Friday, September 12, 2014

Thames Tunnel decision – a blow for Deptford

You may have heard on the news that the government have given the go ahead for the Thames Tideway Tunnel. And if you visit this blog often you'll know there's been a local campaign to stop Thames Water building a 17m wide 48m deep shaft on the Crossfields green space on Deptford Church Street.

The campaign initiated by Don't Dump on Deptford's Heart started in 2011. This year we reported in detail the well attended Open Floor Hearings held by the Planning Inspectorate at Deptford Lounge in February. Also that month, along with a small number of Crossfields residents and others, we took part in some air quality testing to map the pollution levels on Deptford Church Street, surrounding areas and beyond. We announced the shocking results in May. The aim was show to how the partial closure of Deptford Church Street required to build a tunnel shaft at this site would have a severe impact on local residents.

Whilst the final decision on the Thames Tunnel was in the hands of the Secretaries of State, the Deptford High Street Garden Association began to develop a container garden on the Deptford Church Street site.

The campaign by Don't Dump on Deptford's Heart (with assistance this year from Joan Ruddock MP, plus Joe Dromey and Brenda Dacre who have since become New Cross councillors), the opposition of Lewisham Council, plus the work done by a few folk on Crossfields, all seems to have made an impression on the Examining Authority. In their view "the use of the Green as a work site would be a serious loss to the local community" and even with the mitigation measures proposed by Thames Water, there will be significant impacts on St Joseph's School and St Paul's Church. But...

The Secretaries of State Decision Letter and Statement of Reasons can be found here. A paragraph on Air Quality mentions the local air quality testing we did in February:
"(para 28) The independent Deptford air quality surveys contained within representations from J.Ruddock MP / S. Lawes agree with the findings of the Applicant that Deptford’s current air quality has pollutants in excess of EU targets. The Report states that the construction phase of the tunnel will add to pollution levels in Deptford. The ExA conclude that this increase will not be substantial and the Secretaries of State agree with this and are content that the impact is acceptable". 
The section on Deptford Church Street can be found in paragraphs 113-115:
"113. The Secretaries of State accept that the ExA’s examination revealed limitations with this site, particularly in terms of loss of open space in an area of deprivation and in respect of noise impacts on St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Primary School and on St Paul’s Church, for a period of three and half years during construction."

"114. The Secretaries of State acknowledge that the ExA consider the loss of open space at this site to be a matter weighing against making the Order. They agree with the ExA, that Crossfield Amenity Green is not surplus to requirements and that even the temporary period in which it will be used as a work site will represent a serious loss to the community. However, the Secretaries of State agree with the ExA that the impact will be mitigated and the adverse impact on the landscape will be reversed . They also note that it will be open to the local authority to secure with the Applicant through the consent process under section 61 of the Control of Pollution Act 23 1974, additional mitigation measures in the form of noise enclosures, to help minimise noise impacts predicted on receptors."

"115. The Secretaries of State agree that the alternative sites considered offer no less significant impacts, that the need for, and benefits of, the project overall outweigh the adverse effects and the temporary loss of open space, and are satisfied that impacts are mitigated as far as practicable since some disruption is unavoidable in a project of this scale."
The actual Planning Inspectorate's recommendations on which the Secretaries of State have based their decision can be found here. Skip through the huge report to page 357 to find out what they said about the site at Deptford Church Street.

Because campaigners had focused on the only alternative presented by Thames Water (another 'interceptor site' at Borthwick Wharf) the panel restricted themselves to considering only that alternative. They did not look in detail at previously suggested alternatives. And they did not think Borthwick Wharf was suitable either because it was so close to people's homes. Never mind that one residential home at Millennium Quay was given the same weighting (as a "receptor") as one whole school of a few hundred children at Deptford Church Street!

The panel noted that Thames Water had not presented the alternative "of avoiding the use of an interception site by redirecting the storm overflow direct to Greenwich Pumping Station, which is only approximately 400m from the Deptford Church Street site". Unbeknownst to us, the panel questioned Thames Water on this but they demonstrated that such a proposal was much worse – including the requirement to demolish the Birds Nest pub!

The Planning Inspectorate concluded that "a suitable alternative is not before us" and consequently the government have approved the Deptford Church Street site.

Now, as the news sinks in, there's a bit of fighting talk about judicial reviews on the whole project, or trying to get better mitigation locally. If you want to contribute to the debate, get in touch with our local councillor Joe Dromey.

But the Thames Tideway Tunnel isn't the only juggernaut heading our way. Whilst the development at Convoys Wharf (which, from a Crossfields point of view, will bring hundreds of HGVs thundering down our road) can be partly blamed on the policies of the current Mayor of London, Lewisham Council's own plans for our little area are not that short of a steamroller...


  1. Thanks for this Sue. Real shame that despite all the evidence we provided of the damage this will do, they still went ahead. There is more we can do though and I think we need to keep up the pressure on Thames Water to ensure we get decent mitigation for the school, church and Crossfields residents.

    Regarding the other developments, Convoys has obviously been taken out of our hands by the wisdom of Boris. Happy to discuss the others though. I know there are some concerns about the developments on Creekside but we are desperately short of housing in the area so we do need to build more. Keen to work closely with people on this though and happy to discuss

    1. Joe, will any of these new developments be able to take families off the B&B lists which I believe the reports to mayor and cabinet on September 3rd stands at 444?

    2. I'm sure you're busy Joe, but a reply would be courteous when you have a moment

    3. Hi amb. Sorry for delay in replying. I'm not sure about this but could look into it if you want? We're really keen to get this number down. Not only is it a big drain on our much-strained budget, but - much more importantly - we want people to have decent, stable and secure homes. We're building 500 Council houses in the next four years as part of 2,000 affordable homes in the borough. I'll certainly be pushing for as much affordable and social housing in the area as possible. Drop me an email if you want to find out more -

  2. Thank you for highlighting the key points. I am extremely disappointed that despite our valid arguments and the great campaign that common sense has not prevailed.

    We will continue to work together with the community to mitigate this devastating blow.

    Brenda Dacres

  3. San, even if you don't consider 'dogshit park' a valuable lung (rather than heart) in the area, it is hardly Nimbyish to object to the partial road closure and the resulting increase in pollution from stationery gridlocked vehicles, exacerbated by construction vehicles from all the other developments and the removal of bus lanes for up to three years...

  4. @Sue, yes dumping your problem on residents a few blocks away falls under NIMBYism. As you already vehemently oppose Convoys, those people are directly next to the site, so I'm sure you want to spare them from this?

    @amb- Yes having those new developments is a great boost for social housing. What is the percentage that needs to be included, 30%? What is your alternative, wait for Santa to come from the sky and build 100% social housing for free?
    Seeing also the criticism on the post about Kent wharf, NIMBY-ism seems to be rife here. Everybody their own opinion, I suppose. Some people seem to prefer looking at an industrial dump rather than have some regeneration going on..guess that's allowed as well.

    1. Anonymous, who's dumping the problem on residents a few blocks away? TW reduced their options to two, one of which was Borthwick Wharf, where spoil could be removed by river. No schools or churches there, just residents who couldn't even be bothered to turn up to the meetings at the Lounge or Ahoy Centre. Turns out TW would have to run lorries through the private roads of Millennium Quay, but only a tiny part of Millennium Quay will be affected by the Convoys development. New Paynes & Borthwick residents will be affected by both (although not the lorry traffic from TW).

      But Crossfields will be affected by both the construction and the traffic of the tunnel, plus the HGVs from Convoys, plus the HGVs from the three planned developments on Creekside, plus we're already having to undergo Major Works and will be a building site till the middle of 2015 when all these works start.

      You don't say where you live, but if it's Millennium Quay, you're getting off very lightly indeed. Why shouldn't you get a share of the shit?

  5. By the way, thought the whole action on pollution was a very good thing, I def. support that concern!

    1. Yes, we'll all be affected by the increase in traffic on Creek Road. Watergate St and New King Street residents already suffer rat running from drivers escaping the gridlock, like Creekside. Millennium Quay won't though.

  6. Hi Sue, why conflate the sewer project (which will end outflow into Deptford Creek) with property spivs building high density housing on every available postage-stamp-sized plot in SE8, selling off-plan to offshore criminals? They're not the same. Oh, and Anon: it's by-and-large not 'social housing' it's 'affordable housing'. Those things aren't the same either.

  7. This post badly needs some visuals.
    Yards of Plannerspeak are not very informative.

    1. Biginabox, do you want some photos of sewers?!!
      If you click on the story links you'll find some pictures...and more digestible information.