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Experts slam Tideway Tunnel decision

A group of senior figures has slammed the government’s decision to approve construction of the £4bn Thames Tideway Tunnel.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles and environment secretary Elizabeth Truss today granted development consent for the controversial tunnel to be built and operated.

But the eight environment, water and science experts said they were “alarmed” by the decision, and branded the tunnel “unnecessary”.

In an open letter expressing its disappointment, 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,” said the letter.

Signatories included former chairman of the Thames Tideway Strategy Steering Group Chris Binnie, as well as infrastructure finance analyst Martin Blaiklock.

For the full letter, and list of signatories, see box below.

We, the undersigned independent water and environmental science experts, are alarmed and disappointed at today’s announcement, by the Secretary of State Elizabeth Truss MP, that the Government has made its Decision to grant an unconditional Development Consent Order to Thames Water Utilities Ltd (TWUL)’s Application to construct its proposed Thames Tideway Tunnel against all our considered advice and evidence freely given, dismissed and ignored over the past 3 years. We are alarmed at the Government’s willingness to turn a blind eye to the Rule of Law for the environment.

In our view, 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 that its alternative, which we have termed ‘Blue-Green Plan for London’, would have substantially raised, more quickly, at lower cost and with far greater multiple public benefits to the whole of London’s environment.

We have heard and scrutinised all the evidence and arguments put forward by TWUL and found it a project par excellence of a government licensed monopoly company putting private profit for its shareholders above the primary, basic, public and essential need of its customers for clean air and water, by using the best available technical knowledge not entailing excessive cost, as required by UK and EU law.

Once the Lee tunnel and upgrades to the London sewage treatment works are co-operational within the next few months, it would appear that the Tideway could be made environmentally satisfactory with only a few minor works. The EU Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive requires spilling only to occur during unusual rainfall events. This could almost certainly be achieved by a combination of measures, including blue green infrastructure, at a saving of several £ billion. Although a study of a combination is required by government, such a study has not been done.

There is no need for a Thames Tideway Tunnel; it is unnecessary and will cause extensive damage to the environment by losing the opportunity of a better solution.

Yours Sincerely,

Prof Chris Binnie, Independent chairman, Thames Tideway Strategy Steering Group, 2000-2005
Prof Richard Ashley Author, original Wandsworth SuDS Study for Thames Water Ltd.                            
Prof Cedo Maksimovic, Blue Green Dream, Imperial College, EU Climate KIC
Prof Colin Green, Flood Hazard Research Centre, Middlesex Univ. OECD author
Prof Dragan Savic, Exeter University Water Systems Centre
Prof Darren Woolf MEng PhD CEng MCIBSE MAPM
Martin Blaiklock, Infrastructure Finance Analyst 
The Blue Green Independent Expert Team

Prof at

Readers' comments (1)

  • Barry Walton

    Would it be unreasonable to have expected from this august group a little more than 'it would appear that' what they want done was the way to go. Surely, if Thames Water can be told in the strongest terms that their money spinning scheme is nothing more than an irrelevance, the robust, detailed alternative in all its certainty should have been set down.

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