RESIDENTS and councillors are angry that Thames Water has begun work on installing two sewage tanks at each end of Queen Elizabeth Drive in Taw Hill.
They have accused the water company of by-passing planning laws and putting people’s safety at risk.
Thames Water says precautions have been taken but because formal planning permission has not been needed there are no formal conditions on the work.
This problem was highlighted on the first day of works when contractors arrived at 7am, closed off a footpath, and blocked off pavements, forcing pedestrians to cross the road on a blind bend.
“If this had gone through the formal planning process as we were promised in the beginning then there would have been conditions to stop this,” said chartered surveyor Marie Percival, who lives nearby.
“They would have only been able work between 8am and 4pm, whereas now they can work Saturdays as well if they want.
“It’s only going to get worse as well when the real work starts. They are digging a hole the volume of five double-decker buses here and twice the size at the other end. There isn’t the turning distance for trucks which will be needed and I have no idea where they will park when they are waiting.
“A public footpath, running through the green area which is going to be destroyed, has been closed without permission.”
The aim of the tanks is to expand the capacity of the sewage network and reduce flood risk in the area but residents believe it will in fact create a problem.
When the proposals were first put to residents they were promised the firm would apply for planning permission on each site at either end of Queen Elizabeth Drive.
However, it was met with fierce opposition so the water firm said it would look at other options. But the revised plans resolved to build most things underground, thereby avoiding the need for planning permission.
Coun Emma Faramarzi (Con, Priory Vale) was equally critical of the water company for the way it had treated residents.
She said: “I have to say I am really disappointed in Thames Water. They called it a consultation process but it was more like telling us what was going to happen.
“My concern is for the children at St Francis School. Some of the older ones of live close by walk home by themselves and with the work means they may have to walk along the road. All it takes is for one of them not to be concentrating and there could so easily be an accident. The frustrating thing is they have a statutory right so there is very little we can do.
“Once they knew we were going to take it to planning committee they seemed to change their plan.”
The first part of the work has seen polythene sheeting put around the site to protect newts in a neighbouring pond, which residents also say will be at risk if the tanks ever overflow.
A Thames Water spokesman said: “The set-up of our site has been done in a way to keep our team safe and also to keep local people at a safe distance from our work.”