WORK is due to start on Monday to install two sewage storage tanks in Priory Vale, despite heavy opposition to the plans.
Thames Water is putting in the two tanks just off Queen Elizabeth Drive and has announced work will start next week. They say it is vital to prevent flooding in the area.
Plans were initially announced in the summer but were met with fierce opposition from residents and ward councillors.
They were angry at the site being chosen given its proximity to homes and asked them to consider other locations. Thames Water came back in January with slightly altered plans, but still on the same two sites.
Fundamentally, say residents, the new plans mean Thames Water has avoided having to go through the planning committee, despite initially saying both sites would go through the full planning process.
Six-feet-high stacks to release the gas were dropped to ground level and a road to access the site was removed.
As the rest is underground, Thames Water can start the £5m project without permission.
As a result, residents are now worried key safety and traffic checks have not been done. Given the northern site’s proximity to St Francis School, as well as it being a narrow bus route, there are fears of accidents.
Marie Percival, of Dydale Road who works as a chartered surveyor in property, said: “The work will involve digging a hole the size of five double-decker buses. Because it has not gone through planning, nothing has been said about the hours of work or the amount of traffic.
“If they are running behind deadline then what’s to stop them working all hours? The site is directly opposite the main road crossing which the school children use.
“On top of that the equipment will create huge vibrations for the nearby houses.”
Marie, along with other residents, has questioned the use for the two tanks since the plan was first revealed. Thames Water says they will deal with flooding but the locals claim it will in fact create a problem of flooding.
She said: “Planning regulations say all flooding work must be in preparation for a one-in-100-year flood, but this is one-in-30 year solution. In the recent rain we had, the tanks would have surcharged.
“We have seen this type of tank fill up elsewhere, such as Croydon, and the result has been raw sewage flowing into people’s gardens.”
During the first week, contractors will be setting up their site and creating access routes from the road to the site. Thames Water say they are working alongside an ecologist to protect the local wildlife, including great crested newts and nesting birds.
Work on the second tank at the southern site near the Haydon End sewage pumping station will begin in June with the project set to be completed by April 2015.
Head of programme delivery for Thames Water, Mark Taylor, said: “We’ve all seen images on the TV recently of people whose lives have been torn apart by flooding and overloaded sewers and we must make sure that those problems do not start occurring elsewhere.
“We must plan and act now ahead of future development.”