Tonights' meeting was presented by H&F Council as a have-a-go-at-Thames-Water meeting. Alas for them I fear their favourite scapegoat was transformed into a saint george figure this evening while they have become the dragon.
In front of a packed residents meeting in Hammersmith Town Hall Thames Water's two top men genuinely seemed to impress with their 9 year plan for sorting out flooding in W12 and W6. The problem is thus - sewers built in the 1850s cannot handle poo plus rain (London is the only place the two are collected in the same pipes) in todays' quantities. So when we have heavy rain it's either got to go in the Thames or your house if you live in certain areas. Brutally simple.
Cllr Nick Botterill, Cabinet Member for the Environment argued at the outset that "we are on top of the problem" - this caused laughter. He bravely persevered and blamed Thames Water - at which point he was challenged for being "underhand" by the chair of Boswell Street Residents Association while another resident, who was looking at the H&F website on his palm pilot noted that the title said "flooding - its your responsibility". A good example of H&Fs' approach to residents he said. You're on your own.
Thames Water have produced a 'heat map' showing the areas most at risk from flooding in west London. H&F was a sea of red (high risk) up until the Goldhawk Road. In the next 5 years they'll be spending over £400 million trying to protect H&F from more floods.
H&F has more basement flat dwellers than anywhere else in London - 37,000 of us live in them. 54% of which are connected physically to the main trunk sewers that take waste from as far afield as Brent and Camden right through H&F and down into Bazalgette's sewage system from the 1800s. They are all at risk of flooding with foul water. But the targets of people's ire was the council this evening. It was notable that the leader of the opposition became a de-facto chair at the end of the meeting pressing the council to act on collecting more data.
Not a successful evening for Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh by any stretch of the imagination. But I would say a pretty good one for Thames Water.