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Boris Johnson makes King Edward Memorial Park U-turn

Boris Johnson makes King Edward Memorial Park U-turn

Save KEMP activists are celebrating the news that London Mayor Boris Johnson is now backing the campaign to stop Thames Water destroying King Edward Memorial Park.

At a Save KEMP meeting at Glamis Hall in Shadwell on Thursday 14th April John Biggs, Greater London Assembly Member for East London and the City, announced that the Mayor had reversed his previous backing for the proposed ‘super sewer’ works and was writing to Thames Water to insist that they search for an alternative site.

“Politics is not part of it”

Image John BiggsMr. Biggs reiterated that the campaign has cross party support, that: “Politics is not a part of it” and that the communities of Wapping, Shadwell, Limehouse, Stepney and beyond are united to save King Edward Memorial Park and make Thames Water look at alternatives.

The Mayor’s letter states that both the Mayor and the GLA have reversed their previous stance in favour of Thames Water’s proposal and asks that proper consideration be given to local people’s concerns and the alternative options they suggest.

It also demands that Thames Water investigate these options properly and submit a report for analysis by independent engineering experts.

Boris Johnson’s support fundamental

Toni Davey“We have fought hard to get this far and I’m so happy that the Mayor is finally listening to us,” said Toni Davey, Save KEMP’s community liaison officer after the meeting.

“His support is fundamental in our campaign and we would like to thank Assembly member John Biggs for bringing both our technical reports and our petition – signed by over 5,000 local residents – to the Mayors attention.

We now have the support of the Mayor, the GLA, and Tower Hamlets Council and we insist that Thames Water follows the recommendations set out in the letter from Boris and the GLA.”


“It is our park and we will do anything to save it”

Image Mahbub AlamResident Mahbub Alam has now formally joined the Save KEMP team and is gathering signatures from our mosques.

Promising to gather 10,000 signatures Mahbub declared: “Strength of the people! It is our park and we will do anything to save it”.

The Mayor’s support for Save KEMP is a significant setback for Thames Water’s estimated £3.4bn project amidst rising concerns across London boroughs about the cost effectiveness of the whole Thames Tunnel project.

Wandsworth and Richmond Councils have joined forces to fight Thames Water’s plans to stop a seven year tunneling operation on Barn Elms playing fields.

“Consultation has been inept in the extreme”

Wapping and Shadwell residents will not be surprised to hear the opinion of Richmond Council’s cabinet member for environment Councillor Virginia Morris who said in a report released last November: “Thames Water’s consultation has been inept in the extreme and they need to engage fully with the local community if they are going to make a case for Barn Elms.”

Hammersmith and Fulham Council have also questioned the expense of the ‘super sewer’. There, Thames Water’s plans threaten two sites, Carnwarth Road in Fulham and Hammersmith Embankment.

Londoner’s bills could rise by £90 a year

Growing London wide concerns about the potential costs versus the benefits of the project are also backed by the Consumer Council for Water (CCW) who said that the costs of the super sewer have escalated so that the “average impact on customers’ bills could reach £90 a year by 2018”.

The CCW also say that Thames Water needs to exhaustively search for cheaper and less disruptive solutions to deal with the increasing volume of sewage that London produces.

This is not the first time that Thames Water have been called to account for the excessive cost of a major infrastructure proposal.

In Oxfordshire, campaigners have been battling to stop a massive £1bn reservoir being built near the village of Farmoor.

At a recent government planning appeal using the evidence of two nationally acknowledged expert water resources witnesses, Oxfordshire campaigners successfully argued that Thames Water had not proven the need for such a large project and that there were cheaper, quicker and less environmentally damaging alternatives.

Alternatives not researched properly

In a statement after the Secretary of State had ruled against the reservoir proposal campaign leader Brigadier Nick Thompson said that Thames Water had not researched the alternatives to the proposed ‘super reservoir’ properly.

Tide changing for Thames Water?

Although it is far too early to claim any sort of success in the battle against Thames Water’s plans, the news that Boris Johnson, arguably the most powerful person in London, is now firmly against them could be the turning of the tide.

But local campaigners such as Save KEMP – along with other protest groups across the capital – should not make the mistake of letting down their guard at this stage. The second round of the public consultation has opened and as a community we can decide the final outcome.

Image Local residents at Glamis Hall

Photographs at Glamis Hall by Wapping photographer Mark Baynes www.Baynes.co.uk


By Mike Doherty & What’s In Wapping
Mike Doherty is a freelance journalist undertaking an MA in Investigative Journalism at City University and has been following the Save KEMP campaign since it started last year.

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