The Angling Trust, the Salmon and Trout Association and the Thames Anglers Conservancy joined environmental groups and charities representing over 5 million people who have been campaigning for a cleaner Thames in London in welcoming the decision of the government to go ahead with the long awaited and much needed Thames Tideway Tunnel.
The Thames Tunnel Now (TTN) coalition comprising national and local organisations - including RSPB, WWF, London Wildlife Trust, Thames21, Angling Trust, River Thames Society and angling and boating groups - has been calling since 2011 for the construction of a new tunnel under the Thames to stop tens of millions of tonnes of sewage overflowing into London's river each year through the city's 36 Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs).
The result of more than ten years of exhaustive research and development by Thames Water and the Environment Agency, the tunnel proposal has been declared by independent studies as the only viable solution to dealing with "London's dirty secret", whereby as little as 2mm of rain can cause the sewers to overflow directly into the river with devastating effects for fish and other wildlife.
This was highlighted in the recent video 'You Poo Too' which can be viewed here: http://www.thamestidewaytunnel.co.uk/the-project?q=up2
Following ministerial sign off, the Planning Inspectorate this morning approved the application for Development Consent for the Thames Tideway Tunnel. The project will now move to the construction phase.
FULL DETAILS OF THE GOVERNMENT'S ANNOUNCEMENT CAN BE VIEWED HERE:
Debbie Leach, Chair of Thames Tunnel Now and CEO of the waterways charity Thames 21 said:
'We welcome the Government's decision to give the go-ahead for the Thames Tideway Tunnel. It will prove invaluable for the health of the river. Like me, thousands of Londoners use the river for rowing, angling, sailing and canoeing. Walkers and cyclists use the towpaths, and people often venture unknowingly on to the foreshore where sewage is currently deposited. The Thames Tideway Tunnel is the most important piece of the jigsaw that will once and for all clean up London's river and encourage even more Londoners to connect with the Thames. We praise politicians of all parties for keeping their nerve and supporting a key environmental project which will see the end of 'London's Dirty Secret'.'
Mark Lloyd, CEO of the Angling Trust said:
'Sewage overflows in the summer at times of low water are particularly damaging to wildlife in the river and to a wide range of freshwater and marine fish. The Thames has been described as a wildlife superhighway through the capital and is an important nursery area for millions of bass and flounder and other fish species. Every time there is a major overflow of sewage, tens of thousands of these fish die, damaging the fragile eco-system. Millions of pounds have been spent on fish passes to encourage salmon to return to the Thames but until sewage pollution in the Tideway is tackled most migratory fish runs are bound to fail.'
Dave Harvey, Chair of TAC said:
'This announcement from the government in response to the Planning Inspectorate's Inquiry is very welcome and we look forward to the awful and all too regular Thames pollutions ending once and for all.
The devastating fish kill in June 2011, where in excess of 100,000 fish died in a single day, proved something of a wake up call for everyone, and unless a real and long term solution was agreed then these disasters would continue to happen.
The Thames is at the heart of London, the artery of of capital city and the route that many species of fish will take in migrating to its upper reaches and tributaries. We are hopeful that the endangered European eel will now start to thrive and that fish such as smelt will spawn in the Tidal Thames and that it will be a cleaner home to countless others species. We can now look forward to a brighter and cleaner future for our great river.'
Dr Janina Gray, from the Salmon & Trout Association said:
'We welcome the decision to stop raw sewage emptying into the river after heavy rainfall events. For many years this has created biological dead zones and a water quality barrier to fish migration. In removing this, we hope to see salmon, sea trout and other fish species returning in numbers to the Thames.'
Angling Trust Campaigns Chief Martin Salter added:
'There have been too many false dawns for the Tidal Thames and far too many devastating fish kills from sewage discharges and plunging levels of dissolved oxygen in the water. But now we really do feel that London's river is experiencing a new beginning with improved water quality and the prospect of seeing an end to the storm water discharges that have done so much damage to fish and other wildlife. Our new annual TideFest fishing competition will provide a living guide to the health of the river in the future.'
The Tideway Tunnel is one of the biggest engineering projects in Europe and will cost £4 billion. It is estimated that each Thames Water customer will pay less than 20p per day for the tunnel and a much cleaner river and with Thames Water bills currently among the lowest in the country, the new higher rates will still be around the average for water companies in the UK. Construction of the tunnel will create over 9,000 new direct and indirect jobs. A clean and healthy tidal river will also support many thousands more employment opportunities in recreation, leisure and tourism industries in the future.
At the launch of Thames Tunnel Now in October 2011 a spokesperson for the coalition said:
'It is completely unacceptable for people to be faced with raw sewage in one of the most sophisticated cities in the world, and for tens of thousands of fish to die from suffocation every time it rains heavily in the summer. Opponents of the scheme should ask themselves if they would like their child to go sailing or fishing among human faeces, sanitary towels and condoms, or if they would like a healthy river full of wildlife for millions of people to enjoy for generations to come.'
We now have pleasure in adding:
'This is great news for the environment and an historic moment for one of the most famous rivers in the world which will be given a long overdue new lease of life.'