NEW SUPER SEWER PLANS RAISE HOPES FOR KING'S STAIRS GARDENS
The Save King's Stairs Gardens Action Group has welcomed the news that the popular Rotherhithe park and playground is no longer Thames Water's preferred choice as a major construction site for the £4.1 billion Thames Tideway Tunnel (the 'super-sewer'). However the Group is disappointed that the park remains on the shortlist, meaning uncertainty will still affect thousands of park users, local residents and businesses for some time to come.
Thames Water originally earmarked the park as its preferred site for a massive seven-year programme of works to excavate the main tunnel and connections to sewer overflows to the east and west. Thousands of people, along with Southwark Council, local MP Simon Hughes, London Assembly members, conservationist David Bellamy, local newspapers, businesses and organisations, protested vigorously at this choice, insisting that green open spaces should not be destroyed and demanding that an alternative brownfield site be found for these works. King's Stairs Gardens is one of the very few remaining river-fronting parks in inner London, and forms part of the Thames Path, the Jubilee Greenway and the London Cycle Network.
"To give Thames Water credit," says Donna Spedding, Chair of the Action Group, "they did listen to our arguments during the first phase of their public consultation which ended earlier this year. Last Friday they released their plans for a Phase 2 consultation, in which they recognize that greenfield sites are not appropriate as construction sites.
"They've identified and acquired an undeveloped brownfield site at Chambers Wharf which is now their preferred site. That choice in itself raises a lot of questions, as we know that Southwark Council and a great many local residents feel that it is also unsuitable for works of this scale. We still believe that Thames Water hasn't given enough consideration to all the possible alternatives which could avoid this area altogether, and it seems unfair that Southwark, which only has a single sewer overflow, is going to have to host such hugely disruptive works along its glorious riverside.
"Thames Water's new plans also propose reversing the tunnelling direction of the main sewer, so that it will be driven from Southwark towards their Abbey Mills Pumping Station in Stratford rather than the other way round. That means huge amounts of spoil will have to be removed on our local riverfront rather than at Abbey Mills. From the outset they said that King's Stairs Gardens is not suitable as a drive site so there seems to be no point in keeping our park on the shortlist - it just isn't suitable by their own criteria.
"However it is on the whole good news for King's Stairs Gardens. But we're going to continue our fight until our park is removed entirely from the shortlist. We'll certainly be asking Thames Water a lot of questions and making a robust response to this new consultation.
"Meanwhile, we really appreciate all that local people in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe, and their elected representatives, have done to force Thames Water to modify their plans. People power does work, but we have to remain vigilant and we’re relying on all of our supporters to respond to Thames Water’s Phase 2 consultation and to keep up the pressure to make sure they keep their hands off our park."
Thames Water's Phase 2 consultation documents and response forms are at http://bit.ly/sewerphase2.
The Save King’s Stairs Gardens Action Group's website is at http://saveksg.com.