More changes needed to Thames Tunnel

Published: Thursday 26th January 12

More changes are needed to the proposed Thames Tunnel scheme to reduce the impacts on Wandsworth’s residents and businesses, Thames Water will be told.

In its response to the second consultation on the 'super sewer' scheme Wandsworth Council will say the construction methodology has been significantly improved, but more must be done to protect the local community.

The water company plans to locate six major construction sites across Wandsworth to help build the new tunnel and connect it to the existing sewer network. A seventh site will be located just over the borough boundary with Richmond.

The consultation response was backed by the strategic planning and transportation overview and scrutiny committee last Tuesday evening and is expected to receive final approval from the council's executive on January 30.

The proposed tunnel aims to capture overflows from London's Victorian sewers and reduce pollution in the River Thames.

Leader of Wandsworth Council Ravi Govindia said:

"We have come a long way since the first consultation and Thames Water has listened to many of our concerns. In particular we welcome the decisions to move the main drive shaft away from Barn Elms and to shift the Tideway Wharf worksite to Kirtling Street where it will avoid conflict with an ongoing regeneration scheme.

"However, Wandsworth will have to cope with more Thames Tunnel worksites than any other borough and more sensible steps need to be taken to ease the burden on our community.

"We want greater assurances that Thames Water will maximise the use of river transport to reduce the strain on our heavily congested road network. This is particularly important in Putney town centre where we have serious concerns over traffic congestion.

"We have also renewed our call for a cap on the amount local people will pay for the tunnel through increases in their water bills. We believe this project is necessary to clean up the Thames but household budgets are under great pressure and must be protected from a further squeeze."

Key changes to the Thames Tunnel scheme since the stage one consultation include:

  • Relocating a main drive shaft from Barn Elms Playing Fields to a brownfield site north of the river with a pre-existing industrial jetty. Under the revised scheme Barn Elms would host a smaller Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) site with a shorter and less disruptive construction programme.
  • Shifting the proposed Tideway Wharf main drive shaft to Kirtling Street to avoid conflict with an ongoing regeneration scheme.
  • Relocating a CSO site from Bridges Court Car Park to Falconbrook Pumping Station which is an existing Thames Water site.
  • Relocating a CSO site from Bell Lane Creek to Dormay Street - this avoids the need for Thames Water to relocate an established local employer at the cost of 52 local jobs.
  • The Jews Row CSO site has been dropped from the programme. 
  • Changes have been made to the CSO sites at Putney Embankment, King George's Park and Heathwall Pumping Station.

To view details of the revised scheme and to respond to the consultation visit

Following the phase two consultation, Thames Water intends to finalise the designs and construction methodology before submitting a planning application to the Infrastructure Planning Commission in 2012. Construction is expect to start in 2016 and will last for around six to seven years. 

A brief summary of the council's consultation response is included below. The full response is available online.

Transport and access

River transport should be maximised for deliveries and taking excavated materials away from worksites. The consultation material leaves too much flexibility over transport management. Each barge is estimated to replace 55 lorry movements.


Residents' annual water bills are now expected to rise by £70-80 compared to £50-60 in the phase one consultation. The council is deeply concerned by this and has renewed its call for an absolute cap on the amount water bills will be allowed to rise as a result of the project.

Barn Elms CSO site

The council has welcomed Thames Water's decision to relocate the main shaft to a more appropriate brownfield site.  The CSO works will use a much smaller area of the playing fields and greatly reduce the scheme's impact on this important greenfield site. It also means the Thames Path would no longer need to be diverted nor would the local scout hut need to be relocated.

The council opposes the planned site access road alongside Beverley Brook and prefers an alternative route north along the eastern end of the sports pitches, connecting with Queen Elizabeth Walk.

Putney Bridge Foreshore CSO site

Thames Water has undertaken a number of design changes to mitigate the impact of this site on Putney town centre and residential neighbours but serious concerns remain.

The council wants a firm commitment that river transport must be used for deliveries and to take excavated material away from the site. Given the traffic congestion and air pollution issues at this location river transport must be maximised at all stages of the construction programme.

The phase two proposals now show the pier structure to have moved westwards allowing the retention of the existing slipway which is of historic significance.  However, in design terms, the proposed structure would now create a metre high wall juxtaposed with the slipway which is unacceptable. 

The council is concerned that the pier structure proposed may inhibit the tidal flow, be visually intrusive and have an uncomfortable relationship to the historic slipway. 

The final location of the pier must not adversely impact on the riverbus service. 

The 'cabinet' proposed for Waterman's Green, and the ventilation column proposed by the bridge abutment need to be reconsidered.  Thames Water should explore the possibility of locating the cabinet into one of the adjacent bridge vaults and out of sight.  The ventilation structure should make a positive contribution to the site and could incorporate interpretation panels to reveal the history of the area.  

King George's Park CSO site

The layout of this site has been modified since the phase one consultation.  Thames Water has now relocated the ventilation shaft and control equipment to the Neville Gill Close boundary as requested by the council. 

Disruption and nuisance to park users must be kept to a minimum and an appropriate landscaping strategy agreed.

The works would provide an opportunity to create a new entrance at the north end of the park. This would offer a better link to a new pedestrian walkway now being created through the Wandsworth Business Village.  

Dormay Street CSO site

This location is preferred to the original site which required the relocation of Panorama Antennas - a long established local employer.

The works provide an opportunity to create a new permanent footpath on the south side of Bell Lane Creek and a new footbridge onto Causeway Island. This would complete a new pedestrian link between Wandsworth Town and the River Thames.

Falconbrook Pumping Station CSO site

This site replaces the earlier proposal for Bridges Court Car Park.  It would be located on the existing Falconbrook Pumping Station adjacent to York Gardens.

If this site is required, the Council would insist that nuisance and disruption are kept to a minimum and that a much improved public space is subsequently provided in York Gardens. 

Kirtling Street Main Shaft site

This site is proposed to replace the Tideway Wharf drive shaft included in the phase one consultation and would have a major impact on the local area.

The proposals need to anticipate the emerging development of this part of Nine Elms and not obstruct redevelopment. 

The council oppose the use of the northern part of this site as the location for a permanent tunnel shaft as it clashes with an existing outline planning permission for residential development. A more suitable location would be the adjacent Cringle Wharf provided the CEMEX operation could be retained.

It is proposed that 90 per cent of excavated materials will be taken out by barge and the remainder by road.   The council wants Thames Water to investigate the potential to increase river transport so that all excavated material is removed by barge. 

The proposed jetty must not impede the Nine Elms Pier and should be located as far westwards as possible, taking account of the workings of Cringle Dock waste transfer station.

A riverside walk of 6 metres in width should be provided post construction.  A new access path is also sought which would run from Kirtling Street towards the Thames path along the western boundary of the site. 

Heathwall Pumping Station CSO site

At stage one consultation, this site was included as part of the larger Tideway Walk main shaft site which has now been relocated to Kirtling Street.  A smaller CSO site is still required in this location to connect two sewer overflows to the main tunnel.

Works must be carefully managed to minimise disruption to the 'Battersea Barge'.

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Recent comments

Of course urgent measures are required to clean up the Thames and most people, including myself, will be prepared for some hardship to achieve this. Nevertheless it is reasonable to want to know exactly what one is in for. I welcome the re-think on Barn Elms but I would still like to know what information the Council can give me about noise transmission across the river from the proposed Main Shaft at Carnwath Road. Noise from the current low-level activity on that site, though only sporadic, is already audible. I would expect at least the same level of noise from deep drilling 24/7. Please can the Council comment on this?
Mary Rees

26 January 2012