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Thames Water battles go on

by Anood Al-Samerai on 1 October, 2014

Last night Lib Dem councillors met with residents to talk through the Thames Tunnel, what we can all do to change the tunnelling direction and other ways of reducing the impact on our community. While we want a cleaner river, using Chambers Wharf as a receptor site instead of a drive site would make a transformative difference.

Thames Water have offered a Community Enhancement Fund of £1 million over 6 years, but this is in no way enough to ease the noise and dust that a 24/7 building site for 6 years will cause. Local councillors will push to increase this amount as well as other ideas to help the disruption. Please let us know if you have any thoughts or requests to Thames Water which might help further.

Below is a response we put in to a very technical consultation about planning last week as it was a chance to make it easier for the Secretaries of State to change tunnelling direction. I have also written to the Labour Leader of the council to suggest a cross party joint letter to the Conservative Ministers to push this point about drilling direction. We will keep battling!

Councillor Anood Al-Samerai
Liberal Democrat Member for Riverside Ward
Leader, Liberal Democrat Group
Southwark Council
160 Tooley Street
London SE1P 5LX
Tel: 07947 671 849

Planning Consultation Team
Department for Communities and Local Government
1/H3 Eland House
Bressenden Place

26th September 2014

Dear Sir or Madam,

Technical consultation on planning

I am writing on behalf of Liberal Democrat councillors from Riverside ward in Southwark, and the Liberal Democrat group at Southwark Council in response to section six of DCLG’s technical consultation on planning. I would like to respond with particular reference to the Secretaries of State’s decision to grant a development consent order (DCO) for the Thames Tideway Tunnel project on 12 September 2014.

Our community is devastated that the Secretaries of State decided to allow Thames Water to proceed with its plans to use Chambers Wharf as a drive site, despite the examining authority’s (ExA) recommendation that alternative sites should be considered. The community has been most reasonable in understanding the need to clean up the river and the simple change of tunnelling in the opposite direction would have made the most enormous difference to an extremely densely populated area with three schools.

In this consultation, the recommendations made in paragraph 6.10 of the document could have important implications for the future of this project.

I welcome the proposal to produce guidance on the characteristics that distinguish material and non-material changes to Development Consent Orders, as I feel it is important to move swiftly where possible to minimise the negative impacts large infrastructure projects have on residents’ lives.

With this priority in mind, it is important that the level of further examination required to make a judgement on a change should be considered as part of these new guidelines. If a matter can be decided using evidence that has already been gathered, the decision should be made quickly and the change should be considered non-material, all other factors being equal. If new evidence in favour of or against a change has come to light and further investigation is required before a decision can be reached, the change should be considered more likely to be material.

For example, local residents and my ward colleagues and I believe that a change should be made to the DCO for the Thames Tideway Tunnel to use Chambers Wharf as a receptor site rather than a drive site. The drive site should be at Abbey Mills and this was actually part of Thames Water’s original plans in their first phase of consultation. As all the evidence required for a review of this aspect of the plans has already been examined by the ExA (which recommended that alternative drive sites should be considered), this change should be considered non-material when it comes before the Secretaries of State for review.

Of course, each case should be dealt with on its merits and where appropriate local people should be consulted on changes that will affect their lives. But equally, changes that will improve schemes for the benefit of residents should not be delayed unnecessarily, and this suggestion would help to achieve swift decisions wherever possible.

Thank you for considering this submission.

Yours faithfully,

Cllr Anood Al-Samerai
Leader, Southwark Liberal Democrat Council Group

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