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 Boris Urged to stand firm over Tideway Clean-up

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David Harvey

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PostSubject: Boris Urged to stand firm over Tideway Clean-up   Mon Feb 25, 2013 1:57 pm

Anglers join environment coalition in call for Mayor to back Thames Tunnel planning permission to end pollution and fish kills

The Angling Trust has joined the Thames Tunnel Now coalition of environmental and amenity groups to urge the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to put his weight behind the Thames Tunnel project ahead of its submission to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate on February 28th.

Thames Tunnel Now (TTN) is calling for the final progression of the tunnel to tackle the on-going sewage pollution of the River Thames, which has only worsened during 10 years of research and debate.

TTN member and Chairman of the Thames Anglers Conservancy, Dave Harvey said;

“A solution to the devastating raw sewage discharges is long overdue, and that solution is the Tideway Tunnel. To walk the foreshore after a discharge is to see human faeces, sanitary towels and condoms floating in the margins, its London’s dirty secret and we need to act now.”

The Mayor was an early supporter of the Thames Tunnel project, and TTN urges him to stand his ground and to not be swayed by the small number of highly vocal groups that oppose this essential project.

Boris Johnson wrote in his Telegraph column in September 2011:

“Unless we act, neither man nor beast will survive the Thames in 10 years’ time... We are facing the long-term deterioration in Thames water quality, and unless we act now I am afraid no one in their right mind will be swimming this river in 10 years’ time....it is time to recognise that we can no longer rely on Victorian capital, and why Thames Water is right to be consulting on its proposed super-sewer, known as the Thames Tideway Tunnel. It is a breathtakingly ambitious project, on a scale that would have attracted the approval of Brunel and Bazalgette themselves.”

London’s sewerage system, founded over 150 years ago, was future-proofed for a maximum of 2 million Londoners. Today, we are now almost 8 million and rising. Overflows pumped into the Thames were originally designed as a last resort in times of unnaturally high rainfall. Now however, our overloaded sewerage system forces untreated sewage into the River Thames after as little as 2mm of rain. London’s iconic river, which is used by over 30 watersports clubs and thousands of tourists and walkers each day, is contaminated with harmful pathogens, viruses and bacteria, such as E coli, hepatitis A and faecal streptococci. Indeed, these sewage discharges breach the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive; the UK would face the prospect of hefty fines, if the tunnel is not built.

Chief Executive of Thames21 Debbie Leach said:

“The Thames has made significant recovery in recent years, but we must have no doubt about the severity of the current situation; raw sewage is entering the river at least once a week, threatening not just the many fish, birds and mammals that depend on it, but human health too. We cannot afford to delay this desperately needed action any further if we want the Thames to maintain its role as a vital wildlife nursery, global tourist destination and source of recreation and respite for Londoners.”

Mark Lloyd from the Angling Trust added;

“ Thames anglers have been waiting 40 years for action to stop sewage pouring into the tideway and killing tens of thousands of fish each year. Millions of anglers will be watching to see that Boris doesn't wobble from his position of support for this vital project just because of a few riverside Nimbys.”

Enclosed Copy of letter to the Mayor

Boris Johnson
Mayor of London
Greater London Authority
City Hall
The Queen's Walk
More London, London SE1 2AA

Thames Tunnel Now
C/O Thames21
78 -83 Upper Thames Street
Walbrook Wharf
London


February 18, 2013

Dear Mr Johnson,

We are writing to you on behalf of Thames Tunnel Now, which, as you know, is a growing coalition of 25 environmental and wildlife charities and amenity groups representing around 5 million people, which came together in October 2011 to call for the end to sewage pollution in the tidal River Thames through the construction of the Thames Tideway Tunnel project. We firmly believe that this project is the right environmental solution to a very real and serious problem.

We are contacting you now as we understand that the formal planning application to build this long-awaited and much-needed piece of environmental infrastructure is due to be submitted to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate very shortly. Your support for cleaning up London’s river is well-documented and greatly appreciated by many thousands of our members and supporters.

You were absolutely right when you wrote in your Telegraph column in September 2011:

“Unless we act, neither man nor beast will survive the Thames in 10 years’ time... We are facing the long-term deterioration in Thames water quality, and unless we act now I am afraid no one in their right mind will be swimming this river in 10 years’ time....it is time to recognise that we can no longer rely on Victorian capital, and why Thames Water is right to be consulting on its proposed super-sewer, known as the Thames Tideway Tunnel. It is a breathtakingly ambitious project, on a scale that would have attracted the approval of Brunel and Bazalgette themselves.”

We also strongly support your statement that the Thames Tideway Tunnel is:

“…the right thing to do for the environment - and it is above all the right kind of thing to do for a country still struggling to get back to growth.”

Furthermore, your supportive and detailed submission last year to the Phase Two consultation was both welcome and much appreciated.

The reasons for continuing with your invaluable support for the project are as strong as ever, namely:

• London’s Victorian sewers can no longer cope. The city’s population is now eight million and rising. In a typical year millions of tonnes of untreated sewage discharge into the River Thames after as little as 2mm of rainfall. This shameful and unnecessary scenario has created unacceptable environmental and public health hazards.

• The sewage discharges breach the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive; British taxpayers would face the prospect of hefty fines, if the tunnel is not built.

• Other suggested alternatives to the Thames Tideway Tunnel such as retrofitting the whole of London with SuDS, if even practically possible, would cost much more and fail to deliver the required river quality improvements in the required timescale. However, we see Green Infrastructure (GI) as a vital complement to the Tunnel.

GI solutions such as SuDS are an essential part of localised water management in any urban setting - from handling run-off to aiding the mitigation of a changing climate, and should be rolled out across the capital. Importantly, it is not a choice between GI and the Tunnel, it is a matter of how to implement and afford both strategies.

• The project will be a massive boost for London’s economy, creating nine thousand jobs and much needed apprenticeship opportunities.

Furthermore we were pleased to see that the Chancellor listed the Thames Tunnel as one of the country’s top 40 priority infrastructure projects and that it still enjoys strong cross–party support. This followed many years of independent study concluding with the previous Labour Government in 2007 asking Thames Water to take forward the Thames Tunnel, a decision which was twice endorsed by the Coalition Government in September 2010 and November 2011 and again in the Water White Paper ‘Water for Life’, published December 2011. The support of your predecessor, Ken Livingstone, has also been extremely helpful, as has your commitment, both on environmental and economic grounds.

Although the economic advantages are important, as you would expect, our prime reason for backing the Thames Tunnel is on environmental grounds.

London’s sewerage system, founded over 150 years ago, has served the capital well, but urgently needs more capacity to meet the needs of modern-day London. Although the River Thames is capable of supporting greater wildlife diversity and has won recent awards for its improved condition these were contingent on the Tunnel going ahead. Without it the river will remain an environmental and public health hazard at times of CSO discharge.

These discharges now occur more than once a week on average and as little as 2 mm of rainfall can trigger a discharge. In wetter years like the one we’ve just experienced the discharges can increase threefold. Due to the ebb and flow of the tide, it can take up to three months for sewage that has entered the uppermost reaches of the Thames Tideway to reach the sea. The CSO discharges spew not just urine and faecal matter into the river, but also nearly 10,000 tonnes of litter every year including toilet paper, wipes, sanitary towels, condoms, cotton buds and other ‘flushable’ items. The hidden dangers include harmful pathogens, viruses and bacteria, such as E coli, hepatitis A and faecal streptococci.

There are 30 rowing, canoeing and sailing clubs that regularly make use of the tidal Thames. London’s anglers love to fish the tidal stretches and literally thousands of people use the foreshore every day. Hundreds of thousands of tourists cruise the River Thames every year. A cleaner, healthy River Thames is essential for the prosperity and global reputation of London and the country as a whole. The Thames Tunnel will ensure that the excellent progress made to clean up the river will not be reversed, and ensure the capital remains a flourishing business centre and tourist destination.

Other world-leading cities, including Paris, Stockholm, Helsinki and Washington DC, as well as the Rhine/Ruhr conurbation in Germany, are forging ahead with similar schemes. London is in danger of being left behind. Failure to address the growing levels of untreated sewage in Britain’s most historic river, a key national asset, would inevitably earn the country the tag of being the ‘dirty man of Europe’ once again. This would do untold damage to the country’s reputation around the world.

It cannot be acceptable to continue to allow the River Thames to be an open sewer.

As Lord Chris Smith, Chairman, Environment Agency has said:

“The River Thames has improved significantly over the last 20 years, but further improvements are needed to deal with the unsatisfactory overflows of sewage. London’s sewerage network has nearly reached its capacity. In future due to increased population and volume of sewage it will exceed its capacity. This will steadily worsen the impact of the overflows as they will spill sewage more frequently into the river. Doing nothing is not an option. We consider the Thames Tunnel the best solution available to limit pollution from sewage in the Thames”

In conclusion, we urge you to take note of the views of Londoners as a whole and not just the vocal and highly localised protest groups, most of which have given up questioning the need for the Tunnel in favour of wanting it built somewhere else. A recent survey demonstrated 85% support for the Thames Tunnel and this figure is even higher amongst members of the organisations we represent, many of whom are looking to you as our Mayor to provide clear leadership on this important issue.

We hope you will submit a formal representation to the IPC in support of the Thames Tideway Tunnel application so that we can not only have great river in our capital city, but one of which we can all be proud.

We would very much like to meet with you to discuss this issue, and look forward to your office contacting us.

Yours sincerely,

Thames Tunnel Now

Carlo Laurenzi OBE
Chief Executive
London Wildlife Trust

Debbie Leach
Chief Executive
Thames21


David Harvey
Chairman
Thames Anglers Conservancy

Peter Finch
Chairman
River Thames Society

Thames Tunnel Now (TTN). Members include:- The Ahoy Centre, Deptford, Association of Thames Yacht Clubs, Angling Trust, Barge Association, Canoe England, Chiswick Pier Trust, Inland Waterways Association, , London Sustainability Exchange, London Wildlife Trust, London Corinthian Sailing Club, London Youth Rowing, Mammal Society, Marine Conservation Society, National Association of Boat Owners, Putney Bridge Canoe Club, River Thames Society, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Rowers Against Thames Sewage, Salmon & Trout Association, Thames21, Thames Anglers Conservancy, Thames Rivers Restoration Trust, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, WWF.
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