Council says no to Barn Elms tunnel
Published: 19 November 2010
Wandsworth Council has opposed plans by Thames Water to base a seven-year tunnelling operation on Barn Elms playing fields.
Councillors say the proposal would be severely disruptive to local people, result in an unacceptable loss of green space and would have serious impacts on the riverside towpath which has a unique rural character and is extremely well used by residents living Putney.
The water company want to use the site to construct a section of the Thames Tunnel - a new 'super sewer' running from west to east London.
Councillors are unconvinced that Barn Elms is the right location for these highly disruptive works and are demanding a comprehensive and convincing justification.
Because the Thames Tunnel scheme would be classified as a national infrastructure project Thames Water will not need local authority planning permission and can take control of the site using compulsory purchase powers.
Doubts have also been raised about the financial viability of the entire project given today's tough economic climate. Thames Water is planning to pass on the costs to Londoners through raising water bills.
Wandsworth Council's strategic planning spokesman Cllr Ravi Govindia said:
"We are fundamentally opposed to the Barn Elms site and have serious reservations about the viability of the whole project in its current form.
"Serious questions remain unanswered and we are not convinced that all alternative locations to Barn Elms have been considered.
"While we support investment in the capital's sewage system we are concerned that the enormous costs and disruption involved in this scheme will outweigh the potential benefits. All of Thames Water's assumptions about the time, land take and construction methodology must face searching examination.
"We will use every opportunity to contest this proposal and protect the interests of our residents."
Excavated spoil from the tunnelling operation would be transported out of the site on the Thames. This is expected to severely disrupt nearby rowing clubs and other recreational river users.
Barn Elms playing fields are based just over the borough boundary in Richmond but are owned and managed by Wandsworth Council.
Wandsworth's concerns are set out in a formal response to the first round consultation on the Thames Tunnel scheme. A second round of consultations will take place in 2011 and Thames Water is expected to submit a full planning application in mid 2012, with the seven year construction programme commencing in 2013.