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KING'S STAIRS GARDENS STILL AT RISK FROM ‘SUPER SEWER’ WORKS

Rotherhithe residents are up in arms at the news that the riverside park and playground at King's Stairs Gardens is still on Thames Water's shortlist as a major worksite for the planned 'super sewer' tunnel.

Roger Bilder, Chair of the Save King's Stairs Gardens Action Group, told us that "At our meeting on Tuesday evening we asked Phil Stride, the head of the tunnel project, why King's Stairs Gardens remains on the shortlist although they have spent millions acquiring a new brownfield site at Chambers Wharf. He replied that he can't foresee what might happen and that there has to be an option to bring their works back to our park, just in case.

"This was really disappointing and infuriating news for us. It means that the many thousands of local people and visitors who use, love and depend on King's Stairs Gardens will still have this threat hanging over them for years to come - at the very least until 2016 when tunnelling work is currently scheduled to begin.

"It seems that Thames Water want to keep all their options open for as long as possible, and never mind the continuing blight on our communities nor the massive opposition to their plans as expressed in their recent public consultations.

"What's more, they now aim to use their currently preferred Southwark site at Chambers Wharf as a main tunnel drive site. Should they decide later to come back to King's Stairs Gardens, that would mean significantly bigger and more disruptive works than they originally proposed. These would take up not just the northern half of the park as they intended when they sought to use it as an intermediate/reception site, but virtually the whole area of this green open space, Rotherhithe's precious village green. And they have never consulted anyone on that plan."

At the meeting both Simon Hughes MP and senior Southwark Council Cabinet member Barrie Hargrove reiterated their strong opposition to the use of either King's Stairs Gardens or Chambers Wharf as tunnelling sites, citing the immense disruptive effects on residents and the local area.

Phil Stride also revealed that it was "likely" that the construction of the tunnel would not be carried out by Thames Water themselves, but by another water company. Said Bilder, "That revelation raises a whole raft of new questions about the financing, ownership and ongoing costs of the tunnel.

"The Government is really going to have to re-assess this whole project, especially as Thames Water customers and the taxpayer are going to have to fund it while the company distributes its vast profits to shareholders and expects the rest of us to pick up the tab for what looks increasingly like an expensive white elephant."

The proposed £4.1bn ‘super sewer’ is intended to help deal with sewage overflows into the Thames during heavy rainfall. Some 24 worksites across London have been chosen to carry out a seven-year programme of works. There has been significant public and political opposition to many of these choices, and the Mayor of London has called for a rethink on several of them.