Last night I attended another meeting of the Save Kings Stairs Garden Campaign. It remains a vigorous campaign, and no wonder when you hear that Thames Water have lodged a formal objection to the Council's proposal to give KSG SINC ('Site of Important Nature Conservancy') status! Why would Thames Water take such a step when it has no real impact on their plans for the Thames Tunnel super sewer? The community is rightly angry about Thames Water's approach.
I was able to tell the meeting that I was going to support a proposal by the Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council to establish a Commission to look at the fundamental concept of the tunnel and whether there are other more acceptable alternatives to the scheme which is currently being proposed.
Thames Water have recently acquired Chambers Wharf, just a few hundred yards from KSG, but this site also presents problems and the potential for great inconvenience to the residents and schools which surround it during the 7 years of constant drilling and associated works.
This is the text of my letter to Stephen Greenhalgh in Hammersmith & Fulham:
"Thank you for your email and enclosed letter received yesterday (21st June 2011).
Southwark has been extremely concerned by the approach adopted by Thames Water with regard to the Thames Tunnel and how it may affect us.
Two sites in Southwark have been identified by Thames Water for possible main shafts. One is a park, Kings Stairs Gardens, which is a valued riverside green space, whilst the other is a brownfield site on the river at Chambers Wharf surrounded by housing and three schools. Neither is suitable for 7 years of constant drilling and associated works and the Council supports the community campaigns opposing the use of these sites.
Southwark is absolutely committed to the aim of cleaning the Thames and preventing sewage leaks. However, we also do believe that it is time to ask the fundamental questions of whether this scheme, at this cost and at this time is necessary, value for money, and will achieve its' stated objectives.
7 years of misery for those who use Kings Stairs Gardens or who live adjacent to Chambers Wharf is not a prospect which we are prepared to contemplate without a thorough independent investigation and challenge of the scheme as currently presented.
In the circumstances Southwark will be pleased to support your proposed Commission under the chairmanship of Lord Selborne.
I look forward to the work of the Commission being taken forward and it proposing a scheme which will make the Thames cleaner and safer, but which minimises the disruption and cost to our communities"