East End unites to halt Thames sewer ventilation tower on their foreshore

THE riverside communities of London’s East End have united in a growing campaign to stop a 45ft sewer ventilation shaft going up on their doorstep and destroying the only green patch for miles.

They meet at Tower Gateway DLR station at 9am on March 16 to head across Tower Bridge to City Hall to hand in a petition urging Boris Johnson’s support.

The petition was launched at a protest meeting at Shadwell on Wednesday evening, aimed at stopping Thames Water’s proposed giant shaft on the foreshore in front of the historic King Edward Memorial Park.

The campaigners don’t want their park turned into a dusty, noisy construction site for up to seven years—nor to be left with a permanent industrial eyesore that would block access to the river.

“Let them see a proper East End protest,” Carl Dunsire, a civil engineer who is helping the campaign, told the protesting families.

“We have to show this is a solid fight by all East Enders—that we are prepared to fight our corner so future generations can enjoy this beautiful park.”

They have set up a campaign website at www.saveKEMP.com

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Here’s how Carl sees the impact of the proposed ventilation shaft: “A 60ft-long area of foreshore will be destroyed by a massive industrial complex. The machine room will suck up sewage air to be filtered—that will be noisy. There will be vents where sewage air will escape. Emergency valves will mean unfiltered sewer air could be released at times.

“Who wants to picnic in a park next to an industrial complex like that?”

He puts forward alternatives, using industrial or wasteland alongside the DLR—not open parkland on the river-front.

The fight for ‘the People’s Park’ involves everyone in this tight-knit riverside community, like pensioner Margaret Clark who says it is protected by covenants going back before the First World War when the land was gifted to the people of the East End by the City of London, she discovered in her research at The Guildhall archives.

“I got so angry with Thames Water,” she told the East London Advertiser. “They want to block us from the river. But the City gave that land to the people—it’s the only green space we have.”

Actress Dame Helen Mirren, who lives on the waterfront, is known to support the campaign. So does comedian Lee Hurst, born and raised in the East End, who turned up to Wednesday’s protest along with politicians from the London Assembly and Tower Hamlets council.

Assembly budget chairman John Biggs said: “This park is part of the East End’s heritage, which was opened because of the poor environment.”

The proposed ventilation tower is part of Thames Water’s ambitious ‘super sewer’ scheme running under the river for 17 miles from Chelsea to Abbey Mills pumping station to relieve London’s ageing Victorian network which often overflows during heavy rainfalls.

* PICTURES by Vickie Flores for www.WhatsinWapping.co.uk

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