Wednesday, 9 March 2011
Well, it seems the war of words between our Council and Thames Water is set to ratchet up several notches with the news that Thames Water has decided to think again about siting the main entrance to the Thames Tideway Tunnel (aka Super Sewer) in our part of the river on the Wandsworth side of the water.
I remember being at this meeting in City Hall (pictured above) when the London Assembly member Tony Arbour professed his anger that no alternatives appeared to have been considered by the Utility in their plans to place a large entrance to the sewer in Barn Elms, which is an area currently used by schools for sports among other things.
Now it seems that sustained lobbying on the southern side of the Thames has led Thames Water to consider alternatives on the northern side of the river after all, notably in Whiffin Wharf, Hurlingham Wharf and Carnwath Business Park – all of whom are in Fulham. These new options arise out of the first stage of consultation that the utility has run about the site and design of the new sewer’s building works.
Having spoken to both Thames Water and sources at Hammersmith Town Hall it seems that this time around H&F Council at long last does have a valid point to make about this. The problem is that it has engaged in so much rubbish until this point that it has very little credibility left on the issue with which to protect the areas and the residents who live there.
Not only that but our Council has already earmarked those areas for housing developments so it stands to lose a good chunk of money which it wouldn’t get if developers are not allowed to build their flats on the land.
Thames Water will be running an exhibition next month for residents in Fulham to see what the proposed new developments, if they went ahead in Fulham, would mean for them. These will be held at Hurlingham and Chelsea Secondary School, Peterborough Road, SW6 3ED on Wednesday 6 April and Thursday 7 April from 4pm until 8pm.
Here’s what the two sides have to say, starting with Thames Water’s Phil Stride:
“As we refine the options for the tunnel, the size and potential locations for construction sites are subject to change. We are also listening and responding to feedback received to date.
“Both options have their advantages and disadvantages.
“Unlike Barn Elms Playing Fields, Carnwath Road Riverside is brownfield, not greenfield, and is already designated for regeneration or industrial use. It is not important for recreation, would not require any tree felling and is not Metropolitan Open Land. The site’s existing jetty, combined with the greater width of the river at this point, would also allow us to use fewer, larger barges to remove soil excavated during construction of the main tunnel and bring in materials.
“On the other hand, more residents and businesses would be directly affected at Carnwath Road Riverside than at Barn Elms Playing Fields. Using Carnwath Road Riverside for the construction period would potentially also be in conflict with Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s own plans to regenerate the area.
“I must stress that we have not discounted Barn Elms Playing Fields as a possible major construction site for the Thames Tunnel. Before we make any final decisions, we will need to carefully evaluate the suitability of the site in more detail and potential impacts on nearby residential properties and businesses.”
And here’s what H&F Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh has to say in response:
“Residents in South Fulham will be shocked that Thames Water are even considering using these prime riverside locations that are set to create thousands of new homes and jobs for local people
“Millions of pounds worth of inward investment would be lost if Thames Water pushes ahead with this plan and the disruption and noise nuisance will be a major blight to the area for at-least eight years. We will fight Thames Water all the way on this as the massive entry compound can only be justified in an area of open land well away from built up areas.”
And what’s more:
“Considering this sudden change to put the tunnel starting point in South Fulham will do nothing to reassure residents that their costly plan is well thought-out. Working with residents, Hammersmith & Fulham Council has fought a long-running battle against plans to locate the works for the main entry shaft in the borough and we will not stop now.”
The problem for Cllr Greenhalgh is that he is the boy that has cried wolf – “working with residents” as he states above included, for example, claiming that existing residents living around Furnival Gardens could be made homeless – which he was later forced to retract. And he is now planning himself to destroy Furnival Gardens with …. Yes, property developers against the wishes of local residents.
So we now appear to be in a situation, where there are indeed legitimate questions to ask of Thames Water as to why they are now changing their plans with profound implications for H&F, and yet we have a Council who long ago used up what credibility they ever had on the issue, so are hamstrung in their ability to stick up for residents.
1240 UPDATE - The BBC are reporting on this here in a very balanced way - unlike the Fulham Chronicle who report Councillor Stephen Greenhalgh as being "stunned" by the "shock U-Turn". - Either journalist Adam Courtney is auditioning for a tabloid newsdesk or that propaganda cash battle is swaying editorial lines.
10TH MARCH UPDATE - The BBC London News reported on this last night, you can see the video of the piece that was shown here.
Posted by Chris Underwood at 06:01