I’ve written today to Phil Stride, the Head of London Tideway Tunnels at Thames Water about their plans to dig up parts of Kingstairs Gardens and Alfred Salter Playground as part of their new sewage treatment plans.
Liberal Democrats strongly agree that the amount of untreated sewage in the Thames should be reduced and we have been campaigning for this for many years. Their plan is to create a massive tunnel which would keep waste out of the river. This is probably a good idea in theory – the only problem is the route and the plans to disrupt two highly valued local public open spaces.
We do not believe that either of the sites in Southwark are suitable and that the damage which will be caused will far outweigh the benefits. Furthermore some residents have suggested that none of the proposed routes make complete sense: that it is unnecessary for the tunnel to go south to the sites in Southwark at all or from waste to travel backwards from Greenwich to Rotherhithe. We would, therefore, ask Thames Water to look again at the routes to see if they can find an alternative route which does not have such a negative impact on Southwark.
Even if Thames Water does go ahead with one of their proposed routes, both Thames Water and Southwark Council have been clear that there are other possible sites which could be used instead of Kingstairs Gardens and Alfred Salter playground. It is also not clear from Thames’ own site selection methodology what weighting has been given to environmental and social costs. In various documents they have clearly weighed financial costs considerably higher even though on numerous other considerations, including some engineering comments, the two sites in Southwark are not suitable.
Kingstairs Gardens is a much loved green space and the list of reasons why it is not suitable is extremely long. This is not just residents objecting to work near to their homes, it is about the wider community, local businesses and the importance of the park to the whole borough and to London.
The park is an area of Metropolitan Open
Land and everything possible should be done to avoid building on such open spaces. The loss of wildlife and trees would be tragic and cause lasting ecological damage. The park is also rich with heritage and archaeology and is a key part of the river front. The Thames Path is special and unique and all Londoners and visitors have an interest in protecting it. As well as the disastrous environmental effects, using Kingstairs Gardens will devastate a close knit community. To lose a playground for seven years is simply unacceptable. In addition, the BOSCO Centre is greatly valued and is not just a nursery, it provides opportunities for huge numbers of young people in our area. The church is also a very special part of the park and their weddings and funerals play a central role in our local area. Cyclists, joggers, dog walkers, the nearby London Bubble theatre group and many, many more also love the park and the community benefits of
Gardens are almost immeasurable. I hope that the excellent work which the Save Kingstairs Gardens Campaign Group has done has shown Thames Water how important this green space is and how detrimental their plans will be. The group has a very simple message, which I can do no better than to repeat, ‘Brownfield, not Greenfield’. The true environmental and community costs of using the Alfred Salter playground site appear to have been over looked too. Local Liberal Democrat councillors are particularly disappointed about the proposal of this site, given the investment into the playground over recent years by the community and the council. Alfred Salter Playground This is a particularly densely populated area and your proposals would cause considerable disruption to an extremely high number of nearby homes. Furthermore, given the density of the area, there are very few play areas and this is the best facility for young children in a very wide area. The Riverside Parents’ Association have considerable evidence about the need for playgrounds in this local community and this must be appreciated. This site is directly in front of an extremely well used youth club which has a long history in the area. The youth club has recently had huge investment and is going from strength to strength. To lose the playground and have a construction site in front of the club would be a devastating setback. There is also a local primary school which is strongly against the proposals. It is really disappointing and unacceptable that children will pay the costs of using this site.
I really hope Thames Water listen carefully to the concerns of local residents about both sites and find a more sensible solution to that doesn’t leave Southwark residents suffering unfairly. Local Liberal Democrats will continue to do all that they can to protect our community spaces.