As Richmond & Wandsworth Councils join forces to protect Barn Elms
Thank you for sharing your concerns with me about the Thames Tunnel project and in particular the proposed construction of a shaft site on land at Barn Elms.
The Council is totally opposed to the Barn Elms site shaft and will be working with Richmond Council to defeat the proposal.
While it is difficult to argue against the need to stop sewage being discharged into the Thames, many of us find it hard to accept that such an expensive project can be viable in today’s economic climate - not least because it is the company’s customers - us - who will be footing the bill.
Because it is a national project the planning decisions will not be taken by the local Council (Richmond) or indeed by Wandsworth. It will not even be a decision for the Mayor. This will almost certainly come under the new Major Infrastructure Planning Unit (MIPU) which will be part of the Planning Inspectorate whose offices are in Bristol. Thames Water will also have powers to acquire the land they need by compulsory purchase.
For these reasons the Council has been urging as many people as possible to familiarise themselves with the project so that they can respond fully to the consultation.
We think all the company’s assumptions about the time, scale and cost of this scheme should be challenged.
For example, since there is already a shaft being sunk at the Hammersmith end of the proposed tunnel, why not carry on tunnelling down-stream to Battersea and avoid Barn Elms?
At Barn Elms itself we have some fundamental concerns. We are not convinced the company has looked at all possible alternatives. Just to compare Barn Elms with Leader’s Gardens, Barn Elms foreshore and the Sea Scouts’ building is not good enough. None of these locations is acceptable.
As part of the planning process the company would also have to carry out an environmental impact study and a sustainability assessment. The sheer scale of the project must place a huge question mark here against its viability. We will be analysing the results of these studies very closely.
More than anything I am concerned at the impact of the site shaft on the towpath which Putney people see as their first step into the ‘country’.
The whole project will be judged ultimately on whether the benefits it offers in terms of improved river water quality can outweigh the massive impact of the construction process. Thames Water is currently carrying out its first round of consultation which closes on 20 December. We expect the company to take on board the reservations expressed by local people, Councils and other bodies before they consult again next year.
I hope you find this helpful. Working together with our neighbours in Richmond we will oppose the Barn Elms shaft site and continue to question the viability of the whole project. We will take every opportunity to challenge the basis of the scheme while seeking at all times to protect the interests of all our residents.
Councillor Edward Lister
Leader of Wandsworth Council
November 24, 2010