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, campaigning against the discharge of untreated sewage into the river.
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.
Of those who had heard of the project, awareness of it potentially being built in their borough, was highest in Hammersmith and Fulham (78 per cent), home to Carnwath Road Riverside, one of four main sites identified by Thames Water as needed to serve as bases for the construction of the tunnel from 2015/16.
Along with Lewisham, Hammersmith and Fulham was also home to the highest proportion of opponents to the project. Newham is the borough with the highest proportion of supporters, the poll found.
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.
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.”
Carlo Laurenzi OBE, Chief Executive of London Wildlife Trust, said: “The public is backing the idea of a cleaner Thames and so are the groups and charities who work with them. Londoners can see for themselves that the tunnel is an important component for the long-term health of the River Thames. A less polluted river would create greatly improved conditions for a wide range of wildlife and for people’s enjoyment of it. The public have spoken, so now let’s get on with it!”
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.”
Com Res conducted the telephone survey between 24 May and 3 June 2012.
The sample included 1000 from all London boroughs and a further 1,400 from the 14 riverside boroughs potentially directly affected by the project. There was a minimum sample of 100 in each of these boroughs, except in the City of London where only 77 were possible. The remaining 23 interviews were allocated among the other 13 boroughs.
Along with two other projects already underway – the Lee Tunnel and the upgrade of five sewage works on the tidal River Thames – the Thames Tunnel is urgently required to tackle the 39 million tonnes of untreated sewage that overflows into the river in a typical year from the capital’s overstretched sewerage network, masterminded by Sir Joseph Bazalgette over 150 years ago.