're making an assumption. If you read the documents from the link I posted earlier you'll find that they have to drill test bores along the route of the proposed tunnel in order to determine the nature of the ground to be tunnelled. Some of these test drilling rigs have been sited in the river to avoid taking up land.

    This is very different from selecting sites from which to sink 25mtr shafts. Besides at the bottom of QC St there simply isn't room for the size of shaft site they require.

    I'm quite happy to be shown to be wrong about the above but I have looked through the papers posted on their website.

  11. Raj objected strongly to the 272 bus when first proposed as it would (and does!) use Larden/Emlyn Rd. Fortunately he did not get his way and the 272 provides very useful access from Grove Park to the Bush via Hammersmith Hospital. Interesting that he has been chair of his Res Assn for over 30 years! not quite good governence. Jeff Zitron is a leading Housing Consultant and good to see he his chairing the NHS trust. I di find it strange the tories reaction to the Thames Tunnel. Is it their knee jerk reaction to costly capital projects???

  12. I note Raj has decided to ignore my simple question which I asked twice.

    As we can see both from his appearance on the film and the tone of his comments here Raj is not one of life's shy men.

    So why so shy in answering my question? - the obvious conclusion is surely that he knows the threat of people losing their homes is not real.

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