Super sewer plans to cost bill-payers an extra ‘�10 a month’ for life

Thames Water’s plan to build a multi-billion pound ‘super sewer’ will cause bills to rise by a fifth, councils will argue today during a commission into the project.

A team of experts are to lead the inquiry into the proposed 20-mile tunnel which the utilities giant says is vital in cleaning up the Thames.

A total of fourteen boroughs are directly affected – including Tower Hamlets – but the councils say all Londoners will pay an extra �10 a month on their bill for the rest of their lives to cover the �3.6billion price tag.

A protest group was last year set up to campaign against King Edward Memorial Park in Wapping being dug up as part of the works, due to start in 2013.

Thousands of East Enders, including comedian Lee Hurst, have signed the petition to protect the award-winning space.

Lord Selborne, leading the commision, said: “The key question is whether this multi-billion pound project is the best solution to making the Thames cleaner or whether there are sensible alternatives that are cheaper, greener and less disruptive.”

The councils also argue that the sewer will not solve the problem of drains overflowing into the river.

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After today’s meeting, council representatives will meet with environment minister Richard Benyon to discuss the plans.

Other major cities have similar combined sewer systems to London but have opted not to build a single concrete tunnel, the commission will say.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council leader Stephen Greenhalgh, whose authority is funding the review, said: “At a time when our public services are under intense pressure, Londoners cannot afford to effectively write a blank cheque for this scheme without proper scrutiny, accountability and debate.”

Thames Water says the 39 million tonnes of raw sewage entering the Thames every year is an environmental health hazard.

Sustainability director Richard Aylard said: “For many years London has been able to rely on its excellent Victorian sewers, built 150 years ago. The problem now is that those sewers are no longer big enough for a much larger city. So we need to extend the network and make it fit for purpose for another century at least.

“Constructing the tunnel in a city as congested as London will not be easy, nor will it be cheap. That’s why we are working so hard to design the tunnel to ensure both cost and disruption are kept to a minimum, whilst also meeting the project’s environmental objectives.”

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