Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thames Tunnel in Deptford

There's a public meeting tonight (7:30 pm, Tuesday 15 November) of the campaign against the use of a green space on Deptford Church Street as a worksite for the construction of the Thames Tunnel 'Super Sewer' system. The meeting, with Thames Tunnel representatives present, takes place in the Salvation Army Hall on Mary Ann Gardens, Deptford. There are also Thames Water consultation events later in the week at the Creekside Centre on Creekside (Thursday 17 November from 2pm to 8pm; Friday 18 November from 2.30pm to 8.30pm; Saturday 19 November from 10am to 4pm).

The aim of the Thames Tunnel project is to put in place a major new sewer to tackle the problem of overflows from the capital’s Victorian sewers into the River Thames. According to Thames Tunnel, 'The site would be used to connect the existing local CSO [Combined Sewer Overflow], known as the Deptford Storm Relief CSO, to the main tunnel via a long connection tunnel, known as the Greenwich connection tunnel' (full details of Thames Tunnel plans here).

If the proposed works go ahead the land will be a construction site for at least three and a half years, and afterwards there will permanently be sewer vents and a work “kiosk” for Thames Water on site. Don't Dump on Deptford's Heart say: 'This public green in Deptford’s town centre lies between Deptford Church Street, Coffey Street and Crossfield Street. It is one of the few leafy open spaces in Deptford’s urban environment. A lot of money and time is being spent on making the centre of town a better place to live and work but undertaking construction works by building a shaft 45 meters deep and 17 meters in diameter to the sewers on our park and leaving us with sewer vents and a Thames Water work “kiosk” would only detract from these improvements'.

As a project, the Thames Tunnel sounds like A Very Good Thing and clearly the construction sites have to go somewhere. But Bill Ellson makes some interesting points at Deptford Misc about 'Environmental Justice', the argument that polluting industries tend to get disproportionately located in poorer areas: 'Here in Deptford the previously preferred bore site near Borthwick Wharf, where spoil could have left by river, has been replaced by a site in Deptford Church Street, where spoil will leave by road. According to Londonist a bore site at Barn Elms, Barnes has been replaced as the preferred option by a site at Carnwath Road, Wandsworth. The picture is not entirely clear, but it is hard not to suspect that what has actually happened is that sites near middle class riverside developments have been replaced by sites in poorer areas'.

I had similar thoughts over the summer when I walked over Bridge House Meadows in New Cross (once the site of the New Cross Stadium). This green space has been turned into a massive spoil heap for the London Overground extension between Surrey Quays and Clapham Junction (pictured below). Again a socially useful engineering project, but you can't really imagine something like this being dumped in somewhere like Dulwich Park or Clapham Common without a massive row.

A campaign to prevent King's Stairs Gardens in Rotherhithe being used as construction site seems to have been successful for now, though it remains a reserve site.


Deptford Dame said...

From what I understand, there are in fact some technical issues with the first site that were considerations in the decision. The problems with the site on the Thames foreshore were 1) road access to the site (even if spoil were taken away by barge, such a site would still generate quite a lot of highway traffic) and 2) the fact that a permanent structure would have to be built out into the Thames to house the kiosk and ventilation pipes as there is nowhere else they could be built at that site. The latter in particular would further encroach on the flood capacity of the river itself, something which the Environment Agency is strongly opposed to in the face of rising sea levels. Whether or not the vocal opposition by local residents at the riverside site had any impact on the decision remains to be seen, since the 'Don't dump' campaign is well-organised and also very vocal, and has strong backing from St Paul's Church and many local residents as well a whole load of Lewisham councillors.

Deptford Pudding said...

What a shame about Bridge House Meadows. For nearly a year I visited them everyday while my mum in law was in the nearby care home. There is or was a really nice wild walk through derelict land going under many railway lines from the meadows, passing Millwall, and northwards. I never quite made it to the end and always wondered how long it'd stay untouched. I suppose thats the land earmarked for the Surrey Canal development.

Deptford Dame said...

@deptford pudding in fact TFL intends to reinstate and improve Bridge House meadows once the line is built (although of course it will have a line running through it) - but you're right, the land on the other side of Surrey Canal Road will be redeveloped. At least local residents are now getting a station at the end, but I am still disappointed that they have had to suffer without this vital little 'green lung' for so long. In this case I do agree that it could well have been a lack of organised protest from the largely deprived estates surrounding the park that enabled TFL to take over the park with little resistance.

Transpontine said...

@Deptford Dame - I certainly don't think it could be said that the current residents near to Borthwick Wharf are more 'middle class' than those around Deptford Church Street.

Whether the projected future gentrification of the riverside (and/or higher land values) is a factor I am not sure. As you say there may also be technical reasons, such as the fact that the roads (Borthwick St) might not be wide enough for that kind of traffic.

Whether Deptford Church Street is the only alternative to Borthwick Wharf is something no doubt campaigners will be arguing.

Deptford Dame said...

@transpontine who mentioned class? My second point was about Bridge House Meadows and related to levels of deprivation.

Transpontine said...

You didn't mention class, but Bill did in his post which I quoted. I thought you were taking issue with his view that the shift from Borthwick may have been related to this, and I was agreeing with you that there were other reasons why the riverside site might not be suitable.
Though I do think that Bill makes a good wider point about works being located in poorer areas, partly in my view because people have less social capital (e.g. connections to the media, councillors, blogs etc) so their concerns don't register with decision-makers in the same way. We seem to agree that Bridge House Meadows could be seen as an example of that.