Cllr Caroline ffiske: Save Gwendwr Park

ffiskeCllr Caroline ffiske of Avonmore and Brook Green Ward gave the following speech to the meeting of Hammersmith and Fulham Council meeting on Wednesday

Several Fridays ago Cllr Joe Carlebach and I met with residents from Avonmore & Brook Green and with representatives of Thames Water. The site of our meeting was Gwendwr Park.

For people living nearby, this small park is a precious pocket of green, lined with mature trees. Parents can kick a ball with small children, older children pop across on their own to play ball, people exercise their dogs, and neighbours meet.

The purpose of our meeting was to discuss the Thames Water Counters Creek sewer scheme. If this goes ahead in Gwendwr Park:

  • There could be 20 months of drilling.
  • The park would be unusable during this time.
  • Mature trees may need to be cut down.
  • Operating features would be left on the site.
  • The surrounding roads would manage the construction traffic at up to a peak of 32 heavy vehicle movements per day
  • There is also the possibility of odour being omitted from the permanent scheme.

All of this is made grim news for local residents.

If you go and visit Gwendwr Park you will see that the proposition is not acceptable. Local people’s lives would be made too unbearably miserable for too long. The noise and disruption would be unacceptable. The loss of the precious piece of green space would be unacceptable.

Here are the words of one resident:

“The local park is one of the few areas of green space within easy walking distance for a young child.  It is widely used throughout the year.  … the dog exercise area is used by a large number of dog owners.  I also think that the general principle should be to avoid using green space for this type of work as they are so rare in central London. “

Another local resident comments:

“I have lived at Gunterstone Road for 38 years and what is most important to me about the area … is the peace and quiet…  Gunterstone and Gwendwr road are exceptionally quiet roads, with very little traffic…. When I first received a letter from Thames Water in May about the potential construction site … my immediate reaction was how very disturbing and hard to live with the potential lorries, mud, digging, noise, traffic and parking disruption…  I feel even more sorry for the residents of Trevanion Road who literally overlook the site and cannot imagine how any of them can contemplate living through 20 months (minimum) of building disruption and noise …”

I understand that councillors from the administration and senior council officers have met with Thames Water and asked them to look again at alternative site proposals. Officers have said that Thames Water now have a new longer list of sites that they are exploring, and that they will come back to the Council with a revised shortlist of sites, for a Phase Two consultation some time in the Autumn.

What residents in Avonmore and Brook Green need is information and assurances as soon as these are available. I therefore urge the council administration to make public, as soon as it can, the new site options and timescales for consultations.

But equally importantly I urge the council to work with Thames Water to look at alternative anti-flooding measures and to make public the results of this analysis.

In the July 2007 storm there were 1,700 homes flooded in the two boroughs. There has been nothing on that scale in the last 8 years. And the good news is that if there was an equivalent downpour today around 600 of these homes would be protected as they have had anti flooding devices called FLIPs (flooding local improvement projects) installed. These mini pumping stations cost around £35,000 each. In contrast, the estimated cost of the Thames Water scheme is £300 million. If we divide that across 2000 homes that is a cost of £150,000. Is the greater use of FLIPS a better alternative?

And then what about greater use of SUDS or sustainable drainage? The current scheme in Australia Road is designed to reduce overall flow volumes to sewers by 50%. The cost of the scheme is around £800,000. A lot of money – but the Counters Creek proposal could buy more than 300 sustainable drainage schemes of this size.

I therefore urge the Council to work with Thames Water to undertake a much more detailed analysis of these alternative options, and then to make the results of that analysis publicly available. Working with residents should involve fully equipping them with the information needed to understand decisions that are being made. When we met with residents at Gwendwr Park a few weeks ago that information was woefully absent.

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