Boris’s Broken Promises #1: Carnwath Road and the ‘super sewer’

During Newsnight’s mayoral husting, Boris Johnson said:
“Do you want a mayor who breaks his promises or one who keeps them?”
I attended the People’s Question Time on 7 March and have blogged about Boris’s posturing on the King Street development following that meeting. Today, Dave Hill refers on his blog to a different issue that was raised.
During the question time Mayor Johnson was asked by two members of the Hammersmith audience about Thames Water’s plans to use a site in the borough as the location for tunnelling work for the new ‘super sewer’.
Following an earlier question, to which Boris said “I will not tolerate anything that disrupts and destroys the lives of London communities”, he was asked:
I was very pleased to hear that you said that you would support or object to any ruining of the local community on environmental grounds in Carnwath Road. Can I interpret that, Mr Mayor, into meaning that you will give the same degree of support to those of us who live in the area, objecting to the environmental disaster that the Carnwath Road scheme would impose on the area, as you have given to the objectors to the use of Barn Elms?
Boris opposed Thames Water’s proposals to use Barn Elms, an area of playing fields in Richmond, as the site for the tunnelling work required for the new ‘super sewer’ – he described the plans as “outrageous”. The Carnwath Road site was then lined up as the location for tunnelling work after Thames Water changed the proposals.
In answer to the question, the Mayor confirmed:
Yes, you can. Yes, you can… yes, I will defend your interests and the rights of your community to be protected from disruption, with all the vehemence that I used to defend Barn Elms. Yes, I will not tolerate measures that unnecessarily cause damage and destruction to communities in this city.
As Dave Hill highlights, he was promising to support them with “all the vehemence that I used to defend Barn Elms”. This would lead you to think he opposed it.
But Boris Johnson had already approved the proposal. Writing in the appendix to his main response to the application that:
The switch to Carnwath Road from Barn Elms for main tunnelling purposes is supported as this relocates major tunnelling activities from a Greenfield to a partially derelict Brownfield site which benefits from good navigational characteristics and better access to the Strategic Road Network.
This is just one of a number of broken promises that I will be blogging about over the next few weeks.

About nickygavron

Former Deputy Mayor of London. London Assembly Member, Chair of Planning Committee, and GLA Labour Spokesperson for Planning. NPF Member.
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2 Responses to Boris’s Broken Promises #1: Carnwath Road and the ‘super sewer’

  1. Hamish McLean says:

    Can you clarify what your position on the super sewer is?

  2. Tom MacNeece says:

    Thank you for raising the vexed question of Boris and the carnage that is about to be unleashed on the residents of south Fulham. Thames Water is not a traditional water company with a responsibility to the public and a duty to ensure that the huge sums that the taxpayer is investing in the sewer project will be properly used; It is a private equity body with a primary duty to its investors.
    Mcqauarie will be ultimately in charge of London’s second largest infrastructure project. It may have sold Thames Water on before the project is complete if the right offer comes along, and Boris, the residents of Fulham will get as much consideration as the local council has received – a big fat zero.
    Britain’s private equity houses, or leveraged buyout firms as they are known in the US, are nearly all registered abroad. They take the companies they buy off the stock market and away from public scrutiny. Lets look at Debenhams which became a target of a number of private equity houses – and eventually fell to the British firm CVC Capital, Merryll Lynch and the Texas Pacific Group. The consortium put up around a third of the cost of purchase in equity and borrowed the rest to finance the deal. This means that the interest on the debt could be offset against profits for tax purposes. Corporation tax of £40 million before the take-over sank to zero under private ownership.
    The consortium paid off the loan within two years by the sale of the stores’ property ownership. This was then leased back greatly increasing the stores’ rental costs. The effect of this restructuring was to saddle the group with £2 bn worth of debt. This is quite a normal route by which acquisition debt is paid off. But it usually leads to a cut back in capital investment.
    You can see where the taxpayer fits into this picture if something similar were to happen with Mcquarie. In Debenham’s case, the consortium had more than tripled the value of its initial investment.over 30 months through a mix of refinancing, cost cutting, property sales and the sale of nearly two-thirds of the company in 2006.
    Yes it was sold back to the stock market in 2006 for a share price of 195p. At the beginning of 2011, the price had sunk to 60 p. So a private equity company does not conform to traditional views of a public utility. The rationale behind decisions will be away from the public eye. Carnwath Road will not be featuring high on the list. Nor will noise and dust for 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Nor will traffic gridlock spreading around the borough.
    But, Boris, Carnwath Road may be one embarrassment you will wish you had avoided. Promises, promises. Can we trust you as your career stretches into the future … ? Do you remember Carnwath Road? Thousands of schoolchildren will.

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