UK: Thames Water Digs In On Super Sewer

Last Updated: 23 May 2012
Article by Angus Walker

Today's entry reports on the results of the second round of consultation on the Thames Tunnel.

The Thames Tunnel is a proposed waste water transfer project that would involve the construction of a tunnel beneath the River Thames to catch sewage overflows before they go into the river after heavy rain. As well as the main tunnel, the proposal would involve works at 25 sites at the surface along the banks of the river, several of which have been controversial. It is an unusual project in legal terms in that it is proposed to come under the Planning Act regime but doesn't yet. There is some news on that too, see below.

Consultation results

Thames Water has conducted two rounds of consultation so far, and today it has released a report on the second round of consultation. The report is here. In summary, it is not proposing to change the locations of any of the surface sites as a result but is considering changes to four of them, and will undertake a further round of consultation at just those locations. This will run between 6 June and 4 July. More minor changes are proposed at all but one of the other sites, without any targeted consultation being undertaken. Only then will a formal round of pre-application consultation under the Planning Act take place, before the application is finally made, probably towards the end of the year now.

Here is a list of the surface sites with the number of reponses that was received in relation to each one. The four with an asterisk are those where further consultation on changes will be undertaken; no changes are proposed at Beckton Sewage Treatment Works and Jews Row is confirmed as being removed from the project.

  • 1. Carnwath Road Riverside (3138)
  • 2. King Edward Memorial Park (1519)
  • 3. Chambers Wharf (639)
  • 4. *Barn Elms (387)
  • 5. Deptford Church Street (217)
  • 6. *Putney Bridge Foreshore (171)
  • 7. Greenwich Pumping Station (44)
  • 8= Cremorne Wharf Depot (42)
  • 8= Chelsea Embankment Foreshore (42)
  • 10. King George's Park (40)
  • 11= Acton Storm Tanks (37)
  • 11= Shad Thames Pumping Station (37)
  • 13. Hammersmith Pumping Station (36)
  • 14. Kirtling Street (35)
  • 15. Abbey Mills Pumping Station (29)
  • 16= *Albert Embankment Foreshore (27)
  • 16= Blackfriars Bridge Foreshore (27)
  • 18= Falconbrook Pumping Station (22)
  • 18= *Victoria Embankment Foreshore (22)
  • 20. Heathwall Pumping Station (20)
  • 21. Dormay Street (19)
  • 22. Earl Pumping Station (18)
  • 23. Bekesbourne Street (12)
  • 24. -Beckton Sewage Treatment Works (9)
  • 25. xJews Row (7)

The apparent mismatch in the number of responses and the locations of the proposed changes can be partly explained by paragraph 87 of the recent Brompton Hospital consultation Court of Appeal decision - it isn't a numbers game, although the second limb of reconsideration being a matter of how soundly based objections are will depend on the responses that were in fact made.

The sites that are to be further refined are as follows:

  • Barn Elms: an alternative site access road; amendments to the scale and design of the permanent structures.
  • Putney Bridge Foreshore: improvements to the permanent design and layout of the proposals, specifically the location of the permanent works and the shape of the foreshore structure; the nature and location of the temporary replacement slipway; whether it would be possible to make further use of the river for the transport of shaft and short tunnel excavated materials in order to reduce the number of lorries on local roads
  • Albert Embankment Foreshore: alternative construction access between Camelford and Tintagel Houses; whether it would be possible to make further use of the river for the transport of shaft and short tunnel excavated materials in order to reduce the number of lorries on local roads; amendments to the shape of the permanent structure to address navigational safety issues; detailed amendments to the design of the permanent works
  • Victoria Embankment Foreshore: amendments to the layout and shape of the permanent structures to reduce their footprint and visual bulk in the river, improve their relationship with the listed embankment wall and reduce the effect on views along the river towards the world heritage site; increased use of the river to transport shaft excavated materials to reduce lorry movements on local roads; reviewing the method for constructing the cofferdam; the orientation of the moored barge to address navigational safety

Other developments

There have been two other developments. The government imposed a 'safeguarding direction' in relation to two sites, Carnwath Road and Kirtling Street, to stop planning permission being granted for other development there and other steps from being taken. After judicial review was threatened by one local authority and a landowner, it recently withdrew and reissued a redrafted direction that removed the 'other steps' from its scope. According to this story (complete with picture of people wearing 'I am not a brownfield site' T-shirts) this may or may not assuage the threateners.

The project is to be brought into the Planning Act regime not by the power to 'upgrade' a single project to come within it, but by amending the types of project that are within the regime in general. An order to do this has been laid before Parliament. It must be positively approved by Parliament, and yesterday consideration of it was referred to a Grand Committee of the House of Lords on 28 May. There is no date for Commons approval yet. The order contains a provision that allows pre-application steps to count under the Planning Act if they would have counted had the project come under the Act at the time.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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