Stink pipe compensation will not buy our silence

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Stink-pipe compensation will not buy our silence

Friday November 16, 2012

Compensation for home owners affected by Thames Water’s sewer drilling proposals will not be enough to ‘buy the silence’ of residents, according to the council.

Thames Water has announced a compensation deal – which it describes as an ‘exceptional hardship procedure’ – for south Fulham property owners who could be affected by its super sewer stink-pipe.

But Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council says the deal will not be enough for residents who face moving as a result of Thames Water’s plans and is re-iterating its call for the whole project to be scrapped.

The controversial £4.1billion sewage storage tank under the river could get planning permission from a national quango in 2013 paving the way for an area the size of six football pitches on Carnwath Road, Fulham, to be used for heavy drilling.

The land had originally been earmarked for new riverside homes and businesses but could now be swallowed up for major excavations 24 hours a day, seven days a week for at least six years.

But Thames Water, while admitting that work is likely to be hugely disruptive – if it goes ahead, has announced a miserly package of compensation for residents whose lives could be turned upside down.

Thames Water says that the only residents who will be considered under their hardship procedure must:

  • Have made ‘all reasonable’ efforts to sell their property but not received an offer within 15 per cent of the market value, meaning that residents who get an offer for 14% below market value will not qualify
  • Be within 100-metres of the construction site
  • Be owner-occupiers, meaning people who rent are excluded
  • Not have bought the property after 13 September 2010 when Thames Water announced proposals to use Carnwath Road as the main tunnel drive shaft
  • Have a pressing need to sell

While Thames Water’s plans threaten to hit water bill payers and home owners hard an investigation by the Observer newspaper showed that the company paid no corporation tax on the profits made from their utility businesses. The utility giant made hundreds of millions in operating profits last year while announcing plans to charge customers £80 extra every year to pay for the 20-mile-long pipe.

Cllr Nicholas Botterill, Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council Leader, said: “Thames Water’s hare-brained stink-pipe plans are a disaster. They are a disaster for customers – who face spiralling bills. They are a disaster for the environment – which would benefit much more from green solutions and, most importantly, they are a disaster for residents and home-owners in south Fulham. The only winners seem to be the fat-cat bosses at Thames Water.

“Instead of trying to buy residents’ silence it is now time for Thames Water to ditch this whole tunnel project and instead pursue the cheaper, less disruptive and more environmentally friendly ways to make the Thames cleaner.”

Thames Water also stands to make a colossal £162million a year in additional revenue from the concrete pipe – which will be similar in size to the Channel Tunnel – due to a ‘perverse incentive’ in the way the water industry is financed, according to a national expert on water economics.

Professor Green, from Middlesex University, says that customers will be ‘ripped-off’ under the current stink-pipe plans as the current price system ‘creates a strong incentive to pour concrete’ rather than explore green alternatives that don’t make money.

The problem arises as water companies are allowed to borrow money cheaply on the bond markets to pay for capital projects, like the Thames Tunnel stink-pipe, but water regulator Ofwat allows Thames Water to charge customers 4.5% per annum to service its borrowing and to pay dividends to its shareholders.

“The current system encourages water companies to borrow money to spend on large capital projects,” says Professor Green. “There is a strong incentive to pour concrete as for every pound Thames Water borrows, to pay for large projects like sewers or reservoirs, they make a handsome return off their customers.”

The estimated cost of the sewage storage tank under the riverbed has more than doubled since the scheme was first mooted in 2006.

Cllr Botterill concludes: “Thames Water’s stink-pipe is the story of corporate greed encouraged by the UK's flawed regulatory system, overzealous interpretation of EU law and successive Governments which have not yet understood the huge environmental, social and economic costs - while ignoring the cheaper and greener alternatives.”

To read more visit www.lbhf.gov.uk/supersewer.

» Send us your comments now

Cllr Botterill hang your head in shame. It''s criminal that council tax payer money is being wasted on incorrect, inaccurate, and highly misleading propaganda.
Thames Water is a regulated company ie by OFWAT and the Environment Agency, we the tax payer pay for them to regulate the water industry. We do not need to pay a third time for H&F to have a go. Get back to work and run a council...... not a red top
From Nickie Raven on 11/12/2012 at 23:53
I was surprised to read that Thames Water potentially has 8billion of debt already. If they borrow another £4bn to build the pipe under the Thames this will increase their debt by 50%. If all of this is true, I am shocked that Thames Water is pursuing such plan. Given the deteriorating economy this will bankrupt them. If this happens, Londoners will bail them out and generate handsome profits for the people who lent the money initially. In any case, Thames Water is a scheme for transferring public money into private hands. It has nothing to do with the well-being of London and the river.
From Nik on 26/11/2012 at 23:26
I am a resident along the riverwalk where Thames Water intend to build this monstrosity and am disappointed that Thames Water would choose this site which will only cause disruption when this sewer tunnel could be built in Barn Elms and not disrupt anyone living or their quality of life.
From JazzJ on 22/11/2012 at 17:13
To Hammersmith Council:
Of course we understand why Surface Urban Drainage Systems are the long-term, ecologically-sound, simple drainage solution: just keep the rainwater on site. Simple! But we are facing a crisis because of the accelerating construction boom of the last 100 years in London. We need the extra capacity to store water in the sewerage system offered by the Thames Tunnel AS WELL AS Suds.
It is not "either" Suds "or" the Tunnel. It has to be BOTH.
Now do you understand?
From Una Hodgkins on 21/11/2012 at 10:56
@George
Bazalgette's sewers were a great 19th century solution to the problems London faced at the time. However, we are now in the 21st century and technology has moved on. Sewage entering the Thames occasionally is a symptom of a different problem. i.e. when it rains very heavily the rainwater flows into Bazalgette's combined (rainwater + sewage) sewers and overloads the system triggering the overflow into the river. Forward looking cities stop this fresh water getting into the system in the first place via SUDS (see explantion in the story above) which can also help alleviate droughts if the water is stored for use on gardens/to wash cars etc. Thames Water's concrete tunnel will simply pump the combined water + sewage out east to be separated out again. It is a backward looking, costly and disruptive 19th century solution.
From H&F Council on 21/11/2012 at 10:13
@SamDifeld
The council does not recognise your description of the River Thames as a 'gigantic raw sewer'. Thames Water tries to frighten people by saying that 39 million tonnes of "raw sewage" gets into the Thames each year. What they don't mention is that that world experts in water management estimate that only 1-5% of the run-off is sewage. The rest is rainwater. Very few people realise that the River Thames is, in fact, one of cleanest inner city rivers in the world. In 2010 the river scooped the International Theiss River Prize, which honoured the Thames for its recovery from a biologically dead river in the 1950s to today's thriving waterway. At the award ceremony it was said that the Thames is so clean that salmon, otter and sea trout can be found and the number of fish are increasing, with 125 different species recorded. So the question remains. Should monopoly operator Thames Water be allowed to charge all of its customers 80 a year extra for life, on top of current bills, to turn residents lives upside down around Carnwath Road? Or, should we instead pursue the sensible, greener alternatives that can make the river cleaner with far less disruption and far less cost?
From H&F Council on 21/11/2012 at 10:01
I thank H&F for the link to the Philadelphia video & SUDS. At last I understand the alternative proposal to the Thames Water Sewer (a project which is based on the exact same engineering and waste management systems that we have so admired for the last century and were so brilliantly conceived by Joseph Bazalgette).
SUDS would have us deal with our rainwater in one of the planet's most densely populated cities (7.5 mil btw.) Philidelphia is a toy town by comparison) by planting gardens in school playgrounds and putting wooden flower boxes at the end of our rainwater pipes.
There is nothing wrong with encouraging green measures. On the contrary, money should go there too of course - but can we grow up here please? The problem is far too large and acute to be dealt with by SUDS. Watch the H&F suggested video and see if you think it's not just pie in the sky.
Essentially the Thames is a gigantic raw sewer and it's time we got on with a solidly conceived engineering project to deal with it cleanly & efficiently.
Why can we never just get on with things in the UK?
3rd runways v. estuary airports.
TGV rail now 20 years late.
Let's just BUILD IT!
And I'm a CARNWATH rd resident!
From Sam Difeld on 20/11/2012 at 21:11
The council's coverage of the Thames Tunnel is an absolute joke, it reads like a tabloid. I wonder if the council would like us to have resisted Bazalgette's sewer of the eighteen hundreds that saved thousands of lives and improved living conditions in London for millions.
From George on 20/11/2012 at 20:34
Sorry but I can't believe that H&F can really be so silly on this issue.
They are not arguing properly, surely the argument should be to use a green field site (Barn Elms) over Carnwarth Rd. But of course they can't do that as for the last however long, it has always been brownfield over greenfield.
The problem is that we need a solution that works and this is the most beneficial. Yes it will make TW money in the long term but what did we think would happen when we privatised our utility companies?
Also if you companre TW water rates they are cheaper than nearly everywhere else in the country and they say that the extra money will only bring them in line to other companies. With this pledge being made in its leaflets this is what we should be holding them to over the next 15 to 20 years.
Will hammersmith
From SALMON on 20/11/2012 at 11:10
@SamDifeld
We are not being unfair. No one is saying that the river could not be a bit cleaner but Thames Water has a vested interest in pushing through the scheme which makes its shareholders the most money. Many world experts are lining up to say that SUDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage Solutions) is likely to be the answer. Watch this film: http://cleanthames.org/solutions/solutions-mid-term/
From H&F Council on 19/11/2012 at 17:44
H&F being thoroughly unfair. Let's hear how they propose to deal with almost 40 million tons of raw sewage overflow, annually. This is a Thames Water film but even as A Carnwath Road resident, I feel it is more balanced than H&F council.
WATCH THIS FILM http://vimeo.com/34897999
From Sam Difeld on 19/11/2012 at 17:15
The Council's relentless campaigning against an essential piece of "plumbing" for London is as inacurate as ever. Thames Water is owned by shadowy private equity owners who are of course currently likely to benefit from capital spending. Thames Water Utilities Ltd (the operating company) has been stripped of its profits by its owners over the years and saddled with huge debts (8bn!). As a result TW needs government guarantees to back this essential project. The real culprits are the private equity owners. It is more complicated than Hammersmith Council makes out!
From Una Hodgkins on 19/11/2012 at 16:58
Why the use of the emotive term "stink-pipe"?
Surely it's your job to give us an impartial view of what's going on so we can make our own informed judgement?
I have no idea whether or not this project is a sound idea, but when the opposition sounds like a Sun headline writer it suggests to me they're using emotion to get around the lack of a sound argument.
From Ciaran on 17/11/2012 at 09:42
It is clear that the only party Thames Water will help is itself, i.e. its shareholders, at the expense of its customers. Thanks to H&F Council for continuing the fight against this unsuitable plan.
From ALaw on 16/11/2012 at 18:39
It will be soon time to think about a payment boycott of our water bills unless they accept to reimburse the exact loss of value for every homeowner in the Borough caused by their project.
From Patgar on 16/11/2012 at 16:51
Yet more council scaremongering. Extraordinary that taxpayers money is being spent fighting this eminently sensible project.
In essence this article can be condensed to: "It won''t take long anywya - but if you live nearby, really need to move, and find it hard to get a price that is acceptable, Thames Water will help."
From JamesW on 16/11/2012 at 16:12

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