Lord Berkeley has complained that the coalition government is allowing “big project mania” to skew its infrastructure policies.
He is attempting to persuade Thames Tideway minister Lord DeMauley to scrap the £4.1bn project in favour of a lower cost combination of smaller scale measures (See p5).
“The government is focused on big projects to create jobs. All the normal rules of projects seem to be pushed to one side. We are up against an avalanche of big project mania,” said Berkeley.
The Labour peer organised for former Thames Tideway Strategic Steering Group chair - and now vocal opponent of the super sewer - Chris Binnie to give a 20-minute presentation of his alternative ideas to ThamesTideway Tunnel minister De Mauley at the start of this year.
But Berkeley said the minister had failed to respond the to suggestion.
“I last wrote to him in March and have heard nothing since. Whatever one does, [the government] is not interested. They make their decisions - I think based on spurious information - and they are just not listening.”
He warned that legal challenges to the project could follow this September’s ministerial decision on whether to grant planning permission to the £4.1bn scheme.
“I attended a meeting on 19 June,” said Berkeley.
“It was a fairly disparate group of people that don’t agree with the scheme.
“A number of people are looking at challenges and I will lend support to anything that will stop [the scheme].”
He also said the tunnel could become an election issue.
“We are a year away from the General Election and parties need to think carefully about whether this is a good thing to impose. I will talk to all three political parties.”
Binnie claims that reducing the number of sewage spills into the Thames from about 50 to 20 per year would enable Britain to comply with European water quality standards.
He said the super sewer was over engineered in a bid to reduce the annual number of spills.
“The tunnel will do the job,” he said. “But there are other ways of getting down from 50 to 20 spills per year. When the government won’t even look at a combination of measures, I get disheartened for the country, which is spending twice as much as it should be.”
Defra defended the project. “Many years of study have demonstrated that a tunnel is the best solution, and the Thames Tideway Tunnel is one of the government’s priority infrastructure projects,” said a spokesman.