EXCLUSIVE: Chambers Wharf campaigners launch legal action over ‘super sewer’ construction

Josh Salisbury (07 November, 2018) Health Regeneration

The campaigners want to clarify the construction giant's equalities duties under the law

26403Construction has been ongoing for two years on the Thames super sewer project and now campaigners have launched a legal challenge

A Chambers Wharf campaigning group has started legal action against Tideway, the construction company behind the Thames ‘super sewer’ project, the News can reveal.

Tideway is currently in the process of building a £4.2 billion tunnel through the River Thames to control sewer overflow discharges, and one of the main worksites is at Chambers Wharf, Bermondsey.

A ‘pre-action protocol’ letter was sent to construction firm on Monday, outlining the intent to serve the claim.

Campaigners say they hope the legal action, if it goes to a full hearing, will clarify whether Tideway has a public sector equalities duty as it is carrying out public work.

Public sector bodies have a duty to consider certain protected characteristics when carrying out work, which private firms do not.

Local activists also say that the action would clear up whether a more extensive impact assessment should have been carried out before the construction began, as well as clarify whether private firms’ decisions can be subject to a judicial review.

Gary Kandinsky, of Protecting Residents from the Super Sewer, said: “Many of the residents needs for mitigation from noise, vibration and dust have not been addressed.

“We have won minor concessions for Tideway last year, but they have become increasingly difficult to work with and placed many unnecessary barriers up on our reasonable requests for low cost breaks and other respite, on a scheme costing £5bn which will blight our home lives for several more years.”

Tideway declined to comment specifically on whether it has received the letter, but added it encouraged “any residents who feel affected by our works to contact us.”

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A Tideway spokesperson said: “Tideway is committed to doing as much as we can to limit the impact of our works on people who live and work near our sites.

“This has included using specialist equipment to reduce the levels of noise during construction, keeping lorries off the roads by transporting materials by river, and building a noise and dust enclosure which will house a large proportion of the work.

“Robust and detailed impact assessments were carried about before work started, as is usual with any major project and we continue to have regular dialogue with the community.”

Residents sent the letter notifying Tideway of their intent to serve the claim on Monday over the £4.2 billion project

Tideway has two weeks to set out their response to the letter, the News understands, before the next step in proceedings.

The campaigning group has been helped in its bid by the Public Interest Law Centre in Lambeth, while the Southwark Law Centre has been assisting residents with case work.

Sally Causer, Southwark Law Centre CEO, said that the centre had assisted by residents with health issues over concerns with the construction, adding: “Decision making on the mitigation offered is far from transparent and the appeal process seems to be another barrier for vulnerable residents.”

A previous attempt to force a Judicial Review over the ‘super sewer’ project was submitted by Southwark Council in 2015.

However, the legal challenge collapsed after the council’s legal papers were submitted late in a confusion over deadlines.

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