I have been talking to a very senior source indeed at Thames Water recently, who is to use the old cliche, "in a position to know" all about the Thames Tunnel project, or 'super sewer crater' as it is dramatically referred to by our Council.
You will recall that this is something our Council have been campaigning against and warning of catastrophic local consequences to the environment and our taxes if it goes ahead. For a very long time now Thames Water has been on the receiving end of an awful lot of vitriol from our Council as the chief villains, but this senior source has clearly decided that enough is enough. Thames Water wants to set a few facts straight to Hammersmith & Fulham residents - direct.
With the lack of any widely read local independent media they have chosen this blog. Somehow I doubt the Council's own freesheet would have carried the story.
What they have told me, to use their words, is that our Council has been misleading local people, which is a pretty serious charge to make.
Some of you may remember our Council's first reaction to the proposed Thames Tunnel, which was to claim that Ravenscourt Park was in imminent danger. This, the source at Thames Water tells me, was ruled out "..in order to draw attention to the Council's campaign of misinformation."
So in other words a major national utility company was forced into making a public planning announcement in order to counter what it regarded as a deliberate campaign of misinformation from a publicly elected Council. I think that is extraordinary.
My source goes on to tell me, categorically and in no uncertain terms, that the Thames Tunnel will NOT start at Furnival Gardens. He goes on to state the following:
We have already said that the site [Furnival Gardens] is too small for one of the major shaft sites. It is also true that if our current research confirms that the Stamford Brook CSO which
discharges to the river there needs to be intercepted, we will need a small shaft somewhere in the vicinity for 12-18 months. But there are all sorts of possibile shaft sites still being investigated, with the active help of Council officers. As a general point, we are looking at all the 34 CSO sites currently regarded as unsatisfactory, to see if we can make connections further up the network to minimise the number of shafts, or take any other measures to reduce costs and/or disruption. So (a) it is categorically wrong to say that the tunnel will start at Furnival Gardens. It won't. Then (b) if there is to be a shaft on the site, and there may not be, it won't be 'huge', although I accept that size is a matter of opinion. Nor (c) will the park be 'lost'. The worst case is that access to some parts may be restricted for 12-18 months (and I accept that even that would be highly undesirable).
H&F Council, on the other hand, still seem to be insisting that Furnival Gardens is "likely to be an option" for the Tunnel to start and then go on to talk about "three or four football pitches" worth of "craters" being created with a "million tons of dirt" - see here. Scary stuff.
But if what my source at Thames Water is saying is true, and I repeat that they are in a position to know exactly what they are talking about, then all of that is a load of, well, craters.
In which case how can our Council justify a) the expense that their campaign has cost local residents and b) the widespread concern and uncertainty that such misleading campaigns have created?
Now that the Mayor has effectively overruled the Council it may seem that these questions are in the past, but our Council has been running this campaign at our expense for in excess of 12 months. Even I was concerned about losing Furnival Gardens as a result and asked you to back the Council's campaign, but I now understand from my source that it was never really in danger - and that the Council has been told this from day one. Cllr Greenhalgh, have you misled us?