Campaign Update and Section 48 Response
Dear Kempers, it has been a while, has it not?
Things seem to be quiet on the ugly Super Sewer front and yet I can assure you that much is still being done by our team, by our elected representatives and Tower Hamlets’ officers to ensure that our park is saved from destruction.
We have gone from marching, demonstrating, camping out and collecting signatures in all sorts of weather to what is now effectively a political chess game. I know many of you mourn the lack of direct action (it was rather fun although bloody hard work) but please rest assured that our guard is not down.
I am very pleased to see that the strength of the community’s feeling has not diminished: not one day goes by without people asking me “How is it going?” or “Is the park safe now?”
So what has been happening? First of all, SaveKEMP and Tower Hamlets have kept regular meetings with Thames Water. But there are a few other events worthy of note. On 31st August, Boris Johnson wrote to Martin Baggs asking for a reassessment of their Super Sewer plans. He did mention KEMP directly, alongside other “troublesome sites”, thanking TW for examining alternatives and for the mitigations offered so far but also asking why they persist in wanting to impact the park at all costs. Later in September, our GLA Member, John Biggs, has asked Boris for an even more direct approach (note that this question was suggested by a constituent so there is still lots YOU can do to keep our elected representatives on the ball by lobbying them!). Here is the text of the question with the Mayor’s answer:
King Edward Memorial Park
Question No: 2570 / 2012
A constituent has asked me to put the following question to you.
In your election campaign you said that you would review the sewage works plans of the private, foreign-owned Thames Water Corporation.
What have you done to get the plan changed from destroying King Edward Memorial Park and using instead an alternative plan that preserves the riverside park in the East End and takes the tunnel through an industrial estate?
If the answer is nothing, then what are you going to do?
Written response from the Mayor
I wrote to the Government suggesting a review of the project given my concerns about the overall cost and the construction impacts at a number of sites. I have also written to Thames Water again seeking to understand why it is absolutely necessary to use the park as a construction site and what Thames Water propose doing to minimise any impact on the park during construction and what reinstatements they propose post-construction.
Both Tower Hamlets’ Council and our campaign have submitted responses to the section 48 Consultation. In case you are confused as to what this is, Section 48 Consultation period is the final public consultation carried out by Thames Water and it publicises the information they intend to send to the Government’s new Planning Inspectorate. They have asked for comments back from local bodies and the public which we suspect they will largely ignore. Then in January, TW will send their Development Consent Order (DCO) application to government; after that it is out of Thames Water’s hands. The central government Planning Inspectorate, known as PINS, will look at the submission and has 28 days to accept it based on certain legal criteria. SaveKEMP will raise an objection at this point as we believe the consultation process was not carried out properly. PINS will then carry out their own investigation and may call on Local Authorities and the public to attend hearings. This is another chance for the community to be heard. Once PINS have made their decision, the Secretary of State will have three months to consider the decision, another opportunity to lobby government and allow local people to have their say. The decision by the Secretary of State can then be challenged by judicial review. Tower Hamlets have said publicly, that if the KEMP foreshore is still targeted, they are prepared to take legal action.
In our response to Section 48, we have told Thames Water, in no uncertain terms, that a) despite the feasibility of the Heckford plans, TW has chosen to unfairly side-line them thus spoiling Consultation Phase 2 by not offering the public the whole situation but just selected information; b) that their two consultations have not been carried out appropriately and have dismally failed to take into account the views of the consultees; c) that the reasons for keeping the foreshore as their preferred site are utterly ludicrous. Here are some salient points from our submission:
a) [SaveKEMP], in collaboration with the local authority (LBTH), have proposed a number of alternative brownfield sites and after receiving a letter from Mayor Johnson and the Greater London Authority, Thames Water stated that the Heckford Street Industrial Estate would be viable in engineering terms and be cost neutral. Thames Water then spent considerable time and money developing plans for the brownfield site at Heckford, so much so that, by [Thames Water’s] own admission, this is now the best developed alternative site on the Thames Tideway project. Indeed, [Phil Stride] personally stated that the plans for Heckford Street Industrial Estate are as developed as the plans for KEMP. Despite this Thames Water chose not to include the plans for Heckford within the Phase Two Public Consultation and [TW] elected to classify it alongside sites that could never achieve the engineering needs of the Tideway project despite strong the objections of GLA, LBTH and SaveKEMP members. During both Phase One and Phase Two Public Consultation’s, we encountered a refusal by Thames Water to release all available information which would allow the scheme to be reviewed fully and transparently. We are also aware of numerous cases where information was verbally overstated or understated to ensure Thames Water’s preferred site was seen in a more favorable light during public consultation meetings and at drop-in centre events. Despite these setbacks, Thames Water received 1,455 objections to your preferred scheme during the Phase Two public consultation, including strong opposition from the LBTH Council. [TW was] also presented with a petition with signatures from ten thousand, five hundred and fourteen people who call on you to use a brownfield site for your works. This is a clear message from the local community that working on the greenfield sites in the park, children’s playground, riverside walkway and riverfront at King Edward Park is not acceptable. A brownfield alternative must be used.
b) Upon study of the Phase Two Consultation Response Report, it is our belief that Thames Water has not fully considered responses from the community. The very real concerns of consultees have not been addressed and there has not been adequate justification for TW views within the response report. We are also of the view that a large section of our local community were not adequately consulted with. Your Community Consultation Strategy Report states you will ensure: “our consultation methods are appropriate to the community concerned and “we identify harder to reach groups and appropriate methods to communicate with such groups, including any need for translated material on request”. However the record shows that LBTH and SaveKEMP have requested translated consultation material on numerous occasions and TW’s response was to state there was a language line available to translate between TW engineers and the public. We believe this to be a wholly inadequate way of communicating complex technical information to those for whom English is a second language. Your refusal to provide technical material in the two main non-English languages spoken in Tower Hamlets and your reticence to approach faith groups such as the local mosques to engage with these “harder to reach groups” is a strategy that discourages large sections of our community from actively taking part in a consultation that deeply affects their lives. The Tower Hamlets Council of Mosques wrote to Thames Water during the Phase Two Consultation outlining their deep concern about the inadequacy of consultation on behalf of the large Muslim population in the Borough; they have never received a response.
c) Thames Water‘s reasons for choosing to work in the Park Foreshore are not strong enough to deny our community its only local park. The local community (backed by the local Council and industry experts) are better able to decide on the impact of construction in our own community.
- There are 24 sites on the Super Sewer Project and dozens of construction sites in Tower Hamlets. One extra discreet site at the back of the park that only lasts 1.5 years is far better than removing the most used part of the park, the riverfront, for 3 ½ years.
- One of the two main site owners has already approached the Council about a mixed use redevelopment of the Heckford Street Industrial site and the existing tenants are on short leases as a result, which is an opportunity for construction to take place without undue disruption to the existing businesses.
There are easier opportunities to use the river if the Park and Foreshore is used, however, the vast majority of the material needed for the site in our local park and foreshore is sand and gravel to create the large cofferdam out into the river, and then remove most of it after the works is complete. The Brownfield site at Heckford does not require this. And as Mayor Boris Johnson stated in his letter to Thames Water dated 31st August 2012 “Crossrail plans to make considerable use of river transport, despite many of the main construction sites being remote from the tunnels and station construction sites. Tunnelling for Crossrail will produce in the region of 6 million tonnes of excavated material with close to 100 per cent of it being clean, uncontaminated and reusable elsewhere. Indeed, 4.5 million tonne; of material will be shipped along the Thames to help create of a new 1,500 acre RSPB nature reserve at Wallasea Island in Essex”. If Crossrail can move this quantity of material via river, it stands to reason that Thames Water can manage to utilise river transport from Heckford without damaging the fragile riverfront ecology and defiling the most used part of our park. Furthermore, LBTH have engaged an industry expert to review the impact of transport between the Brownfield option and KEMP Foreshore. They determined that the effect on traffic would be negligible.
- TW proposes to remove the vast majority of the frontage of the park to then replace it with a vast expanse of concrete. This is in no way a mitigating measure and it will not minimise the effects of the works since, by the company’s own admission, trees will not be able to grow on this hardstanding promontory. The character of the park and its ecology will be permanently ruined. A small discrete site for 1 ½ years at the back of the park next to the busy Highway (A1203) is immensely preferable to spending 3 ½ years building a large promontory and ventilation stacks in the most used and valued part of the park, its foreshore. Using such a reason to justify the choice of site brings into sharp focus how little Thames Water has listened to the local community and how much you undervalue the impact of works on park users.
- The Super Sewer tunnel proposed by Thames Water using the park and foreshore would require tunnelling under local properties anyway. London has a long history of safe tunnelling; the Brownfield Alternative means you tunnel under only 23 more properties. It seems incredulous that 23 more properties would cause such concern, especially as Thames Water’s Phase One engineering proposal was to construct a longer connection tunnel from the KEMP Foreshore to Butcher Row / Bekesbourne Street.
In short what we asked of Thames Water is this:
“By [TW’s] own admission, the decision to choose King Edward Memorial Park and Foreshore over the Heckford Street Industrial Estate was close, with little between the two options. SaveKEMP strongly believe you have made the wrong decision and should withdraw your current proposals, undertake further targeted consultation on the use of Heckford Street Industrial Estate and update the environmental impact data to allow the Heckford Brownfield site to be put forward in the DCO application. At the very least, we ask that the Brownfield site be included within the application as an alternative for consideration by the Planning Inspectorate. We feel that your inaction on this matter could make it harder later for the Inspectorate to remedy your unsuitable site selection without risking the Project’s overall construction programme. Given your repeated reference to gaining opinion from your with Queen’s Counsel throughout consultation, one cannot help wonder if your choices amount to constructive intent to undermine the planning process.”
Please be ready to kick back into action and voice your concerns once the plans are submitted to the planning authorities. In the meantime, if you feel so inclined, do drop an email or letter to our elected representatives to remind them that, as a community, we are still very much against Thames Water wrecking our beloved park.