Friday, 25 September 2009

Thames Water tells councillors: "We won't speak to residents until we get our way over Section 106!"

Wednesday, 23rd September 2009 is a date that will be remembered for a long time to come in Isleworth activist circles. It was the date on which local politicians of varying hues, as well as not a few officers from the London Borough of Hounslow, were finally able to see for themselves what we in Isleworth have had to put up with for years in our dealings with the unrepentant pollutant that is Thames Water. Those who may have laboured under the polite misapprehension that we are perhaps a tad too militant, and distrusting, in our dealings with our neighbour from hell were at last given cause to understand it is why we and our residents adopt the stance we do.

Councillors Andrew Dakers, Ruth Cadbury, Barbara Reid and Brad Fisher joined their ICG counterparts Jon Hardy, Paul Fisher and myself at a meeting of the Thames-led Mogden Residents' Liaison Committee (the holding of which is a legal requirement under the terms of the Legal Agreement between Thames and the local authority following earlier court action) and witnessed for themselves the spin, the persistent sleight of hand manoeuvring and obfuscation of this wealthy public utility which prefers to fight its neighbours in court than dip even furtively into its own rather vast pockets to honour its legal and moral obligations.

Sadly Ruth and Andrew had moved on to other engagements before the piece de la resistance was delivered shortly before the close of the meeting. The Section 106 terms which were laid out by the council's Sustainable Development Committee on that night of shame in March have yet to be agreed to by Thames, and yet astounded members and officers heard Thames deliver its ultimatum - that until we signed off the agreement, on its terms rather than the ones approved by SDC, they would not send out any information to residents about what was happening at the site.

Meanwhile members of the press who had been asked by the Mogden Residents' Action Group (MRAG) to attend the meeting and witness events were refused entrance at the gate.

Despite the tight grip which Thames maintained over the conduct of the meeting, the councillors and members of MRAG were able to ask probing questions about the management of the site. As is so often the case, "new guy" was in the hot seat and his response to most questions, as was doubtless his brief, was that he couldn't answer them because they referred to matters and incidents which predated his arrival at the plant.

One could be ungracious and point out, as is certainly true, that some of the councillors who quite clearly took the residents' part at the MRLC meeting would have served those residents a whole lot better by not having capitulated to Thames at SDC in the first place. Nonetheless there was a definite sense about the place that the game was finally up. No amount of private briefing of senior figures on the council, as one member of the Thames party let slip at the meeting had taken place very recently, will change the fact that the residents are increasingly in control of the situation, and that in the long term resistance is futile.

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