|Council Accused of "Irresponsible Scaremongering"|
As local people campaign against tunnel construction site
Thames Water has accused Hammersmith and Fulham Council of "irresponsible scaremongering" over the possibility that a shaft providing access to the proposed Thames Tunnel could be built in Carnwath Road on Fulham's riverside.
The latest row over the Thames Tunnel, nicknamed the super sewer, has blown up after Thames Water sent local residents a "land interest questionnaire" asking a series of questions ranging from who has an interest in the land or property, whether the land is subject to any mortgage and questions about who may "acquire an interest" in the property.
Residents, who have formed a campaign group called Fulham RATS - Residents Against Thames Sewer in South Fulham - were alarmed by the arrival of these forms.
RATS' Nicky Pateman said: " People are undoubtedly suspicious about this questionnaire and cannot understand the need for such intrusion."
The council subsequently advised residents not to cooperate with Thames Water over the forms and stated: " Concerns that the intrusive eight page form could be the prelude to a series of compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) have been voiced."
Thames Water responded by issuing a statement saying: "If the wording of these questionnaires was unnerving, we are sorry."
However, the statement added: " In addition to our public consultation, we are required by law to make direct contact with all those whose properties may be affected by our proposals, and who might therefore be in a position to make a claim against the project."
The statement went on to refute the council's claims about possible CPOs saying: " Our preferred sites have been chosen to avoid areas of existing housing, so we do not expect to need to use compulsory purchase powers to acquire any domestic property. Any suggestion to the contrary is irresponsible scare-mongering."
Thames Water shocked local residents in March when it announced that land on Fulham's riverside was a "newly-identified contender" to be a construction site for the Thames Tunnel.
The land consisted of two adjacent empty plots south of Carnwath Road, Whiffin Wharf and Hurlingham Wharf, plus Carnwath Business Park.
Thames Water is proposing to build the Thames Tunnel, widely referred to as the super sewer, to reduce the level of untreated sewage currently overflowing from Victorian sewers into the river.
This month, thousands of fish died after storms led to over 450,000 tonnes of sewage being discharged into the river.
The tunnel will run for approximately 20 miles through London, up to 75 metres beneath the River Thames.
The project, says Thames Water, will require a number of large shaft sites at points along the river to allow construction of the tunnel. It had previously earmarked playing fields at Barn Elms on the south side of the Thames as its preferred site in West London, but it appeared in March to have done a U-turn after massive protests by angry residents of Barnes and Putney.
At subsequent public consultation sessions, Thames Water representatives said that the site, originally considered too small, had now become viable as a smaller space than originally envisaged was now required. However, they admitted that, while most of the shaft would be underground, there would also be a permanent building above ground, possibly up to three storeys high.
They confirmed that the work would take seven years in all, though adding that not all of this would involve construction and that the site's existing jetty would be used to bring in materials and remove waste by the river.
Though the site itself has been vacant for some years, it is close to hundreds of homes on both sides of Carnwath Road, and protesting residents have formed the group RATS and launched a petition against the project, which can be signed here.
Hammersmith and Fulham Council has consistently campaigned against construction of the Thames Tunnel and reacted angrily to the news that the access shaft could be built in Carnwath Road - an area it says it wants to see regenerated to create a residential area with new shopping facilities and extended river walk.
However, the land itself has recently changed hands, from residential developer Comer Homes to a business park company called Chartwell Business Parks, which is based in Ascot in Berkshire.
It is offering open storage on the site, and several large polythene covered storage units appear to be under construction.
The Port of London Authority, meanwhile lists Hurlingham Wharf as one of 50 safeguarded wharves in London and one of three it particularly wants to see reactivated and brought back into industrial use.
June 23, 2011