Update from our meeting on Thames Water mains replacement works in Tulse Hill and West Norwood

A few days ago, councillors Anna and Peter met with the Lambeth officer leading discussions with Thames Water.

We have had a briefing on proposals – but with a clear caveat that these are still being negotiated so are subject to change. We will update this blog as things change and you can also sign up for email updates from us by clicking here.

Thames meeting

The proposed scope of works is to replace 840m of existing 21” cast iron trunk main in Norwood Road. The extent of this lies between Thurlow Park Road in the north and Robson Road in the south, passing under the Network Rail bridge at Tulse Hill station.

It will be a brand new pipe, which will only plugged into the network once it is installed – the existing pipe will be left in the ground and abandoned. This should mean less road gets dug up and potentially also means the redundant pipe can be used to reduce future disruption if, for example, new internet or electricity wires need to be laid as they can go through the empty pipe rather than requiring a trench to be dug. New monitoring equipment is proposed to be installed in the new pipe and this should make the network easier to monitor for leaks.

The reasons given for this work are to address flooding issues. The existing 21” cast iron trunk main was installed in 1890 and due to age and fatigue has a history – as many of us have experienced with increasing regularity – of bursts.

The work is proposed to be “open cut” which means a trench has to be opened. The reason given for this is that the existing trunk main is too small a diameter to slip line and would not provide sufficient volume for the current population. Thames Water is looking at a £14 million price tag for these works.

Original proposals apparently involved a linear programme of works – starting at one end and working the length of Norwood Road. This would have taken a very long time, and in an effort to reduce the length of time that there are disruptions Lambeth officers have proposed having two “fronts” so that work begins in two places, one at the northern end of the scheme and one halfway along, and then progress southwards simultaneously. This would mean the scheme takes less time.

Trenches would be dug in stages, rather than all at once. Each section would result in one lane of traffic being closed, and temporary traffic lights managing traffic flow past the works. Each section may also result in a side road being closed while that section is being worked on.

There are currently no bus diversions proposed, though temporary lights will clearly cause a lot of congestion and we would expect bus journeys to take longer too. However, we had been concerned about buses being diverted away from West Norwood, so we’re pleased that that’s currently not the proposal.

We raised the concerns raised at the public meeting we held recently about deliveries to businesses, continued water supply for businesses and residents, the ability for the Feast to continue running each month, about public transport and congestion, about parking, about disabled access, about compensation for businesses, and about additional investment and improvement in West Norwood.

We were reassured by many of the answers. Officers are aware of the importance of Feast for example, and have already lobbied Thames Water for changes to ensure Feast is not disrupted – original Thames Water proposals used Chatsworth Way for storage and this would have prevented Feast stalls from being erected. Lambeth officers have persuaded Thames Water to change their storage plans so that the space remains available for Feast.

There should be no interruption to water supply, which reassures us especially for vulnerable customers and for those businesses which can’t function without it like Floral Hall and the many hairdressers.

Lambeth officers are aware of the issues surrounding deliveries, and the importance of ensuring convenient times and locations. We understand that conversations with all businesses will take place so that delivery requirements are fully mapped and can be planned for and enabled.

We remain concerned about the impact on businesses – we haven’t had clarity on compensation but understand that some piecemeal attempts to talk to businesses individually have been taking place. We have strongly put that compensation should be in advance to prevent any businesses closing down, and that rather than risking businesses being picked off individually or played off against each other that Thames Water also work closely with the BID to ensure all businesses are supported.

We’ve also asked about how to ensure a balance between redirecting through traffic that doesn’t stop locally while still communicating that West Norwood and Tulse Hill are open for business, and encouraging shoppers to travel here – particularly by bus, on foot and cycling if able.

We raised concern about the lack of communication to date – with councillors, businesses, community groups and residents. We have suggested regular councillor briefings and to meet Thames Water directly. We’ve asked for communications to local residents, and have been told that current proposals would see a letter from Thames delivered to tens of thousands of residents in the next week or two – the exact geography of this is still being discussed.

Lambeth have also secured agreement for Thames to fund a dedicated officer for this scheme, and that there will be 24-hour on-site presence, so that residents and businesses have an easily accessible point of contact.

We’ve asked for drop in events with information for businesses and residents, as well as a public meeting with Thames Water, Lambeth and TfL all on a panel and able to share information and ask questions. The offer of project officers attending BID meetings or business forums on a regular basis was also offered. Officers have been in touch with cycling groups and are contacting community groups locally. We’re encouraged that these all seem to be in the pipeline (sorry – we couldn’t resist at least one water related pun!) – do sign up for our email updates so that we can make sure you’re invited to the meetings.

We are happy to answer questions on topics we’ve been briefed on, to raise questions with officers that we don’t know the answers to, and to meet with anyone who would like to discuss this further. Our email addresses are:

  • abirley@lambeth.gov.uk
  • fcowell@lambeth.gov.uk
  • pely@lambeth.gov.uk

We share the concerns of residents and businesses that this will be hugely disruptive and could seriously harm our town centre – we are doing all we can to ensure negative impacts are minimised and mitigated. We also want to secure as many positive benefits from the works as possible – for example, full resurfacing of the carriageway rather than simply patching up trenches and STEM training or work experience in local schools.

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