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Resist the Thames Super Sewer

May 17

Written by:
17/05/2013 09:11  RssIcon

Sign the petition

Interested parties have until the 28th May to register with the Planning Inspectorate to object to the Thames Tideway Tunnel – dubbed the 'Super Sewer' by campaigners who claim that the project will rob London of a vital opportunity to become a green and sustainable city.

The sewer – which if built will be 25 kilometres long – is proposed by Thames Water, which has given the impression that construction of the tunnel is a done deal. However, the process of government approval only began in February and a final decision will not be taken until September 2014. Londoners will be aware of sewer construction works already started, but these are actually for the Lea Tunnel, a separate project which will in itself deal with almost 50% of the leakage that has been used to justify the Thames Tunnel, at a fraction of the cost.

At 14 million people, Thames Water customers make up nearly a quarter of the population of the UK. These people will see their bills rise permanently by 25% as a result of the sewer, so are likely to consider themselves interested parties. But the rest of us may also feel justified in lodging our objections: thanks to the Water Industry (Financial Assistance) Bill, introduced last year, all UK taxpayers will underwrite the construction of the uninsurable and highly controversial project, to an unlimited upper amount.

The project will be hugely carbon intensive. Massive pumps will be installed that will require small power stations to feed them, and the volume of necessary concrete will be shifted by heavy duty vehicles. Given that construction of the tunnel will come at the expense of greener, more sustainable solutions, anyone with an interest in preventing and mitigating climate change may therefore also consider themselves to be an interested party. 


The Planning Inspectorate's guidelines state that any member of the public who makes a relevant representation becomes an interested party at this stage.


The alternative

Green stormwater infrastructure, as pioneered by the American city of Philadelphia, is a tried and tested alternative to the super sewer. This would involve smaller scale water management, intercepting stormwater and allowing it to be utilised, evaporate, or infiltrate the ground and rivers.

This month the European Commission followed the lead taken by the United States and adopted a Green Infrastructure strategy. A financing facility to pay for such infrastructure is to be established.



In 2012, Thames Water received a tax rebate of £70 million, whilst making an operating profit of £577 million and paying out £165 million in dividends to shareholders. The corporate structure which allows such tax avoidance to be legal involves racking up huge amounts of debt in the UK so that the interest paid, often to companies in the same corporate group, wipes out taxable profits.

The 30% leakage rate of fresh water through Thames Water's pipes has been described by the New Scientist’s environment consultant as obscene.



Two things about the proposed Thames Tideway Tunnel are certain: it is the preferred option to financiers and construction companies, and that if it happens, it will create an awful lot of debt (£4.1 billion today's estimate) and money. Which doesn't give a lot of hope for those of us that care about the environment (today's or tomorrow's), ordinary people's sewage bills, financial justice and the one service that should never, ever be privatised. Water and sewage are quite literally life and death industries.



Register as an interested party to object to the Tideway Tunnel.

Sign the 38 Degrees petition against the tunnel.

More information from Clean Thames Now.


See the next issue (out in June) of Ethical Consumer magazine for more information on the Super Sewer and Thames Water's tax avoidance.




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