Councils team up to fight Thames Water

Published: Thursday 25th November 10

Wandsworth and Richmond Councils are joining forces to fight Thames Water's plan to base a seven-year tunnelling operation on Barn Elms playing fields.

The water company want to create a vast work site at Barn Elms to construct a section of the Thames Tunnel - a new 'super sewer' running from west to east London.

Councillors say the project would be severely disruptive to local residents, promote traffic problems and result in an unacceptable loss of playing fields and parkland.

There are also serious concerns over impacts on the riverside towpath between Putney and Barnes which has an unspoilt, rural character and is extremely well used by local families and walkers from all over London.

The project could also affect rowers and other river users including major events such as the Head of the River Race, the Great River Race and the University Boat Race.

Because the scheme is classified as a national infrastructure project it does not need local authority planning consent and Thames Water can acquire its preferred sites using compulsory purchase powers.

Both councils support investment in the capital's sewage system but fear the enormous costs and disruption involved in this scheme could outweigh the potential benefits.

Councillors say the work should take place on a brown field site which would have a much smaller impact on riverside communities.

While the principle behind the scheme is laudable, doubts have also been raised that such an expensive project can be viable in today's economic climate - not least because the costs will be passed on to Londoner's through higher water bills.

The environmental case has also been called into question and the scheme's sustainability assessment must face searching examination before the project is taken further.

Barn Elms playing fields are located just over the borough boundary in Richmond but are owned and managed by Wandsworth Council.

Wandsworth Council's strategic planning spokesman Cllr Ravi Govindia said:

"Thames Water's proposal would have a disastrous impact on a unique and well loved environment.  This type of work should take place on a brown field site, not local playing fields and parks.

"Working with our colleagues in Richmond we will use every opportunity to fight this plan and protect the interests of our residents."

Richmond Council's cabinet member for environment Cllr Virginia Morris:

"We recognise the potential benefits of the Thames Tunnel project; no-one wants to see rivers of sewage flowing through the capital. However, Thames Water has thus far totally failed to make the case for the Barn Elms site or the disruption it would cause.

"Thames Water's consultation has been inept in the extreme and they need to engage fully with the local community to gain support if they are going to begin to make the case for Barn Elms. We are also calling on them not to draw down the shutters on public consultation on 20th December. Many people in the Barnes area are still unaware of the enormity of what is proposed."

Wandsworth Council's concerns are set out in a formal response to the first round consultation on the Thames Tunnel scheme which closes on Monday 20 December. Residents can submit their comments at

Richmond Council will consider the proposals at its Cabinet meeting on 6 December before making its formal response

A second round of consultations will take place in 2011 and Thames Water expects to submit a full planning application in mid 2012, with the seven-year construction programme commencing in 2013.


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Recent comments

Thank you for your support. I think Wandsworth Council should be aware that over 3000 local residents have now signed the petition to stop the shaft from being built in Leaders Gardens and Barn Elms. When is your next full council meeting? Please can you ensure this is brought up at the meeting? Are local councillors lobbying parliament? What is actively being done to stop it? We also see that Hammersmith council have given permission for residential blocks to be built on a brownfields site. All councils should be working together to ensure that alternative brownfields sites are chosen. Please can you advertise the meeting with Justine Greening & Thames Water on Thursday 9th December, 8pm at St Mary's Church, Putney on here? Thanks
Alexandra Hanratty

30 November 2010

I strongly object to disturbing the country joy of the Thames towpath which means so much to us walkers, rowers, runners and cyclists. It is an area of peace and beauty, fresh air enjoyed by so many. The loss of amenity for years is unacceptable; and cement, except in front of boat houses, is out of keeping with the rural setting with the Thames towpath.
Veronica Gould

29 November 2010

I sympathise with your case for not using Barn Elms site but you need to suggest an alternative acceptable site or it smacks of "NIMBY". There must be some site along the proposed route which would be more acceptable
Tom Frank

26 November 2010