Planning Blog 2008: 164: Thames Tunnel Sites Revealed And Consultation Launched

This is entry number 164, first published on 14 September 2010, of a blog on the implementation of the Planning Act 2008. Click here for a link to the whole blog. If you would like to be notified when the blog is updated, with links sent by email, click here.

Today's entry reports on the disclosure of the preferred Thames Tunnel route and the launch of consultation on it.

Thames Water has been working on a major project to provide additional sewage capacity in London. Yesterday, it launched the first round of public consultation on its proposed 'Thames Tunnel', which also revealed its preferred route and proposed land take for shafts to build and access the tunnel.

The Thames Tunnel is to be a 32km tunnel tracking the Thames but 70 metres below ground that will carry sewage, particularly during heavy rain conditions. At the moment the so-called 'combined sewer outflows' (CSOs) discharge into the Thames when there is so much rainwater that the existing system cannot cope. In other words, do not swim in or fall into the river during or after heavy rain!

Last week the government announced that this would be deemed a nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP), which continued the policy of the previous government, and so it will use the Planning Act regime. A sewer is not actually listed in the Act as an NSIP, only a sewage works, but for the first and so far only time the government will use its powers to declare a project outside the definitions in the Act to fall within it.

As previously mentioned, the declaration cannot happen until an application is actually made for the project. Thames Water ought therefore to prepare and make 14 separate planning applications to the boroughs (and the City) along the route. It will be interesting to see if they do go through the full charade or just put one or two applications in. The forthcoming Localism Bill may also amend the Planning Act in time to allow an earlier declaration by the government.

The route

The proposed route is shown below in brown (image reproduced with kind permission of Thames Water) - to see a legible version visit the Thames Water cionsultation website and click on 'Tunnel route' on the left.

The favoured route is shorter than had previously been suggested, because rather than tracking the river all the way from Hammersmith to Beckton, the tunnel is to leave the river at Bermondsey and travel underground to Abbey Mills, where it can join the Lee Tunnel (already under...

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