Victory! Thames Water ditches plan for Counters Creek Relief Sewer

Thames Water has abandoned plans for a Counters Creek Relief Sewer. This is excellent news – the proposed scheme would have resulted in considerable noise and pollution of the drilling, the loss of trees. It would also have cost £300 million – which would have been passed on to customers in the form of higher bills. The potential benefits in reducing the risk of basement flooding did not justify the costs.

Back in 2015 I challenged the funding of the project and I also argued that SUDS schemes – sustainable drainage – would provide better value for money.  That is because there would be wider benefits – air quality, aesthetic for instance – in such schemes as greening council estates where concrete is replaced by trees, grass, flowers and shrubs.

There were also the anti flooding devices called FLIPs (flooding local improvement projects) which had been installed at 600 properties – these are mini pumping stations that can help prevent sewage from entering homes through pipes and lavatories. That meant that if we had another storm of the scale of the one on the July 20th 2007 (when there were 1,700 homes flooded) that is another means of mitigating the impact.

Now the following message pings into my email from the Counters Creek Project Director of Thames Water:

Update on Counters Creek Sewer Flooding Alleviation Scheme

Dear Councillor

I am writing to update you on Thames Water’s ongoing work regarding the Counters Creek Sewer Flooding Alleviation Scheme which aims to protect properties in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.

I fully appreciate that some time has passed since our previous update. However, we have been far from idle. We have worked intensively throughout the past year undertaking a full review of our proposals using advanced investigative and network modelling methods to capture the most up-to-date flooding information. What we have done to date

In our previous communications we explained that we were planning to deliver the required level of protection through a package of measures.

These included;

  • fitting a large number of FLIP (note 1) devices to protect individual properties; 
  • installing three Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) schemes as pilot projects in three streets in partnership with both local authorities;
  • building a large strategic sewer to increase capacity in our sewer network.

Over 1,300 FLIP devices have now been installed and the SuDS work is complete.

During 2017 we undertook a detailed review of the requirement for the strategic sewer and have concluded that it is not, at present, required in order to provide the necessary level of protection. I realise that this may be a surprise in view of our earlier work, which included preparing a planning application, and want to explain the reason for the change.

Our review has looked carefully at flood protection provided by the FLIP devices we have installed; at new modelling of flows in our complex local network of sewers following heavy rainfall; and at the potential impacts of further development in the catchment. In particular, we examined the sewer performance during the severe storms in June 2016, including information from additional monitors fitted to the network since the July 2007 storm. On the basis of the flooding caused by the 2007 storm we would have expected to see widespread flooding in June 2016, but this did not happen. This strongly suggests that the FLIP devices, combined with our rigorous programme of sewer cleaning to maintain availability of full capacity, have been more successful than anticipated.

In the circumstances, we intend to continue with our programme of fitting FLIP devices to vulnerable properties but will not progress the strategic sewer in the near future. We have however, worked closely with the Tideway project to ensure that there is sufficient room at their Cremorne Wharf site for the construction of a strategic sewer if this is required in the future, after their work at this location is complete.

What we are doing now

We have already carried out surveys for FLIP devices at additional properties and these will be installed from January 2018. A second phase of installations will follow from April 2018 and further installations will be added sequentially as our plans progress.

We will work closely with both local authorities as these installations take place. We will also continue to monitor the data from three SuDS pilots, developed in partnership with the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea at Mendora Road, Melina Road and Arundel Gardens. The data from these pilots is being gathered and monitored, with assistance from Imperial College, and will be used to inform our plans.

We remain committed to protecting properties which are at risk of flooding in the area and to ensuring that we have a resilient network for the future. We will continue to investigate what future resilience is required for the local sewer network, taking into account population growth, development, urban creep and climate change.”

Of course there remains criticisms. How much money has been wasted on the flawed scheme? Why are the proposals for SUDS schemes not more ambitious? Still today’s announcement is an important victory for common sense.

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