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Oysters stir up London conference

ICE news

'OYSTERS ALIVE alive oh' was the title of David Bellamy's presentation on his vision for the Thames at a recent ICE London association conference.

The title was a reference to Bellamy's joy at oysters returning to the river. The Thames Future conference also gave mayoral candidates a spotlight to present their views for the future of Europe's cleanest metropolitan river.

New Conservative candidate Steven Norris, potential Labour candidate, Frank Dobson and Liberal Democrat candidate Susan Kramer met for the forum. Other speakers at the conference included Jean Venables of the Thames Barrier, Simon Jay of the Cross River Partnership and James Trimmer of Ove Arup.

Bellamy praised civil engineers saying 'this world can only support one billion people. The fact that it is supporting six billion at the moment is in part thanks to the resilience of nature, in part thanks to civil engineering'.

Bellamy was positive about the future of the river Thames and enthused about the return of wildlife such as salmon and otters to its waters. He also praised the Environment Agency which he said 'is the best thing that has happened for the environment of this country for a very long time'.

The mayoral candidates presented their proposals for the future of the river.

Norris concentrated on three possible uses for the Thames:

Commuter highway: 'The Thames highway doesn't follow the logical path of commuters. The Thames cannot in the immediate future have a role as a commuter route,' said Norris.

Tourist attraction: 'We need an incredibly modest amount of public investment to facilitate access to the river and make it really live for the millions of people who visit it - no more than £10M is needed.'

Potential highway for freight: 'In terms of non time sensitive freight such as aggregate and domestic waste, the river has tremendous potential. We have to be prepared to drive through any local opposition,' insisted Norris.

Dobson focused on the redevelopment of the Thames.

'The challenge is to ensure the optimistic development of the banks of the Thames is not a passing fashion,' he said. 'With construction of the Dome and the Wheel, the South Bank is a fashionable development. However, we need to give priority to ecological concerns as well as safety.

'We have to make sure poorer people aren't displaced from the Thames. We must ensure communities are mixed and not just for people who have developed a recent interest in the river.'

Kramer focused on planning and communication issues.

'My primary concern is to make the Thames something which becomes part of the London community. The mayor's role will be to facilitate communication between those who work in freight to those who work in the environment because they will impact on each other,' said Kramer

'Forward planning is essential. The Dome is an outstanding example of this. We are only now deciding having built this thing the purpose it might serve in the future.'

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