The Secretary of State must use powers to extend Thames Tunnel inquiry so that alternatives can be considered

Simon Hughes, MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, has announced that he is now making a formal request to the government to extend the inquiry into the Thames Tideway Tunnel planning application so that alternative construction proposals can be considered.

Speaking in Southwark at last week's public hearing by the official planning inspectors, Simon Hughes argued that under the Planning Act 2008 ministers have all the legal powers necessary to extend the examination of Thames Water's planning application and consider alternative proposals.

Simon Hughes will be making his formal request to the Secretary of State next Monday (2nd December).

Simon Hughes said:

I am still not convinced that the Thames Tunnel is the best option for local residents, the environment or the taxpayer.

However, I welcome the news that Thames Water has this week made three concessions that would reduce some, but not all, of the worst effects of the construction of the Thames Tunnel on residents and schoolchildren in Bermondsey. These include changes that would mean tunnel segments would be brought in to Chambers Wharf by barge; a reduction in the barge size which could reduce risk to houseboats; and the use of low vibration piling.

Even with these changes, I still believe that the use of Chambers Wharf as a main drive site for the Thames Tunnel would be a quite unreasonable disruption and risk to people in Bermondsey, particularly in relation to traffic and road safety and noise and air pollution.

Since the decision to adopt Chambers Wharf as the main operational site, compelling evidence has emerged that makes it abundantly clear that Chambers Wharf is anything but a suitable drive site. This site should be abandoned and other sites, particularly Abbey Mills in Newham which Thames Water already own, should be considered instead.

The planning inspectorate should at the earliest opportunity pause the inquiry to allow the Secretary of State to extend the inquiry to include alternative sites.

Locating the main drive site at Abbey Mills would be a better deal for Londoners and a better deal for the environment, and better value for Thames Water and its customers.