Thames Water's plans for construction of the new Thames Tunnel, which have been under development for some years now, are set to affect Deptford in some way or other, like it or not.
Next Friday and Saturday (24 and 25 June) Thames Water is holding drop-in sessions at the Creekside Centre to consult with local residents and businesses about its 'phase two' plans. I strongly recommend attendance to comment on proposals; please read on to find out why.
Three routes are being considered for the main tunnel - the preferred route more or less follows the River Thames from Hammersmith down to Abbey Mills - but whichever is chosen, a few smaller connection tunnels must be built to carry waste from the combined sewer overflows into the main tunnel. Local combined sewer overflows for Greenwich Pumping Station (located at the foreshore just west of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel) and Deptford (right in front of the Ahoy Centre) must be linked into the main tunnel at Rotherhithe, with the main work site originally intended to be Kings Stairs Gardens. During the phase one consultation, locals mounted an impressive campaign to save their local green space from being used as a construction site. As a result, Thames Water is trying to find an alternative and has even bought up brownfield land nearby as a possible option.
But one of Thames Water's proposed changes to reduce the impact on Rotherhithe is to reverse the direction of tunnelling for the connection tunnel. Originally the tunnel boring machine was to start at Kings Stairs Gardens and head towards Greenwich; the spoil was to be taken up to ground level through a large shaft in KSG and removed by barges. While construction sites were needed in Greenwich and Deptford, they would be smaller and less disruptive, without the need to remove lorry loads of spoil and deliver materials for the tunnel construction works.
With suggestions that the direction of tunnelling be reversed, this could have quite a dramatic impact on the preferred construction site just over the boundary in Greenwich, and associated impacts on local roads.
Greenwich Pumping Station, which is just across the Creek in Norman Road, is owned by Thames Water and as such is an obvious choice as a worksite for one of the local interceptor tunnels. But changing the direction of tunnelling will mean spoil has to be removed at the site and taken away by road, and additional deliveries will be needed, as well as the fact that a larger construction site will have to be used.
A second, potentially more disruptive issue for Deptford town centre has emerged as part of this second round of consultation.
A construction site is also needed to build the interceptor tunnel for the Deptford combined sewer overflow which discharges down by the Ahoy Centre. Again, in the initial consultation, Thames Water proposed a site at Borthwick Wharf as its preferred option, but there was opposition from local residents in Millennium Quay who would be directly affected by the construction work. The work was also proposed to leave permanent structures at the site to enable operation of the tunnel.
As a result, Thames Water wants to know what local people think about losing the use of the little triangle of land enclosed by Deptford Church Street, Coffey Street and Crossfield Street for several years. This would be turned into a construction site from which the interceptor tunnel for the Deptford overflow would be built.
In the open letter that has been sent to local residents by Thames Water, there's not much information about what work would need to be carried out from this site, or how long it would be needed for, but I guess that's what staff at the 'drop-in' sessions at the Creekside Centre next week will be able to confirm.
I am not particularly keen on the prospect of more heavy construction work in the centre of Deptford - Thames Water is intending to start work in 2013 with completion of the whole system in 2020 so it seems we may have a lull of a year or so after the town centre/Tidemill/railway station/etc completion before chaos descends again. I am also very fond of that little green lung, it enhances the setting of St Paul's Church and provides a buffer against the noise and pollution from Deptford Church Street. Its trees and grassed areas provide valuable wildlife habitat in an increasingly built-up urban environment. The fenced-in area next to the road is also used by dog-owners to let their pets run off the lead, and additionally, the proposed site is right in front of a primary school.
If you want to find out more, and have your concerns noted, please try and get to the drop-in sessions at the Creekside Discovery Centre, 14 Creekside.
Friday 24 June 10am-7pm
Saturday 25 June 12-5pm
There's a huge amount of information on the project and the consultation process at Thames Water's dedicated Thames Tunnel page here, with most of the consultation information about various sites on this page. The second phase of public consultation is not due to start until September of this year, so if you are concerned about the impact this work could have on Deptford and its surroundings, now is probably a good time to read up on it and have your objections ready.