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Thames super sewer could be "forced through" under new law

PUBLISHED: 15:30 24 August 2011

King Edward Memorial Park

King Edward Memorial Park

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A Thames super sewer which would leave an East End park demolished could be forced through without the consent of London councils.

Furious campaigners fighting to save King Edward Memorial Park in Wapping from the £3.6 billion works have branded proposals which would allow Thames Water to bypass authorities including Tower Hamlets “undemocratic”.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs wants to change planning law so the sewer would be deemed a national infrastructure project and not need planning permission from individual councils.

Carl Dunsire, chair of SaveKEMP, said: “This seems a bit undemocratic. They’re not allowing the process to take the appropriate course.

“We feel the impact on the community may, when everything is decided, not be considered as important as other impacts.”

The group, which has the backing of film star Helen Mirren, comic Lee Hurst and mayor

of London Boris Johnson, says the park is a life-life for families.

It has collected more than 6,000 signatures against the project.

Mr Dunsire added: “Rich or poor, most people don’t have any sort of garden and we’re all reliant on that little bit of green space.”

Tower Hamlets Council is backing a London-wide commission into the problems the tunnel will cause.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman said he wants to find out if there are “less disruptive alternatives” to works on the Wapping park.

But under the new plans, the council’s findings may hold no sway.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council, leading the lobbying group, has accused Defra of trying to hurry in the new law during the quiet summer months.

Councillor Nick Botterill, deputy leader, said: “If Londoners are set to foot the bill for this project then they should have a direct say on the plans.”

Estimates say the works, which would take seven years, will cause bills to soar by £10 a month for life for all Thames Water customers.

The utilities giant, however, insists the tunnel is necessary to stop sewage overflow into the river.

Defra said it is consulting on the changes.

A spokesperson added: “The changes suggested would not mean the Thames Tunnel is given the go ahead without consultation. It would go through the same rigorous examination as any other major project, with opportunities for the public to put forward their views.”

Thames Water said it could not comment on a Defra decision.

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