Not everyone agrees that the Thames Tideway Tunnel, a 15-mile concrete drainpipe under the river bed, is the best way to solve foul-water spillages; but the scheme has Government approval and is going ahead. Even more people disagree with the choice of Carnwath Road Riverside in South Fulham as a main drill-site. Thames Water’s original plan was to drill at Barn Elms, which is 250m from the nearest human habitation. For whatever reason, they then settled on Carnwath Road, which is surrounded by housing, some of it sheltered, the nearest less than 10 metres away. And this too received Government approval.

As was inevitable, and widely predicted, residents are enduring heavy traffic noise and fumes on the road, dust in the air, invasion by displaced rodents, and – worst of all – light and noise at night at busy times. Worryingly, none of this breaches the levels set in the Government directive. Tideway (the managing organisation) and their three contracted construction firms (known collectively as BMB) try to be as helpful as they think they can, but ultimately they are under Government orders to get the job done. Hammersmith and Fulham Council have been tireless in monitoring the work and trying to support the neighbouring residents; but again there is a strict limit to how much they can intervene. There is an Independent Compensation Panel, but its terms of reference have proved resistant to giving reparation to any but those who are certified ill or disabled. Residents understandably feel that the dice are loaded heavily against them. At times their feelings boil over, and a recent survey was virtually unanimous in calling on the Council to use their powers to refuse permission for a further period of night-time work.

All this has been going on for nearly two years, and yet is still at the stage of preparing the site. Actual tunnelling is not due to start till early 2019, and will then be 14 months of 24-hour work. The project will not be complete for at least another 5 years; to judge from delays so far, probably quite a lot longer. After that there will be flats built on a large part of the site. For the residents of Carnwath Road, it is a bleak prospect indeed.

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Work on the Carnwarth Road site started early in 2017.

There was standing room only at the  public meeting held on the 23rd November at Thomas’s School Hugon Road. A question and answer session where the representatives for Thames Tideway didn’t seem to have many of the details that might be expected at this stage, the numbers of vehicle movements as opposed to the use of the river.

Several years ago, Mr. Phil Stride from Thames Water (“TW”) came to address the Society’s Executive Committee in order to explain the need, and TW’s plans, for a new tunnel under the Thames which would run from Hammersmith to Beckton in East London so as to reduce the growing problem of the capital’s Victorian sewers overflowing into the river Thames. It was also needed, he claimed, in order to comply with the EU’s Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive.

 

At the time we welcomed this initiative – until we discovered that one of the 4 main shafts for the Tunnel was scheduled to be in the heart of Fulham – in Carnwath Road. TW’s initial plan for this shaft was to dig it on Barn Elms, a vast open space in Putney, but this was eventually ruled out after a vociferous and noisy campaign by the residents of Putney headed by their MP Zac Goldsmith. Some of the reasons given by TW for ruling out Barn Elms were: that it was a greenfield site; that it was Metropolitan Open Land; and that the large barges needed to carry away the spoil were too bulky to get through Putney Bridge. They preferredNobis Cartel to sink the shaft in the Carnwath Road site because it was a brownfield site and because it already hosted two wharves. This decision was greeted with dismay by: the many people living in or close to Carnwath Road, numerous local organisations (including the Fulham Society), Hammersmith & Fulham Council, and the local MP Mr. Greg Hands.

 

A number of legitimate objections were raised during the campaign against the Carnwath Road site, such as: the huge number of lorry movements needed to and from the site all along narrow and already crowded London roads; its very close proximity not only to many local houses and flats, but also to the extremely busy Hitchcock & King builders’ merchants; the need to close and demolish a very busy retail park; the fact that the cost of the tunnel would saddle all customers of TW with a hefty increase in their annual water bills; and – most importantly – that a tunnel was not only hugely expensive but also unnecessary as there were other better and far cheaper means of achieving TW’s desired ends.

 

TW rejected all of these arguments, and the matter was referred in June 2013 to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate which appointed a Panel of 5 Examining Inspectors to study the matter and report. This group has held a large number of open meetings both general and locally up and down the route of the proposed tunnel, including two in Fulham, and it completed its deliberations in March 2014. At every opportunity, H & F Council as well as the group representing local interests have argued that Barn Elms would be a far better option for a Main Shaft than the Carnwath Road site. The Panel’s conclusions have now been sent jointly to the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government as well as to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. At the time of writing their conclusions are awaited.