Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Public Meeting Tonight – oppose Thames Tunnel site on Deptford Church Street

Thames Tunnel Public Meeting 
Chaired by Dame Joan Ruddock, MP
Wednesday 12 September 2012, 8pm
The Shaftebury Centre, Frankham Street
(NB the venue has changed from Deptford Lounge)
Don't Dump on Deptford's Heart has organised this meeting which is open to all and will be attended by Thames Water's Phil Stride and chaired by Joan Ruddock. Deptford's Heart want to challenge Thames Water to explain why they are continuing with their plan to use the Crossfield green on Deptford Church Street as their preferred site for tunnel works, ignoring their own criteria for site suitability.

Apologies for the late notice on this blog. Please try to come along and support the campaign.


The concerns of the Deptford Heart campaign (shared by Lewisham Council) were outlined in full in a parliamentary speech by Joan Ruddock in March, recorded in Hansard: 

Let me say at the outset that my constituents and I support the construction of the Thames tunnel. There is no doubt that we cannot continue to discharge raw sewage into the Thames. Much as I would like to debate many of the wider issues, I am essentially here to make a statement on behalf of my constituents, because Thames Water has a proposal to intercept the Deptford storm relief sewer that runs through Deptford discharging north into the Thames.

The site selected by Thames Water is a triangle of green, open space—the Crossfield amenity green, which is bounded by Coffey street, Crossfield street and Deptford Church street. For those who do not know it, Deptford Church street is a major dual carriageway intersecting the Crossfield residential housing estate. Thames Water proposes at least four years’ work on the site, the permanent legacy of which will be four main ventilation columns at least 6 metres high, with associated control units and maintenance requirements. During the phase one consultation, the preferred site was Borthwick wharf foreshore, but for the phase two consultation Deptford Church street is the preferred site and the Borthwick wharf foreshore is put forward, together with the Sue Godfrey nature reserve in Bronze street, as an alternative.

We in Deptford cannot understand Thames Water’s change of plans, which will have a great impact on an exceptional area of my constituency. The phase two consultation site information paper identifies three reasons why Deptford Church street is now preferred. The reasons given are, first, that Deptford Church street has relatively good access compared to Borthwick wharf foreshore; secondly, that using Deptford Church street would avoid work to the Thames foreshore; and, thirdly that the potential effects on residents, visitors and business amenity would be less than with the alternative site.

On access, no traffic impact assessment is provided to enable comparison between the two sites, so how can we judge? On avoiding work on the foreshore, there is a particular paradox. The majority of the site selection
assessments favour sites in close proximity to the river, with jetty or wharf facilities. Clearly, the Borthwick wharf foreshore would have a great advantage over Deptford High street, in that material and spoil could be delivered and removed using the River Thames. Furthermore, the alternative site is located at the point at which the combined sewer overflows are discharged into the River Thames. Intercepting the sewer at that point would capture the contents of the entire length of the sewer. Intercepting it further inland, at Deptford Church street, would leave a length of the sewer uncaptured.

Thames Water has provided no data on the number of people, households and businesses affected at both sites, so it is impossible to compare the sites. In addition, the impact on St Joseph’s Catholic primary school on Deptford Church street is direct and severe when compared to any comparable community impact resulting from the use of the Borthwick wharf foreshore. A number of businesses will be directly affected by the use of Deptford Church street, while Borthwick wharf and the adjacent Payne’s wharf are both vacant.

Let me turn to the issues specific to the Deptford site chosen by Thames Water. There are two primary schools close to the proposed site: St Joseph’s Catholic primary school is opposite the site, and the new Tidemill academy is close by. As I say, the proposed works will take at least four and a half years, which represents most of the period of primary school attendance. That area of Deptford appears in the top 10% of areas in the country in the index of deprivation, making primary education of paramount importance. Both indoor and outdoor learning will be impacted by noise and air pollution.

Fire evacuation for St Joseph’s during the period is of concern. The school requires an off-site space near the school for 260-plus children and 25-plus staff, and they need to reach it quickly and safely. The site currently used is the green space that Thames Water proposes using for its shaft and associated construction works. No impact assessment on the school and its fire regulations has been offered.

Sited alongside the green is the grade-I listed St Paul’s church, the single most significant listed building in Lewisham. The proposed shaft and associated building works directly affect the setting and structure of the church, the boundary wall to the church cemetery, which is listed in its own right, and the grade-II listed railway viaduct to the south. It is therefore not surprising that English Heritage has expressed a preference for the alternative site to the Deptford Church street site, as there would then be less impact on heritage assets in our area.

The effects of the disruption to traffic patterns would be numerous, and the disruption would cause congestion and danger. The proposal involves closing the two northbound lanes of Deptford Church street; the two southbound lanes would provide one lane in each direction. Again, no detailed traffic modelling has been provided. There could even be emergency vehicle access restrictions associated with the traffic management measures along the proposed construction vehicle routes. Bus lanes in both north and southbound directions would be temporarily suspended, yet the width of the southbound carriageway is insufficient to accommodate heavy goods vehicles
and buses in a two-way traffic scheme, particularly as Deptford Church street is on the borough’s oversized vehicle route.

There can be no doubt that the proposed works will impact on existing businesses along Crossfield street, particularly given that access, both vehicle and pedestrian, could be disrupted and restricted. The construction vehicle movements would have a highway safety impact in Coffey street, particularly for those accessing St Paul’s church, and when the movements coincide with St Joseph’s school’s arrival and departure times. Narrowing Crossfield street would have an impact on the commercial units on Crossfield street, particularly in relation to deliveries and servicing. A further raft of transport concerns have been raised by Lewisham council in its formal objections to Thames Water, but they are too numerous for me to go into now...

...Overlying all the concerns that I have outlined is an aspect of Deptford that has been completely neglected. Planning consents have already been given for the construction of thousands of new homes in the immediate vicinity of the Deptford Church street site. Work is already under way and the nearby Convoys site, which has a footfall—this is quite amazing—equivalent to the whole of the south bank, is expected to be redeveloped over precisely the same period as the Thames tunnel. This is a prescription for chaos. It is particularly unfortunate because Deptford has enjoyed a prolonged period of regeneration led by Lewisham council, financially underpinned by the Labour Government and supported by a number of private sector partnerships.

Lewisham is the 12th most densely populated local authority in the UK, and my constituency the most dense of all. As a consequence, every small piece of open space is greatly valued and provides essential green lungs for the city. The Crossfield amenity green will be made unavailable and inaccessible for at least four years in an area of very limited open space.

Lewisham borough’s core strategy emphasises the importance of improving connectivity throughout the area for pedestrians and cyclists. The recently completed links project from Deptford high street through to Margaret McMillan park, as well as the work on Giffin square, the Deptford Lounge, Tidemill academy and Wavelengths, demonstrate the implementation of the council’s strategic aspirations for the area.

The completion of the Thames tunnel site works is not expected until 2021, resulting in an unacceptable delay to the delivery of the council’s strategic objectives for links to and connections through the area. Furthermore, Deptford high street is classified as a site of nature conservation importance in the adopted unitary development plan. If the borough were the local planning authority for this application, it would either refuse permission that had adverse impacts on nature conservation or, if development were considered essential, it would require an environmental appraisal that included methods of mitigation and proposals for compensation.

I appreciate the need for the Thames tunnel, so I would not be objecting to this site if I thought this was a case of simple nimbyism. It is not. There is so much at stake that we have to make the loudest and clearest objections on the grounds that I have outlined. Already 1,300 people, in an area where there is not a great deal of activism, have signed a petition opposing the use of the Crossfields amenity green. I support the measures in the Bill that will enable Thames Water to undertake a much needed improvement on behalf of all Londoners, but I believe that it can provide the necessary shafts elsewhere with less damage than that which would result in my constituency. My plea to Thames Water is, in the words of the local campaign, “Don’t dump on Deptford.”


  1. Better late than never... But not a plausible approach; Bermondsey has a large UK top ten (in a league of 13,000) primary school mere yards away from its site. Sensible site selection criteria mean nothing when facing TW and their cronies, such as Mr Nick Construction Industry Big Cigar Raynsford.

    We all want a clean Thames but let's face it, this project is ill guided in way too many respects when there exists a plausible and much superior alternative. Green Infrastructure has been *demonstrated to work* in places like Philadelphia, with cities such as New York now turning their back to antiquated 'grey infrastructure' (ie: tunnels) to also embrace it, the sensible 21st century solution. Will London go down in history as the last City where a ruinous and ineffective deep sewage tunnel gets built?

    Green Infra doesn't please TW's offshore banking owners nor closer parties with an agenda... The choice is yours Deptford, are you on the side of the bankers? You can have the Super-Sewer happen, on your patch, or you can do the sensible thing and rally behind the right solution for every Londoner and have the £4bn invested in a true environmentally positive soution rather than into an own goal which claims to mitigate the consequence of climate change (abnormal rain patterns as we experienced all too well this year) with one that has a colossal carbon footprint of its own. Please see here for details:

  2. Borthwick Wharf is as much in Deptford as Church Street is, the only difference being it's in Raynsford's constituency not Ruddock's, so what she's essentially saying is dump on someone else's constituents, not mine (as is Raynsford). Neither solution is ideal but anyone who thinks that the main access for the Borthwick site would be from the river is extremely naive - cost will scupper that. The Church Street site is therefore the cheaper and less disruptive option. "Green" solutions wouldn't work in an area like Deptford either.

  3. Anon (Monday) Please explain why the river cannot be used. And please explain how closing Deptford Church Street for a year is less disruptive.

  4. @Anon (Mon 17th): In Deptford I see roads, large parking lots, school yards, flat roofs, paved over front gardens and a fair amount of open space around council estates; all of which are eminently suitable for Green Infrastructure (GI) as in other parts of the world. Philadelphia also has some very dense urban boroughs. Why (unless you’re in TW’s pocket) should it work in Manhattan and not in Deptford please? The key difference might be that these cities don't suffer the headwind of a privatized, monopoly, water industry and the unsavoury collusion that goes with it.

    It’s true that with the Lee Tunnel implemented, Greenwich PS is the worst offender in terms of discharge volume (see TW ‘needs’, document table 4.1) and that Green Infra may be slower to become effective than the Thames tunnel (although it would start yielding results NOW, not in 2023/4). This is why localized solutions such as the innovative Hydrospin screen extensively used in Japan, could be deployed in such places, on TW’s own land(!) at a fraction of the cost and within a few months, not a decade!

    Further, when you consider other related clear and present environmental issues that Deptford and the rest of London have to contend with: floods, droughts, climate change and air pollution - all of which arguably more critical than water pollution - does it really make sense to plough all *our* (not TW’s offshore financiers’) environmental money - we’re talking about £4bn++ - down the sewer??

    The counter-productive ping-ponging between sites is what's detracted everyone’s attention from the real issues highlighted above and allowed TW to hoodwink everyone into thinking there's only one solution. It’s time for all Londoners to unite and seriously push for the *right* solution for everyone’s sake, not just those that live next to one of those cursed sites!