Locals express frustration at lack of engagement from Thames Water 

Locals from north Kingston and Ham joined members of Save Our Lands and River (SOLAR), a campaign group, in a show of solidarity against Thames Water’s controversial Teddington River Abstraction (TDRA) scheme on Saturday. 

The scheme has been a bone of contention between locals and Thames Water with residents saying they are not being taken seriously. 

“I met with the CEO of Thames Water yesterday and he said he will meet with residents any time,” said Zack Polanski, Green Party Deputy Leader and London Assembly member. 

“I don’t think anyone denies that. I think there have been workshops, there’s been meetings, and that is better than some water companies. [So] yes, that should be acknowledged.  

“But at the same time, there’s a very strong feeling that although those meetings have happened, they’ve not been listened to, and there hasn’t been change,” he said. 

About the project 

Thames Water’s Teddington Direct River Abstraction proposal involves removing 75 million litres of water a day from the river Thames via a newly built abstraction site near the Burnell Open Space in Kingston, to connect to the existing Thames Lee Tunnel to take the water to the Lee valley for use as drinking water. 

This water will be replaced with treated effluent from the Mogden sewage treatment works in Isleworth, brought over via a new 4.5 km long tunnel dug under the streets, parks and open spaces of Isleworth, Twickenham, Teddington, Ham and Kingston – plus the Thames between Orleans Park and Ham House.

It will require eight shafts to access the pipeline including three in Ham alone. One would be next to a playground and two in Ham Lands, a Nature Reserve and Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation. 

Lack of engagement 

SOLAR has been campaigning about this issue and has proposed a shared statement of opposition that has been signed by 84 local groups and communities. 

“Many fair and reasonable questions have gone unanswered, and many key communities and residents have not been informed of the true nature of this scheme. The level of transparency from Thames Water is disappointing, and unacceptable,” the statement said. 

Ian McNuff, on behalf of SOLAR said: “Numerous letters, chasing letters, promises from Thames Water, meetings set up and cancelled by Thames Water mean almost three months later we are no further forward.

“We’ve received none of the best value information we’ve asked for, no indication when we will receive it, and no rearranged date for the promised meeting.” 

Andrée Freize, a councillor at Richmond said one of the big things she is concerned about is the proposition of ‘best-case’ value. On its website, Thames Water said that after carrying out modelling and testing future water resources plans, they concluded that this is the best value project to increase drought resilience in London by the early 2030s. 

“They’ve been tempted to say the reason why they need to do this scheme is because financially, it makes the most sense.  

“The campaign group have asked over and over again to see that, and they keep giving us excuses why they can’t do it. So, that’s the kind of thing that we’re worried about. It’s the lack of checking.” 

Freize also raised concerns about the issue of leaking pipes. 

“Why are they not focusing on tackling that? Why are they not focusing on rolling out water meters and teaching people how to reduce their water usage. All those things need to come before a multimillion-pound engineering project that will only be used two or three times. It’s just ridiculous,” she said. 

London Assembly Green Party candidate and Richmond Councillor, Chas Warlow said that Thames Water made a huge error in not involving local politicians in initial consultation. 

“I only heard about the initial consultation quite late on and I went to it. And it was then that the whole issue started to jump up the agenda, as far as local people are concerned, because it hadn’t been widely enough propagated. 

“Institutions have the tendency to not consult at an early enough stage so that they would then get the right kind of steer from the public.” 

He said that such an approach had the potential to disenfranchise many members from the marginalised communities.  

“If you have a local council aware of an issue, they have the means to reach out to everybody through their networks and say we need your input so that we can feed it back. 

“I think people don’t, even someone like Thames Water does not really value the council very highly. It would be a sensible use of the institutional systems that we have in the interests of the country,” he said. 

A Thames Water spokesperson said: “We’ve carried out extensive consultation and engagement work regarding the proposed Teddington Direct River Abstraction project, which is designed to help us meet future water demand during drought, providing up to 75 million litres per day. 

“This includes meeting with Save Our Lands and Rivers (SOLAR) and most recently holding public events across West London in November and December 2023.  

“We continue to be in regular contact with SOLAR and have recently written to them to provide environmental data and to advise them that we’ll be able to arrange to meet with them this spring.” 

k2321421@kingston.ac.uk | + posts

Passionate about interviewing people to feature their stories and ideas. Currently Features Editor at Kingston Courier.

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