Thursday, 2 April 2009
Thames Water conned LBH's planning committee - but WE'RE no April Fools!
April Fools' Day in Isleworth saw nearly 100 local residents come out at short notice to register their disgust at the decision by Hounslow's Sustainable Development Committee to approve an application by Thames Water to expand capacity at its Mogden plant by over 50%.
The demonstration, organised the same morning, took Thames bosses completely by surprise as they hosted a meeting of the "Mogden Residents' Liaison Committee", a talking shop organised by the water company at which council officers from Hounslow and Richmond along with a small, select group of actual residents are given the opportunity to marvel at Thames' commitment to eradicating the odour and mosquito nuisance that it has inflicted upon the neighbouring community for decades and to watch slick slideshow presentations over sandwiches and fruit juice.
Richard Aylard, Thames' Environment and External Affairs Director, left the meeting to come to the gates and engage residents. During our brief conversation he invited me to walk around the site with him (something I've already done countless times before) and see for myself the good work the company is doing. If I did so, I asked him, would he try to tell me that OFWAT would not permit Thames to cover the storm tanks, which are the source of most of the odour, using its own funds?
"Of course I wouldn't," he responded indignantly, "that would be completely untrue".
Why then, I asked him, did he make this same claim to members of the Sustainable Devlopment Committee at the meeting at which this application was approved?
Earlier in the day volunteers from the Mogden Residents' Action Group (MRAG) and the ICG had leafleted 6,000 local properties alerting them to the decision and its consequences.
When engaged by angry residents, Mr. Aylard gave them the "official line" - that the increase in capacity was to treat existing sewage flows which would result in a reduction in the use of the storm tanks and hence less odour. As he knows, as the residents know, and as the majority on SDC will know when they finally catch up with the rest of us, a few months along the line there will be "unforeseen circumstances" which will necessitate the importation of sewage from outside the current catchment area and odour levels, along with Thames Water's profits, will be up. Thames bosses will already have figured, probably correctly, that on the evidence of past performance no action is likely to be forthcoming from officers at the London Borough of Hounslow's Environment Department to prevent this from happening. Remember - you read it hear first!
There will be more activities by Isleworth residents and their Hounslow and Twickenham neighbours over coming months to draw attention to the scandal that is the expansion of Mogden. We will leave no stone unturned in our fight to protect the rights of our local residents. Isleworth will NOT be the sacrifice!