Majority of Londoners agree with anglers and back proposed ‘Supersewer’ to protect river Thames

Cross capital survey shows 85 per cent support proposed Thames Tunnel.

More than eight out of ten Londoners support the Thames Tunnel, proposed to help tackle growing sewage pollution in the River Thames, a new survey commissioned by Thames Water has revealed.

The news has been warmly welcomed by ‘Thames Tunnel Now’, a coalition of environmental and amenity groups including the Angling Trust and Thames Angler’s Conservancy, Who have been campaigning against the discharge of untreated sewage into the river for many years.

The telephone poll of 2,400 capital residents, conducted by independent market research company ComRes , shows that 43 per cent of respondents strongly support the project. Opposition was registered by 11 per cent of the representative cross section of people surveyed. The sample for the survey was weighted towards the boroughs potentially directly affected by the tunnel’s construction, but also took in residents of all local authority areas in Greater London. Support for the project was highest in Hounslow (93 per cent) and lowest in Lewisham (77 per cent).

Over half of the participants (54 per cent) declared that improving the quality of water in the river was a high priority for them, higher than the propotion of respondents who attached most importance to the appearance of their local environment (47 per cent), or improving traffic in their area (42 per cent).

Whatever their views of the project, an overwhelming majority (96 per cent) agreed that the river is a globally important landmark for London, with 79 per cent viewing it as a source of pride for the capital. Sixty per cent were of the opinion that the river is under used.

Less than one in ten (nine per cent) would happily swim in the Thames, a practice recently banned by the Port of London Authority.

Awareness of the project is highest in Richmond (63 per cent), one of the riverside boroughs where Thames Water has focussed its public consultation for the project, which started in September 2010.

Over 60 per cent said that the Thames Tunnel’s potential to create over 9,000 jobs would make them a lot more likely to support the project.

Mark Lloyd, CEO of the Angling Trust, said: “It’s gratifying to see that it’s not just anglers but an overwhelming majority of Londoners who want to see a clean and vibrant river in the heart of our capital city. The Angling Trust was a founder member of Thames Tunnel Now and will continue to work with our colleagues in the wider environmental movement to make the case for this vital project to proceed without delay. We look forward to the day when we can catch a nice net of healthy fish outside the House of Commons on our way to lobby government ministers!”

Phil Stride, Head of London Tideway Tunnels at Thames Water, said: “This poll reveals a welcome, underlying groundswell of popular support for the project right across the capital. There’s a clear consensus that allowing growing levels of untreated sewage into the river that so defines our capital city is unacceptable and must be addressed as soon as possible. This does not in any way diminish the legitimate concerns of communities living near to our proposed construction sites. We remain as committed as ever to working with these residents to ensure that potential disruption is kept to a minimum.”

Debbie Leach, Chief Executive of the river clean up charity Thames21, said: “This survey gives a voice to the silent majority who agree with plans which are vital for the future of the River Thames. Not everyone can come out and volunteer with Thames21 to clean and green the Thames, although many thousands do – but this poll shows there is massive and widespread support to build the Thames Tunnel and tackle vile and damaging sewage in our river.”

Dave Harvey, Chairman of Thames Anglers Conservancy, said: “This report shows that Londoners believe the tidal Thames is an under-used resource and given the millions of tonnes of sewage that are dumped each in year, they are correct. Our goal is to see the tunnel built and kids of all ages returning to the foreshore, maybe catching their first ever fish from the diverse range of species that will return.”

Thames Water’s three rounds of public consultation for the project ended on 4 July 2012. They saw the company:

  • issue over 350,000 letters to customers in potentially directly affected boroughs
  • publish 50 local newspaper adverts
  • hold over 130 drop-in sessions, attended by over 8,000 people
  • attend over 100 public meetings and other events
  • establish a project website, attracting over 180,000 visitors
  • answer 1,500 letters relating to the project
  • process over 9,800 consultation responses