Cllr Caroline ffiske writes:
Yesterday a local resident and I met with Thames Water (TW) to understand how work is progressing on the Counters Creek tunnel proposal. Our focus was on the planned work on the north-western verge of the Talgarth / North End Road intersection. However, much of what was said will be of interest to all residents potentially affected by this proposal.
So a summary of the main things we discussed.
A previous consultation document gave a figure for “average daily truck movements”. The resident and I said that a daily average (remember this is across a projected working period of years) could hide horrendous peaks, not across just individual days, but also weeks, or even months. TW agreed and said they were working to provide much clearer figures, including peak estimates. This is what residents need to know. What is the worst it is going to be, when, and for how long?
In Avonmore, a major concern is the prospect of large noisy polluting trucks winding their way through quiet residential streets. Our question to TW was whether access could instead be directly from the Talgarth Road up onto the verge. TW said they are currently in detailed discussions with TfL about this possibility. It is definitely not ruled out, and the tone seemed to be that TW and Tfl are trying to see if this can be made a workable solution, for some, if not all truck movements. (The goal would be all the heavy truck movements.) If this could work it would be hugely good news for all residents in the south-west of Avonmore.
Hours of working and project duration
Firstly, project duration. The 2 – 3 year estimates that were floating around were dreadful to contemplate for anyone potentially impacted by this work. The good news is that TW are coming up with much more precise estimates of the work profile. Purely as an example, there could be a 6 – 9 month “starting phase” of heavy work, followed by a lull of very little work in a middle phase, and then a “final phase” again of some month’s duration. It is crucial that TW can get these phases as clearly planned and publicly visible as possible so that people know what they might be living through. Again, the stress involved in fearing the worst – or not knowing what is ahead – should not be underestimated.
So, published hours of working. In the TW consultation documents these make horrendous reading. 8 – 6 Monday to Friday; 8 – 1 Saturday; plus a one hour mobilisation period at the start and end of each day…; plus the prospect of extended working hours that go beyond even this… Good grief. Again we urged TW to be as precise about these plans as possible, and also to look at what is really needed. For example, imagine if placing a ban on Saturday working would in fact only extend the entire project by a very small amount. For people to have the peace of mind across the months and years of this project, that drilling was not ever going to start up at 8am Saturday morning, EVER, across the project; would be hugely important and re-assurring. Or e.g. Saturday work will take place, but only in restricted pre-discussed periods, with no drilling earlier than XYZ. I think people would put a very high price on this sort of assurance and peace of mind.
When we hear that there is going to be drilling and that it is going to be loud we fear the absolute worst. I think stress levels go up, and well-being down, even contemplating the thought that this is coming our way… An idea we had was that TW could actually bring a recording (…!) of the type of noise so that people could imagine what it would be like, at X, Y, Z distances. It will be an enormous reassurance to people if it is not going to be bad as their worse fears. And then again, if it is going to be as bad…. – well we need to know.
Commitments and Monitoring
TW said that all sites would have regular visits from Environmental Health Officers and mechanisms would be in place for ongoing liaison with residents and complaints management.
TW wants to be in contact with local residents to hear ideas for site restorations and site improvements during and after the works. Individual residents should send ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org. If people want to “come together” over options and ideas for the Avonmore area please email me – perhaps people who are interested can meet to look at ideas and options. Ideas do not need to be for the absolute immediate area but around the wider neighbourhood (grotty bits of waste area replanted?).
Where to from here
TW is meeting with LBHF planning officers on Wednesday 28th June. All the effort is going in to work and re-work these plans to make them acceptable to the residents who will be impacted by them. There is going to be another round of consultation. Further reworking. The goal is that TW will not request planning permission to this scheme till they think it will be robust enough to meet with approval.
This is a summary of what I know, for information. And now is the time to continue to pile in with questions and concerns so that these can influence the work that LBHF and TW are doing to make this scheme the best it can be. And then we need to stand back and assess it and its impact. For information, two households woke up to sewage in their homes last week – on in Shepherds Bush, one in Kensington & Chelsea.
Please email me with questions and comments: email@example.com. I’ll aim to send them in the right direction, whether that be Thames Water or LBHF.