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Thames Tunnel chief opponent stands down as council leader

Hammersmith and Fulham Council leader and vocal opponent of Thames Water’s Thames Tunnel super sewer Stephen Greenhalgh has announced that he intends to stand down.

Greenhalgh has long campaigned against Thames Water’s £4.1bn super sewer and commissioned Lord Selborne’s independent review of the scheme but will stand down in six months.

Selborne’s report, published in October, concluded that the decision to pursue the major tunnel solution was based on rushed decision making and overzealous interpretation of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD). Selborne said he believed the tunnel was chosen over other solutions such as smaller tunnels and sustainable drainage systems (Suds) due to “ministers’ concern that they were out of time on the UWWTD, and something had to be done quickly”. The UWWTD aims to protect the environment from sewer discharges.

Five London local authorities — Hammersmith and Fulham, Tower Hamlets, Kensington and Chelsea, Southwark and Richmond — stated their support for the report and their objection to the Thames Tunnel being presented as the only option to reduce river pollution from combined sewer overflows.

Greenhalgh said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, regulator Ofwat and the Environment Agency should “compel” Thames Water to “go back to the drawing board”. In the meantime, Greenhalgh called for a “moratorium on [the Thames Tunnel] being presented as the de facto solution”.

Thames Water has criticised the report for failing to provide a “viable, economic or timely alternative” to the tunnel, but will not respond in detail until the conclusion of the latest public consultation, which is expected around spring next year.

Readers' comments (1)

  • How could the report provide a 'viable, economic or timely alternative'? TW has spent £100M on the tunnel investigations and some £300k on the SuDS alternative; the Commission had a small budget and could only identify where there were major questions such as the EA's lack of transparency and independent assessment of the standards set. The latter has not been explicitly linked with the scale of costs (£100M-£200M per overflow) and the uncertainties of the 'heroic assumptions' made in the computer modelling. At £100 per household per year increased charges the proponents of the tunnel 'do not live in the real world' of those already in water poverty. It is telling that Prof Chris Binnie , who chaired the original group who developed the tunnel option is also calling for a re-think and has proposed an alternative scheme. Let us not keep giving money to foreign banks - for schemes that are of no financial risk to them.

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