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Challenge planned as Thames Tideway tunnel gets go ahead

Opponents of the Thames Tideway Tunnel were last month looking for support to launch a legal challenge against the £4bn-plus scheme.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles and environment secretary Elizabeth Truss have granted development consent for the controversial super sewer to be built and operated.

But a group of experts led by campaigning body Blue Green UK’s chairman Graham Stevens and featuring former Thames Tideway Strategy Steering Group chairman Chris Binnie slammed the decision. They said the project is a waste of money.

“We are looking for funds, co-applicants and lawyers to apply for judicial review within the six-week time limit,” said Stevens.

The group has signed an open letter criticising the approval of the project and Stevens said its members supported legal action and would act as witnesses.

But finding people willing to foot the potentially huge cost of the challenge remained a major obstacle, Stevens conceded.

The group’s central argument is that Thames Water’s consultation with local people was “not meaningful” and thus failed to comply with the European Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive.

The group said the planning consent was “against all our considered advice and evidence”.

“The decision is not only the least beneficial to London’s inhabitants and environment, but will also be of significant detriment to London’s future growth, international reputation and prosperity, as it imposes its inevitable burden on the cost and standard of living,” says the letter.

The project will be paid for by Thames Water customers, who will see an increase in their water rates of up to a maximum of £80 in 2011 prices, by the mid-2020s.

Southwark Council leader Peter John has also threatened to push for a judicial review. He branded approval of the project as “ludicrous”.

Southwark Council has vehemently opposed the inclusion in the scheme of a drive site at Chamber’s Wharf. Pickles accepted it was a “challenging” infrastructure project, but said that it was “clear that the Thames Tunnel will help modernise London’s ageing Victorian sewerage system, and make the River Thames cleaner and safer”.

The tunnel will run from the Acton Storm Tanks in West London to the Abbey Mills pumping station in East London. It will have a storage capacity of 1.25M.m3. Construction is expected to start in 2016 and be completed by 2023.

Truss added: “In the 21st century, London should not have a river that is polluted by sewage every time there is heavy rainfall. The Thames Tunnel is considered to be the best solution to address London’s outdated sewerage infrastructure.”

If the tunnel had been in operation last year, it would have captured 97% of the sewage discharged into the river Thames.

“This is a huge project but it’s a huge problem, and we can now get on with tackling it,” said Thames Tideway Tunnel chief executive Andy Mitchell.

“It’s no easy task, but we’re confident that we can deliver this project and still achieve our aim of minimising the impact on our customer bills.”

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