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Mayor drops objections to Beckton desalination plant

The new Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has dropped objections to the proposed Thames Water desalination plant at Beckton.

According to Thames Water CEO David Owens: "Today’s news is a victory for common sense. Our draft Water Resources Management Plan published only last week highlights how London's rapidly growing population will be at increased risk of water restrictions in future droughts if we don’t have additional sources of water.

"The desalination plant is a vital part of our response to this situation, and we are committed to getting it built as quickly as possible, so it is available to provide more safe, clean drinking water to Londoners by 2010.

"Desalination is a more energy intensive process than conventional water treatment processes, which is why we have committed to only running the plant when it is essential, and to providing 100% of the power needed to run it from renewable energy.

"We are encouraged that the Mayor has dealt with this issue so early in his time in office, and hope to enjoy as productive a relationship with him as we did his predecessor. We look forward to working closely with him on a number of environmental initiatives which will improve lives for Londoners."

The plant at Beckton, East London, is due to complete in 2009. It will produce around 140M litres of water a day, enough for 400,000 people.

In 2004 previous Mayor Ken Livingstone directed Newham to refuse permission for the plant.

Thames Water appealed against the decision, and a Public Inquiry was held in 2006. The planning inspector dismissed the Mayor's arguments and recommended the project should go ahead. The Government agreed, granting planning permission last year.

Mayor Livingstone launched a legal challenge to the decision, which was due to reach the High Court in May 2008.

The plant will be the first in London to take water from the tidal stretch of the Thames, removing salt from the water. The treated water will then be pumped through a new pipeline to a reservoir in Essex, ready for distribution to customers across North East London. The plant will be used mainly during times of drought.

The first desalination plant to be built in the UK was in Jersey, although the water supplied is for agricultural use only and is not potable.

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