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Thames Water wants to take over Alfred Salter Playground for ‘super sewer’ works

London SE1 website team

Thames Water has published its plans for a new 'super sewer' under the River Thames, including a proposal to take over the Alfred Salter Playground in Druid Street as a work site.

Jack-up barge
These jack-up barges have become a familiar sight on the Thames as exploratory works for the tunnel have been carried out
The Alfred Salter Playground would be closed for t
The Alfred Salter Playground
Alfred Salter Playground
The playground was laid out in memory of the famous Bermondsey MP

The new Thames Tunnel would run for up to 20 miles through London, broadly following the route of the river, and would dramatically cut down on the amount of sewage discharged into the Thames.

One of the current sewer overflows enters the river close to the mouth of St Saviour's Dock at Shad Thames, and Thames Water has chosen the Alfred Salter Playground next to the St John's Estate and Downside Fisher Youth Club as one of its preferred work sites.

Thames Water would take over the playground for about two years while they build a new connecting tunnel which would run from Druid Street to King's Stairs Gardens at Rotherhithe which would also be used as a work site.

After the work is finished the playground would be reopened but would incorporate a 10-metre ventilation column and a smaller kiosk housing electrical equipment.

"We are very disappointed with Thames Water for their short-sighted decision to use this children's playground for a sewage vent," said Riverside ward councillor Eliza Mann.

"This is an outrageous suggestion from Thames Water. Our kids' playgrounds are too precious to be bulldozed and the last thing local parents want is a 10 metre high sewage vent next to a children's playground when Thames Water eventually decides to finish the work.

"Thames Water must come up with better sites than these. Until they do Liberal Democrats will fight these plans with all our efforts, along with the local residents."

The new Government has signalled its support for the new tunnel.

"We have done extensive studies to develop options for the tunnel route, which includes a solution that minimises the number of construction sites needed to build it, reducing disruption for London," says Martin Baggs, chief executive of Thames Water.

"It is now time for everyone to review these plans and tell us what they think. We haven't got all the answers but through this consultation and speaking to people with local knowledge, we aim to get them."

Why is the tunnel needed?

Last month saw more than 6.5 million cubic metres of sewage flow into the Thames, new figures obtained by Mike Tuffrey AM have revealed.

The figures, obtained by the Liberal Democrat London Assembly environment spokesperson, also reveal that in just the first eight months of the year almost 40 million cubic metres of sewage flowed into the river.

"It is simply a disgrace that just last month the volume of sewage flowing into the Thames would have filled 1741 Olympic size swimming pools," said Mike Tuffrey.

"These figures are a powerful demonstration of why action must now be taken to end the disgraceful situation of the Thames being treated as an open sewer."

Sarah Ludford MEP has campaigned on this issue for the past six years.

She said: "The Thames super-sewer is essential to stop our outdated Victorian reliance on sewage overflows when a bit of rain falls. To use this method in the 21st century is disgusting, and it is outrageous that the Thames is still in 2010 treated as an open sewer. Londoners, and Olympic athletes, deserve better.

"The prospect of the tunnel is thanks to EU laws and action. Whitehall and the Mayor of London have for the last 10 years been in breach of European sewage treatment rules, and the UK is currently on trial in the European Court of Justice for failing to take action earlier to clean up the Thames."

"After decades of foot-dragging by previous governments, I welcome the new coalition government's backing for the super-sewer. The detail of the route, and minimising disruption for residents, are very important. But this is our chance to clean up the Thames for good and we must not blow it."

As well as the Druid Street site, Thames Water is also proposing to use the river foreshore just downstream of Vauxhall Bridge close to Camelford House on Albert Embankment.

• Thames Water is holding a public exhibition on 11 & 12 October at the Beormund Community Centre.

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