Friday, November 1, 2013

Tunnel Vision

 If the congestion caused by Thames Water’s work in Deptford Church Street has disturbed you over the last few days, it will give you a small glimpse of what’s to come once the Thames Tunnel works get underway. The chief difference is that instead of lasting three days, the Thames Tunnel work will last for three years!

In order to build the Deptford spur of the so-called ‘super sewer’, Thames Water plan to sink a shaft on the green space between St Paul’s Church and St Joseph’s primary school. It will be some 46 meters deep and 17 meters in diameter. Spoil from the shaft and tunnelling work will be removed from site by hundreds of lorries, forcing the closure of the whole of the western carriageway of Deptford Church Street.

No Crossfields resident needs reminding that this space is one of the few leafy open spaces in Deptford. It is close to St Joseph’s and Tidemill schools, the church, the High Street and us. Turning it into a construction site will deeply affect the community here, particularly our children.

To add insult to injury the consultation process was deeply flawed. The Deptford site was only introduced halfway through the consultation phase, leaving little time for anyone to understand the impact. In spite of their boast that between 50-75% of the spoil and building materials will be carried by river, Thames Water opted for landlocked Deptford Church Street site over the original proposal which was for Borthwick Wharf on the riverfront. It’s a massive abandonment of their environmental principles, particularly as other infrastructure projects, such as Crossrail and the Olympic Park construction, have proven just how effective water-borne carriage can be.
As if that wasn’t enough, Thames Water's own evaluation criteria in their Site Selection Methodology, specifies that areas close to schools, residential areas and historic buildings would not be used.

The issue has now been referred to the Planning Inspectorate who are examining the issue and have the power to recommend to the Secretary of State whether the decision should be upheld or rejected (but not, apparently, to be amended). So the likelihood of overturning the decision is slim. The Inspectorate will be hearing evidence on the Deptford elements at two separate sessions:

• Wednesday 13 November: America Square Conference Centre, 1 America Square, 17 Crosswall, London EC3N 2LB
Thursday 21 November: The AHOY Centre, Borthwick Street, Deptford SE8 3JY

BUT before you get too excited, it is important to understand that this is severely limited:

• You can only ask questions or make points to the Inspectors if you have already registered;
• The Inspectorate has already decided that their inquiry will not discuss issues of principle or about any alternatives. This means that the case of the Tunnel itself cannot be challenged.

However, the scope of the inquiry will include the specific design, sites, routes and operational processes proposed in the application. So the expectation is that we can argue against the selection of the site.

Efforts are now underway to revive the Don’t Dump on Deptford’s Heart Campaign, in order to demonstrate the extent of local opposition.

A decision is expected in late summer/early autumn 2014.

Thanks to Nick at Farrer House for this post


  1. Agree the transport disruption will be annoying, but I can't get exciting about work on the site. Every day I walk past I only ever see this bit of land being used as a dog toilet.

  2. Worth noting that the site they plan to use is on both sides of the wall i.e. not just the dog toilet! And the work doesn't finish until 2022, so it's not just a short term project. There were plans by Lewisham Council to open up one of the arches to connect the site to Tidemill area, but these seem to be shelved for the time being. But the traffic chaos and impact of the noise and disturbance on the school make this work opposing, if nothing else.