It’s been months in the making… but finally comes news of a breakthrough in the negotiations on north west London’s River Crane.
As this Thames Anglers’ Conservancy report reminds us, the river suffered a catastrophic sewage spill at the end of October last year when a 6-tonne penstock jammed in Thames Water’s main sewage pipe out of Heathrow airport. In an act of calculated desperation, more than 7 miles of the Crane were flooded with raw sewage (and who knows what else?), killing at least 10,000 fish and burying the river’s ecology under hundreds of tonnes of stinking grey sludge.
Since then, TAC and many other local groups including FORCE and London Wildlife Trust have come together as the Crane Valley Partnership to negotiate a sustainable way forward for the river. No doubt encouraged by the success of the Living Wandle project, which was seed-funded by Thames Water after a similar-but-different spill from Beddington sewage treatment works in 2007, the water company has now pledged funding worth £400,000 for the Crane over the next 5 years.
Cynics will probably suggest that this is a ploy to reduce Thames Water’s fine when the Environment Agency’s criminal case eventually comes to court, but we reckon this misses the point.
Even if the settlement does persuade the Court of Appeal to reduce the fine, which in any case will be severely limited by sentencing guidelines, the £400,000 will help the Crane to start recovering in the here and now… whereas any fine is guaranteed to sink without trace into the gaping black hole of the Treasury’s budget deficit.
When the Angling Trust’s Fish Legal lawyers finally get a day off from the 70-odd cases they’re fighting at any given moment, this will be an interesting policy discussion for them to take to government.
In the meantime, Thames Water certainly isn’t the only water company with a record of environmental destruction in the UK. But so far it’s the only big utility which has voluntarily tried to make meaningful financial contribution to cleaning up its mess, first on the Wandle and now here. For that, we think Richard Aylard and his fellow directors deserve a lot of credit… and we’ll certainly be following the Crane’s next 5 years with interest.
(Photo: Thames Anglers’ Conservancy)