Recently I met the senior management of Thames Water.
They told me of the costs and delays they are experiencing in preparing all the necessary documentation for their new London sewer tunnel. They argue that this large civil engineering project is essential if we are to handle the volumes of dirty water London now produces, without having to put dirty water into the river when there is rainfall swelling the drains with surface water. The volume of paperwork and the detail of the presentations is such that millions have to be spent on the application, and much time is absorbed in the authorities coming to a decision. This is for a project which will be underground.
Of course every major project should be properly considered, with objectors having their chance to say “No”. Of course a large company wishing to put in such a facility needs to offer guarantees and assurance about how it will handle site works during construction, and how it will protect the interests of property owners affected by its project. All this need not take as long and be as complicated as it now is.
I pushed along with other MPs present for an early decision on extra reservoir capacity in the South East. It seems quite obvious that in dry summers (we might have one again sometime, with all the global warming we are promised) we are already short of water. As the population grows and people want to use more water we will need bigger supplies. Adding emergency water desalination plants is not as good a solution as simply collecting more of the rainwater in our rivers at times of flood and plenty. We have had more than enough water in our rivers this winter to fill many times the reservoir capacity we currently enjoy.
The company seems interested in the idea of a new reservoir at Abingdon and has looked at plans. Whitehall watchers think a project like this would take ten years to get through planning. It is high time we did better than this. The moderately few people who would be advsersely affected should be generously compensated at an early stage. Surely it is better to pay out at a premium to affected property owners, instead of spending a fortune on fighting them through various rounds of a planning battle only one side can win. If someone wanted to put a reservoir over my home I would object long and hard. If they offered to buy me out at a decent premium so I could afford a better house I would take the money. I hasten to add no-one does want to build a reservoir near me, so I do not write this out of the hope of personal gain.