News

22nd February Meeting Report

We had an excellent turn out to Tuesday night’s Save KSG Action Group meeting, with over 100 in attendance. It is really great to see how the community has come together on this and the unwavering political support for the campaign. King’s Stairs Gardens is unique, it is vital for our community and the environment, is of importance to a far greater audience – cyclists, walkers, tourists to name but a few and it is an area that showcases London’s history and provides great views of the Thames and the capital’s landmarks. It is important that a green space like KSG, in a densely populated area, is protected for future generations. All of this has been recognised by thousands, including Thames Water’s officials. Excellent progress has been made in convincing Thames Water that it must not destroy green spaces unnecessarily, however, we need to keep up all the efforts until King’s Stairs Gardens is officially removed from Thames Water’s list.

Richard AylardThe meeting followed Thames Water’s announcement that it had purchased the brownfield site of Chambers Wharf, in conjunction with St James Group Ltd, as a possible worksite for the Thames Tunnel and alternative to King’s Stairs Gardens. Richard Aylard, Thames Water’s External Affairs and Sustainability Director addressed the meeting and he was joined by Derek Arnold, Malcolm Orford and Nick Tennant. He explained that Thames Water and St James now jointly own the riverside parcel of land. St James owns the section to the south of Chambers Street in its own right. He talked about the potential benefits of using the brownfield site –
  • They can use the site without felling trees;
  • They will not interfere with recreation or the Thames path;
  • It is not Metropolitan Open Land;
  • It has planning permission and will be developed anyway;
  • There is no requirement for a jetty and it will provide them with better river access where they can bring in 1200 tonne barges;
  • It is closer to the change in geology, which allows for more efficient construction of the tunnel.
He discussed the next steps, where Thames Water will hold local exhibitions, carry out detailed assessments of the site and work with the Port of London Authority and the Environment Agency. They have arranged two exhibitions where local people can discuss Thames Water’s plans in more detail and ask questions. These will be held at the Beormund Community Centre on 11th March (10am – 7pm) and 12th March (10am – 4pm). The preferred site will be formally announced no later than September 2011.

Video of the announcement

The Save KSG Action Group welcomed the fact that Thames Water is now looking at a brownfield site for its Thames Tunnel construction works, following the wealth of opposition to their plans for King’s Stairs Gardens from politicians, press, community and environmental groups, thousands of members of the public and of course, our Action Group. Thames Water had told us many times that they were listening and were working hard behind the scenes on an alternative solution and we can now see the evidence of its commitment.

We continued to call for King’s Stairs Gardens to be removed from Thames Water’s list given the clear evidence that is held to show the park to be completely unacceptable and when everything is taken in to account it should never have been put forward as the preferred site for the Phase 1 consultation. We also questioned Thames Water on alternative engineering solutions to bring in more brownfield options. Furthermore, we stressed that it is not for the group to say if Chambers Wharf is the most suitable brownfield site - our key message still remains brownfield not greenfield – and that Thames Water needs to provide information to Chambers Wharf local residents about how they can carry out the Thames Tunnel works and the home building together, whilst minimising disruption and how the structures can be incorporated in to the overall Chambers Wharf development. Richard Aylard confirmed that Thames Water and St James will deliver all of the commitments outlined in the existing planning permission, including the agreed Section 106 monies.

It is noted that Chambers Wharf will not in itself provide an alternative solution to the Alfred Salter playground in Druid Street, however, Thames Water is working on other ways to avoid this area. We look forward to hearing more on this.

Simon HughesOur MP, Rt Hon Simon Hughes attended the meeting and spoke about Chambers Wharf being the more logical site. He has since written to us and made this statement “Thames Water have made a very logical and sensible decision. In working out plans for a new main shaft site for a new Thames sewage tunnel, they have decided now to look elsewhere at an alternative undeveloped brown field site in not a mature and much loved public park. The case to avoid King's Stairs Gardens was strong and powerfully made. The new proposed alternative site must of course be subject to the same rigorous scrutiny. I will work with local residents, organisations, and councillors to make sure this is done. And I will make sure any future site decisions are taken by the same careful type of decision-making process as the decision about King's Stairs Gardens."

Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, who met with us in King’s Stairs Gardens in November has also released a statement “this super-sewer must not create avoidable local misery, so I was pleased last November along with local LibDem councillors and MP Simon Hughes to bring Thames Water representatives to King's Stairs Gardens where they heard local residents' fears about construction on this much-valued park and children's playground. I subsequently urged Thames Water in my own consultation response to heed those strong objections, so I'm delighted that their purchase of an alternative site shows they have indeed listened. If doing the construction work at Chambers Wharf, as a brownfield site, would be less disruptive of the lives and well-being of the local community, I fully support this move."

London Assembly Member, Valerie Shawcross was in touch on Tuesday. Val is extremely happy that we have now made such terrific progress after a stunning campaign. Val thinks that KSG should now be safe, but will obviously be happy to continue her support and help should it be needed. She added that she will work with the residents near Chambers Wharf to do what she can to see that the construction project is as environmentally and neighbour friendly as possible.

London Assembly Member, Darren Johnson has also been in touch. Darren said “It looks as if Thames Water have listened to public opinion and are set to jetison their plans to build on King’s Stairs Gardens. I would like to congratulate local people for standing up and making their voice heard. People power really can make all the difference.”

Southwark Councillors were unable to attend as the meeting clashed with the Council’s budget setting meeting, however, Southwark Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport, Environment and Recycling, Barrie Hargrove and leader of Southwark’s Liberal Democrats, Anood Al-Samerai provided us with statements that were read out on the night. Extracts from those statements are below -

Cllr Anood said “We are very pleased that Thames Water has accepted that the green space at King’s Stairs Gardens is not a suitable site and that they are seriously pursuing an alternative brownfield site. Both residents and councillors need to know much more about the detail of proposals for Chambers Wharf before we comment fully. However, our initial thoughts are that it would be a far more sensible solution given residents there were expecting development to take place on that site and I understand from Thames Water that their work could dove-tail with the homes building which would minimise disruption. Furthermore, if the final Thames Water structure is part of the new development and effectively hidden within it, this will be significantly better than it being placed in a park. On behalf of all the Liberal Democrat councillors in Southwark I formally congratulate you, Donna, and all the team for an excellent campaign for which all the community is extremely grateful.”

Cllr Barrie Hargrove said “To our friends the Save King’s Stairs Campaign from the Labour Cabinet on Southwark Council. Friends, we are delighted by the news that Thames Water is actively seeking an alternative site to the beautiful and much loved King’s Stairs Gardens green space and riverside walk. This has been the culmination of a truly impressive campaign mounted at very short notice during the second half of last year after Thames Water announced that they were consulting on building a reception site containing a massive draft shaft in the heart of this Metropolitan Open Land. We have supported you from the inception of the campaign and will continue to do so for as long as it remains necessary.”

We will continue to campaign for King’s Stairs Gardens to be removed from Thames Water’s list, seek regular updates from the company and work closely with organisations, individuals and our elected officials who have given us so much support and for which we are extremely grateful.

Full details of the meeting will be provided in the minutes, however, I would like to mention two other matters in this e-mail –

1. Consultation on the new Edward III’s Rotherhithe Conservation Area which covers King’s Stairs Gardens – members of Southwark Council’s Design and Conservation team will be at the Angel from 4pm – 8pm on the 15th March to receive comments on this. The new conservation area will add another layer of protection to the area. Please attend if you can or write to Chris Constable at Regeneration and Neighbourhoods, Planning & Transport, Development Management, PO Box 64529, London SE1P 5LX or by e-mail to designconservation@southwark.gov.uk. The consultation ends on the 31st March 2011;

2. EDF’s deep cable tunnel plans - Gary Glover, Chair of the Friends of Southwark Park, spoke at the meeting on this subject and many of us would have received a letter from Southwark Council.
The letter details the “use of an area within Southwark Park as a construction site for about two years to excavate a deep pit and load tipper trucks with spoil whilst it tunnels under the park up to the river. Construct and maintain a permanent tunnel of about 2.5m diameter about 25m down, containi
ng high voltage cables routed approximately through both King’s Stairs Gardens and Southwark Park northwards into the city. It is important to note that as the tunnel construction will take place approx. 25m underground, there will be limited disruption above ground, with the exception of the proposed construction area. There are no plans to have a construction site within King’s Stairs Gardens. The proposed construction site will be located in the south east corner of Southwark Park, adjacent to China Hall Gate between the junction of Lower Road and Hawkstone Road and about 4000m2 in area. Vehicles removing excavated soil will use China Hall Gate as an entrance/exit point, it will be necessary to remove sections of fence and possibly a gate pillar to allow easier access. These would be safely stored and reinstated at the end of the works.”

Gary GloverGary Glover will provide updates from his forthcoming meetings and I will pass this on to the Save KSG e-mail group as agreed at Tuesday’s meeting. Southwark Council’s Parks & Open Spaces Service are consulting on this, however, this consultation closes on the 28th February. You can contact Sharon Lomas, Parks Service Development Officer at sharon.lomas@southwark.gov.uk with questions or concerns.