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ICE gives mixed welcome to Beckton plant

The ICE called for a shake-up of water resource planning following the announcement of the Mayor of London's intention to drop his office's legal challenge to the Beckton desalination plant.

"The government needs to promote the case for new long term water resources, streamline planning procedures for major new water infrastructure, and consider other measures such as greater rainwater harvesting," said ICE director general Tom Foulkes.

London Mayor Boris Johnson this week dropped a legal challenge to the construction of Thames Water's £200M desalination plant in the east London borough of Newham in return for a package of environmental measures with the water provider.

These include establishing projects to reduce traffic congestion caused by mains replacement works, as well as using heat and waste energy from the plant to provide water and heating for local housing.

Johnson had inherited the high court action from his predecessor Ken Livingstone who had opposed the plan on environmental grounds. Mr Livingstone maintained cleaner, cheaper alternatives should be found to avoid the "energy-guzzling and carbon-intensive" way the plant would be run.

Foulkes said, "In one sense, this deal with Thames Water is good news for London. Desalination plants, however, are really only a short term solution which may be less sustainable in the long term than other water resource developments."

This sentiment was echoed by Green Party member of the London Assembly Darren Johnson who said: "Instead of spending money on this energy-wasting, short-term solution, they should be investing in fixing pipes and stopping leaks."

Thames Water chief executive David Owens said the news was a victory for common sense. The proposed three stage reverse osmosis plant will convert 80% of abstracted brine into potable water.

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