Environmental groups welcome the start of Thames Tunnel planning process.

Thames Tunnel Now claims top level support for the new super sewer
TTN Release 

This week sees the start of the examination of the planning application to build the Thames Tideway Tunnel with a preliminary hearing for all parties who have registered an interest taking place at London’s Barbican Centre on Thursday, September 12th. Representatives from Thames Tunnel Now (TTN), which has been campaigning to clean up the tidal Thames, will be attending and are claiming that recent commitments from government ministers and the Mayor of London show that those groups proposing that the tunnel should not be built have finally lost the argument. TTN believes that the Planning Inspectorate can now concentrate on the merits of the application and how to minimise disruption during the construction process rather than disputing the principle of building a tunnel to help remove the millions of tonnes of untreated sewage that enter London’s river each year.

Thames Tunnel Now came together in October 2011 to call for the end to sewage pollution in the tidal Thames through the construction of the Thames Tideway Tunnel and is an established and growing coalition of 25 environmental and wildlife charities and amenity groups representing around 5 million people – ranging from national organisations like RSPB with more than a million members to smaller community-based groups who are passionate about the river Thames and its environment.

Back in May, TTN wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron urging the government to make clear its support for the Thames Tideway Tunnel in order to end any uncertainty ahead of the start of the formal planning process. On June 14th environment minister Richard Benyon replied on behalf of the Government saying:

This welcome clarification from the government followed a similarly strong message of support from Boris Johnson who in his Vision for London document wrote:

We need to meter our water consumption more effectively, and beneath our feet we need to address the crisis in the sewers. Joseph Bazalgette was one of the great engineers in London’s history – a builder of the infrastructure that helped the city to become the capital of the world. We have now been relying on genius for 150 years, and his sewers – built for a city a quarter of the size – are no longer able to cope. The interceptors overflow 60 times a year, releasing 39 million cubic metres/tonnes of diluted but untreated sewage into the Thames. Safely diverting that sewage is the purpose of the colossal Thames Tideway Tunnel; and though it would be an exaggeration to say it will make London’s river sweet enough to drink – especially after heavy rain – it will still be a vast improvement, and certainly a home to salmon and otters.

In addition to political leaders Londoners themselves have been shown to be overwhelmingly supportive of the principle of building the Tideway Tunnel with 85 per cent  in favour of the project as a whole in last years’ Com Res poll.

Debbie Leach, Chair of Thames Tunnel Now and CEO of London charity Thames 21, said:

“We are pleased to finally see the start of the formal planning application to build this long-awaited and much-needed piece of environmental infrastructure and see no reason for further delay, particularly when the Tunnel has secured such high level political commitment and has been listed by Treasury as one of country’s top 40 infrastructure projects. The critics have consistently failed to come up with any viable alternative scheme that meets both the public health and the environmental objectives set down by the government and the EU. The time for arguments over the principle of the Tunnel is well and truly over. We must get on with planning and building it as soon as possible in order to bring to an end the national disgrace which is the condition of London’s river.”

Carlo Laurenzi, CEO of the London Wildlife Trust added:

“Further delay would see raw sewage continuing to flow into the Thames, triggered by as little as 2mm of rainfall, from our overloaded and outdated Victorian combined sewerage system. This is causing wholly unacceptable environmental damage to fish and wildlife.  A less polluted river would create greatly improved conditions for a wide range of wildlife supported by the River Thames, including the iconic and dwindling European eel, smelt, flounder, brown trout, dace, thin-lipped grey mullet, sea lamprey, Dover sole, grey heron, and even seal. The current system risks incurring daily fines on the taxpayer for breaches of the Urban Wastewater Directive. It is also highly unpleasant for millions of Londoners and visitors to the capital to see and smell raw sewage and sanitary discharges in such a prominent location.”

Other world cities such as Stockholm, Paris, Helsinki, Washington and the Rhine/Ruhr conurbation in Germany are implementing similar solutions to a similar problem, leaving the UK behind the curve.

Olympic Rower Andy Triggs-Hodge has been a long-time supporter of the Tideway Tunnel. He said:

“I used to row on the tideway and there were days when you would be rowing through crap. It was disgusting and for the benefit of the sport we were moved away……This country doubts itself on so many occasions, you look abroad and see all the fine projects that happen over there, but if there’s one thing that the Olympics showed us, it’s that we can do things and can do them at the highest standard. This tunnel could be a world-leader and a shining light of how to do things for the future. If that happens, then it’s not just a tunnel – but it’s something that really stands out and is another reason why our capital really is the best capital city in the world.”


For more information or interviews, contact:

Thames21- Marketing and Communications Officer, Emily Braham 020 7213 0166/ 07827 352 675, emily.braham@thames21.org.uk

London Wildlife Trust – Press Office 07834 867 420 press@wildlondon.org.uk


  1. Thames Tunnel Now Thames Tunnel Now [www.thamestunnelnow.org] is an expanding collective of environmental and wildlife charities and amenity groups, which came together in October 2011 to call for an end to on-going sewage pollution in the River Thames through the construction of the Thames Tunnel project. http://www.thamestunnelnow.org/
  2. The Thames Tideway tunnel project has enjoyed cross-party support from the outset – initiated by the last Labour administration, endorsed and taken forward by the Coalition government with the support of both the past and present Mayors of London.
  3. A number of video clips have been recorded featuring prominent supporters of the Tunnel including Richard Benyon MP, Andy Triggs-Hodge andThames Boatmen Chas Newens and Dominic Coughlin. They can be viewed here:

Richard Benyon – https://vimeo.com/74202736

Andrew Triggs Hodge – https://vimeo.com/74202738

Chas Newens and Dominic Coughlin – https://vimeo.com/74202740