Government Decision on the Thames Tideway Tunnel (TTT) expected Friday 12th Sept 2014

Liz Truss MP, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Eric Pickles MP, SoS for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) are expected to unveil the Government’s decision regarding Thames Water’s Thames Tideway Tunnel (TTT) project on Friday 12 September 2014.

The timetable for announcement of the Government’s decision is fixed by the Planning Act 2008, which imposes a schedule of exactly one year between the beginning of the examination of TW’s Development Consent Order (DCO) by the Planning Inspectorate and the Government’s decision. Only once in the history of the Act has the Government’s decision on an application been delayed[1].

Those who followed the examination will remember that in February, TW themselves failed to secure an extension of the examination period by half. This is likely because they were surprised by the rigour of the Inspectorate’s scrutiny, in particular as they had planned mitigation measures against the tremendous disruption their works are set to cause, which were revealed to be inadequate. But TW are used to getting things their way…

Beside TW, other (more or less related) parties are eagerly awaiting the Government’s decision; in particular members of the international financing elite, such as Li Ka-tching, the richest man in Hong-Kong and the rulers of Abu Dhabi.  They are keen to see if they can get a piece of that juicy pie that is a 12-13% rate of return, fully backstopped by the UK taxpayer and paying interest from day one (very nice if you can get it!) This has all the hallmarks of privatizing the upside and socializing the downside. Let’s not forget that the project is to be entirely financed by a levy of up to 25%, imposed on a quarter of the UK’s population through their water/sewage bills, in perpetuity. No wonder those offshore billionaires are battling it out to get a piece of the action.

Others who also nervously await the decision include people who really care about what happens to the Thames and London at large – as opposed to whose nest should be feathered and how much concrete can be poured and how many HGV journeys can be added to London’s roads for nearly a decade.  We have joined forces with the Thames Blue-Green Initiative, a recently formed coalition of independent academics and world-renowned experts who want to see a better legacy for the paying public, their City and their environment.  They want to see an integrated solution which addresses multiple environmental issues in one go, including:

  • Flood risks
  • Water scarcity
  • Air pollution
  • Loss of biodiversity
  • Noise pollution
  • The heat island effect
  • Water pollution

Hopefully the Government won’t be rubberstamping the Great Drain Robbery, by committing an uncapped amount of taxpayer backed capital[2] to a solution which just perpetuates the flawed 19th century engineering practice of mixing rainwater with sewage in the same big pipe…

Please refer to our TTT mythbuster if you want to find out more about why the TTT is such a bad solution to the issue of sewer discharges caused by rainwater flooding.

  1. [1] See Angus Walker’s stats on DCO applications (30-Jul-2014)
  2. [2] See paragraph 21 of this explanatory note to the Water Industry (Financial Assistance) Act 2012)