Environmental and Waterways groups welcome go ahead for Thames super sewer

Environmental charities and amenity groups representing over 5 million people who have been campaigning for a cleaner Thames in London have welcomed the decision of the government to go ahead with the long awaited and much needed Thames Tideway Tunnel.

The Thames Tunnel Now (TTN) coalition comprising national and local organisations – including S&TA, RSPB, WWF, London Wildlife Trust, Thames21, River Thames Society and angling and boating groups – has been calling since 2011 for the construction of a new tunnel under the Thames to stop tens of millions of tonnes of sewage overflowing into London’s river each year through the city’s 36 Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs). The result of more than ten years of exhaustive research and development by Thames Water and the Environment Agency, the tunnel proposal has been declared by independent studies as the only viable solution to dealing with “London’s dirty secret whereby as little as 2mm of rain can cause the sewers to overflow directly into the river with devastating effects for fish and other wildlife.

This was highlighted in the recent video ‘You Poo Too’ which can be viewed here: http://www.thamestidewaytunnel.co.uk/the-project?q=up2

Following ministerial sign off the Planning Inspectorate this morning approved the application for Development Consent for the Thames Tideway Tunnel. The project will now move to the construction phase.

Full details of the Government’s announcement can be viewed here:


Debbie Leach, Chair of Thames Tunnel Now and CEO of the waterways charity Thames 21 said:

“We welcome the Government’s decision to give the go-ahead for the Thames Tideway Tunnel. It will prove invaluable for the health of the river. Like me, thousands of Londoners use the river for rowing, angling, sailing and canoeing. Walkers and cyclists use the towpaths, and people often venture unknowingly on to the foreshore where sewage is currently deposited. The Thames Tideway Tunnel is the most important piece of the jigsaw that will once and for all clean up London’s river and encourage even more Londoners to connect with the Thames. We praise politicians of all parties for keeping their nerve and supporting a key environmental project which will see the end of ‘London’s Dirty Secret’.”

Dr. Janina Gray, S&TA Head of Science and Chair of the Blueprint for Water Coalition, declared, “This is wonderful news for all who have campaigned for a cleaner Thames, not least because of the positive impact this will have on the river’s fish and other aquatic creatures. We must bear in mind that clean, in itself, doesn’t necessarily mean healthy – there is a great deal of work still to be done before the Thames can properly be said to be a fully restored river, but this is a most important first step on that journey.”

Rob Cunningham, Head of Water Policy at the RSPB added:

“We welcome this announcement – the Thames Tideway Tunnel will make a key contribution to cleaning up one of our great rivers, bringing benefits to wildlife and people. But this should be seen as just one element of a strategy to reduce the vulnerability of London and the environment to sewer flooding during heavy rainfall. That’s why we are also calling on Thames Water and Local Authorities across London to make firm plans to invest in proven green infrastructure that can slow and store rainfall as it travels from roofs – to streets, to sewer and out to sea. Only then will London be ready to deal with the kind of chaos that climate change promises us.”

The Tideway Tunnel is one of the biggest engineering projects in Europe and will cost £4 billion. It is estimated that each Thames Water household will pay less than 20p per day for the tunnel and a much cleaner river and with Thames Water bills currently among the lowest in the country, the new higher rates will still be around the average for water companies in the UK. Construction of the tunnel will create over 9,000 new direct and indirect jobs. A clean and healthy tidal river will also support many thousands more employment opportunities in recreation, leisure and tourism industries in the future.

Carlo Laurenzi OBE, Chief Executive of London Wildlife Trust, said:

“A healthy Thames is essential for a healthy London. The River Thames is famous around the world and yet we still treat it as a sewer outlet, allowing serious pollution incidents to blight the river, destroy London’s wildlife and put river users at significant risk. The Thames Tunnel is the only viable solution to the long-term health of the River Thames and London Wildlife Trust welcomes this decision, but it is essential that the Tunnel’s legacy is one of ecological gain across the whole project.”

Peter Finch, Chair of The River Thames Society said:

“The Tideway Tunnel will see an end to the scandal of untreated sewage pouring into the Thames, removing a health hazard and restoring the river to a state of which we can all be proud.”

At the launch of Thames Tunnel Now in October 2011 a spokesperson for the coalition said:

“It is completely unacceptable for people to be faced with raw sewage in one of the most sophisticated cities in the world, and for tens of thousands of fish to die from suffocation every time it rains heavily in the summer. Opponents of the scheme should ask themselves if they would like their child to go sailing or fishing among human faeces, sanitary towels and condoms, or if they would like a healthy river full of wildlife for millions of people to enjoy for generations to come.”

We now have pleasure in adding:

“This is great news for the environment and an historic moment for one of the most famous rivers in the world which will be given a long overdue new lease of life”.