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!


Snake-eye said...

Awesome demo Phil, even the photo doesn't do it justice. Didn't see the council officers enter the meeting although we know they were in there, wwer they tipped off and sneaked in earlier?

Anonymous said...

Mogden is a large commercial enterprise, so it will NEVER want to stand still.
Given a completely free rein, no doubt it would buy vast tracts of local land and turn Isleworth into little more than one giant sewage farm.
To safeguard against this and other 'inappropriate' proposals, we elect councillors to represent us at official meetings where such plans are discussed.
Of course, the 'salesmen' will try ever trick in the book and we expect our councillors to be wise to this.
People are absolutely staggered and extremely disappointed that they were "conned" so easily with little or no resistance.
I can't really see on what grounds you're going to launch a campaign.

Councillor Phil Andrews said...

I guess you could say we are fighting on every front.

The Mayor of London has the power to call in this decision and we hope he will respond positively to our request to do so, especially in the light of the fact that SDC was mininformed.

We are looking into the logistics of a Judicial Review of the decision.

We are seeking legal advice as to the status of a decision taken on the strength of false information offered by an applicant, and of the failure of our officers to provide all the relevatn information.

We also, as a second line of defence, will be working to alter the mindset of the Environment department so that if/when Thames changes its stance and imports additional sewage from outside of its current catchment area it will be ready and willing to respond in a robust manner.

I am not a big believer in accepting defeat. There are plenty of points in history in which the ICG could have done that, but we would not be where we are today had we done so.

Grow up ICG said...

Futile gesture politics! Sustainable Development took their decision following advice from officers who are the experts in the field. The advice received was approval gave us the best opportunity of exercising some control over the operation. If the applicant had appealed we faced the prospect of being left with a big bill and no influence over Thames future actions.

It was a cross party decision, not just Labour members, and besides at Sustainable Development politics is left at the door.

Sometimes the decision doesn't go your way. The ICG needs to learn to live with that.

No wonder some people never vote ! said...

First item on the agenda at the next SDC meeting:

1) Would committe members like both their legs sawn off with a breadknife ?
We promise to do it nicely and that it'll be completely painless.
(proposed by Mr Extremely Violent Criminal and his twin brother Clive)

No doubt they'll approve that too !

Dishonesty/Politics ? said...

So have I got this right ?
The main thrust of your argument is going to be that the 'bad guys', trying to sell an awful deal everyone knew about beforehand and nobody wanted, presented carefully selected info portraying their scheme in the best possible light while omitting all the obvious drawbacks.
Standard business practice I would suggest, which you would expect most intelligent people to see through and resist immediately !


New brains wanted urgently.
All kinds accepted, don't even have to be human.
Offerings in a shoebox to:

c/o 3rd Dustbin behind the Civic Centre
Lampton Road

Councillor Phil Andrews said...

@ Dishonesty

To be fair, Thames are far more polished when selling a pup than most applicants as they have far more experience of it, but those SDC members who were also members of IBAC had even less excuse for falling for it - Thames lied when they presented there as well and I had pointed it out at the time!

Here are the minutes of that meeting, which was held on 17th May 2007:

The minute-taker was quite kind to Thames Water's Nick Fawcett, as I had pulled no punches at that meeting when telling him that he was not telling the Committee meeting the truth when he announced that a £40m spend already committed had been provided by shareholders (remember SDC were later told that shareholders were not allowed to contribute).

For whatever reason the essentially correct but watered-down account of that exchange was not amended - possibly I arrived at the meeting late or was asleep - but the essence of the discussion is there for all to see and, more importantly, several of those present at the SDC meeting would have been party to that discussion, and should therefore have known that Thames would not be disqualified from contributing its own funds.

Unusually, there doesn't seem to be any reference to the views expressed at IBAC on the SDC report. Those who feel inclined to study the officers' report from the SDC agenda will also notice that the information acquired from the independent advisor has been only selectively reproduced, with the reference to Thames' option of funding the covering of the storm tanks themselves conspicuously absent.

I believe MRAG intends to lodge a formal complaint against the council's Environment Department this week with reference to its highly selective presentation of facts at the meeting on March 4th, and doubtless all these factors will feature prominently.

Waiting/Hoping ? said...

Still no answer to the most obvious question:
If issues concerning odour/mosquitoes were on-going and unresolved pending a High Court hearing in October, how on earth did their expansion plans make it onto the agenda in the first place ?
Even discussing it before the court case defied all logic and granting approval was like lending a hundred quid to someone who already owes you a thousand !

Councillor Phil Andrews said...

@ Waiting/Hoping

I think it is something to do with a corporate mentality which sees a quarrel between residents and Thames Water as something that is nothing to do with the local authority, and one in which the council is a neutral party.

I have never heard anything from the department which would suggest any kind of indentification on the part of our officers with the residents' action.

CAREFUL NOW ! said...

I hate to pour cold water on your cunning plan, but should'nt any objections about the SDC being misled have to come from people who are actually MEMBERS of the SDC ?
Maybe you could enlighten me otherwise, but I have yet to see any comments from anyone present at that meeting expressing outrage at being tricked into making a poor decision.
On the contrary, the only comments I've seen promote a belief that they made a GOOD decision !
If they maintain this stance, you have'nt got a hope surely ?

Unconvenient Truth said...

Following on from the last comment, who would actually WANT to be a councillor if every decision they make at committee level can be challenged by ANY 'outsider' ?
Surely this completely undermines the whole democratic process of selecting councillors - we give them a mandate to represent us, but if we dispute the decisions they make on our behalf (however bizarre), we effectively declare that mandate null and void when it suits us.
'All powerful' when they get it right, 'completely powerless' when they don't !

Councillor Phil Andrews said...

@ Unconvenient (sic) Truth

Mmmm, let me guess...New Labour member, right?

New Labour Member said...

Mmmm, let me guess....My political persuasion automatically debars any meaningful engagement.
I suppose I'll just have to hoppit (gout sufferer).

Councillor Phil Andrews said...

On the contrary NLM, you were the one who seemed to be of the view that we should elect our representatives every four years and then shut the **** up and let them get on with running our lives.

I take the opposite view, the one that you were criticising me for!

Dave Ewes's Other Brain Cell said...

Since when as being a New Labour member had anything to do with political persuasion?

We STILL luv Dave said...

Applying my own ethics (I don't know what it means, but it sounds good), I ethically declare that this website is little more than a shrine to worthless dog-poo philosphy, thinking in the dark both night and day and forever barking up the wrong tree, even when there's only broken lamposts in the street.
Nazis in greenhouses allways throw things when they shouldn't, don't they ?

Anonymous said...

Well, what's happening at Mogden now ?
I've just discovered that the footpath leading through the works is closed at both ends.
No prior warning and no explanation given on the 'official' council notice (signed by M.Jordan).
All we are told is that the path will be closed on 15th & 16th of April.
What do you suppose they're doing with the council's blessing and why can't they tell us ?

Councillor Phil Andrews said...

Ask me one on sport!

Concerned said...

Actually there WAS a piece in one of the local papers (not one of the freebies and blink and you would've missed it !) warning of "repair work".
However I was rather puzzled surveying the scene at the main entrance yesterday.
A huge crane stationed on the right-hand side of the works was seemingly being used to lift/move large heavy objects on the left-hand side of the works.
This operation obviously necessitated closure of the footpath, but I wonder if the lifting/moving could've been carried out in another way which DIDN'T necessitate the closure of a public right of way ?
Moreover, are we to assume that this is likely to become a regular occurrence should the expansion go ahead ?
It seems to me that Hounslow Council continue to bend over backwards to accommodate mighty Mogden's every whim.

Anonymous said...

Of course ICG is typicle hypocratical when ICG member jon hardy vote for expansion as well but what can you expect?

Anonymous said...

You are an idiot Hughes!

Sonnet for....whoever ? said...

Mr Ewes, Mr Ewes
Always so eager to broadcast his views
Give him some gossip and he'll spin a good yarn
A work of pure fiction, but he won't give a darn
Nasty and spiteful and penned in double-Dutch
Bizarre and unworldly and way out of touch
A deluded individual, heading for disaster
Selling his soul to indulge his true master
But the red machine may not want him back
Loose cannons are trouble, they spin off the track
So all his bravado could now be in vain
His one chance to shine, p*ssed down the drain
Wasting his life on his tin-pot crusade
Aimless and pointless, a shambolic charade.

We will ALWAYS luv Dave said...

This is an outrage !
Greasy emoluments swept under the carpet, like sleazy ICG booze cruises to Calais, staining the very fabric of the coarse coconut-matting of human kindness.
A shameful betrayal - treasonous in it's conception past, present and future, so probably illegal and likely to get you arrested when you least inspect it.
Is this what the people of Hounslow really want ?
You're once...twice...three times a Nazi !

Lies, damned lies & statistics said...

Well, according to their online survey last week, 63.3% of "Chronicle" readers are IN FAVOUR of Mogden expansion !
Conclusive proof that a loaded question will lead most people in the 'right' direction.

Councillor Phil Andrews said...

@ Lies, damned lies

I assume this is a wind-up, right? Or was the question only put to Thames shareholders?

I suppose we should have guessed that we had this wrong by the size of the counter-demonstration!

Anonymous said...

No wind-up Phil, have you not seen a copy of last weeks (now FREE) "Chronicle" yet ?
A blatantly loaded question regarding Mogden expansion was posed on their website and of the people who responded, 63.3% said they approved of expansion.
This result is posted on
the "Letters Page" for all to see.

If it's of any comfort, this weeks question about parakeets is also heavily loaded !

Councillor Phil Andrews said...

Don't need any comforting, any poll which shows local residents in favour of Mogden expansion is too ludicrous to be taken seriously.

I'd be interested to know how many people voted in this poll and what security measures were taken to prevent multiple voting.

Unfortunately I still haven't seen the poll and I've just gone and recycled my Chronicle. There's been nothing posted on the Letters Page of the website as far as I can see since March 26th.

I can't see what the Chronicle would get out of pulling a stunt like this, but I know my constituents and I'm hearing on a daily basis just how incredibly angry people here are with Thames Water, the SDC and the officers at LBH.

Distorting what are clear facts is not going to do much for the credibility of any local news medium. So if this poll was as you say, it is more the Chronicle's problem than mine at a time when it needs all the support it can get.

More Pong Please said...

Of course we all voted in favour of Mogden expansion. We Isleworth residents just LURVE the Mogden Pong!

Wouldn't be at all surprised if this wasn't Hounslow Council officers distorting the poll or Tories covering up there embarrassment.

All a load of polls to me ! said...

Example A: A recent poll of 'Hounslow Chronicle' readers declared that 63.3% of its participants were in favour of Mogden expansion.
A local councillor remarked, "I assume this is a wind-up, right ?...." (A Community In Action April 2009)

Example B: A recent poll of 'Hounslow Homes' tenants declared that 77% of its participants were satisfied with Hounslow Homes.
A local councillor remarked, "This is truly excellent news...." (Hounslow Homes News 53 Nov/Dec 2008)

Seems to me, your old friends Mugabe & sons are conducting ALL these local polls !

Latest poll: Would you rather live next to Mogden or move to Mexico and catch swine flu ?

On a more serious note, I think you'll find that the result of the Chronicle poll was published on the letters page of the actual newspaper rather than the website.
I too would question the motive of Newsquest for posing such a leading question on what is probably a little read website and then prominently posting the result in their flagship paper.

Councillor Phil Andrews said...

The difference being, I saw the question for Hounslow Homes News before it went out, and it was verbatim the same question that had gone out the previous year when the satisfaction rate had been lower. What was the question asked by the Chronicle again?

In any event, 23% of tenants not satisfied with the service provided by Hounslow Homes is a huge number so there is still plenty of work to be done there.

Btw I note you say Newsquest. Are you sure we are talking about the Chronicle here? The Chronicle is not part of the Newsquest group.

All a load of polls to me ! said...

Yes Phil, apologies to you and to Newsquest - the Chronicle is of course a member of the Trinity Mirror Group.
From your closing comments, I presume you still have'nt seen the offending article.Some kind soul may send you a copy, but until then, here is the question posed:

"Should Mogden Sewage Works be allowed to expand if it means better water quality and reduced smells ?"

If you think that was a leading question, pity the poor parakeets on the receiving end of this weeks poll:

"Do you welcome parakeets or are they an alien, invasive presence ?"

Would you believe only 88.9% said yes !

Honestly though, what value is there in local papers posing such obviously loaded questions ?

Councillor Phil Andrews said...

I see what you mean Load of Polls, but as a question that is actually quite meaningless. Fwiw I would have voted "yes" too!

The simple fact is that the current scheme to expand Mogden will lead to more odour, not less, and hence the question doesn't apply.

Maybe we should offer up a few suggestions for future Chronicle polls. Here a few topical ones to be getting along with:

1. If Brentford had lost all their games this season, would they still have finished top of League Two?

2. If David Hughes had an IQ of 836, would he be the cleverest man on Earth?

3. If Saddam Hussein was a good guy after all, never killed anyone and was kind to animals, should they have hung him?

4. Is A Community In Action the coolest blog by a Hounslow councillor?

Other suggestions welcome, of course...

Definitely at least 80% water said...

The real issue here isn't the laughable outcome of these Chronicle polls, it's the fact that they aren't real polls in the first place !
Taking their last three examples concerning Mogden, parakeets & Brentford FC, the questions have clearly been worded in such a way that readers have been merely invited to agree with a very particular opinion.
Hence the Chronicle would appear to support Mogden expansion and detest parakeets and most readers have obligingly followed their lead.
No doubt we'll discover next week that a significant majority have supported their call for a "triumphant Brentford FC parade through town" (although I believe this has actually been ruled out).

A local paper appearing to support Mogden expansion though ?
Aren't they supposed to be impartial on such matters and how do you suppose this could affect the anti-expansion campaign ?