Ken Livingstone has criticised what he calls Government’s “misguided” rejection of his opposition to Thames Water’s plans for a £200 million desalination plant at Beckton.
The Mayor has described Government plans to approve the plant as “a retrograde step in UK environmental policy” and has announced that he will be asking his legal team to consider whether there are grounds to challenge the Government’s position.
The proposed plan would be on green belt land near Beckton, in east London and has been described by the Mayor as being used to “desalinate water from the Thames to replace that lost through Thames Water’s leaky pipes”.
The Secretaries of State for Communities and Local Government and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have conditionally agreed Thames Water’s plans for a desalination plant following a public inquiry in May and June 2006.
During the Inquiry, in July 2006, OFWAT, the Water Regulator, levied a £150 million fine on Thames Water’s shareholder, because of its failure to meet its statutory leakage targets. The Mayor argued during the inquiry that with improved demand, leakage and resource management, it would be possible for Thames Water to ensure adequate water supplies for London without any need for an energy guzzling desalination plant.
According to the water experts appearing for the Mayor at the inquiry, Thames Water could find as much as nine times the capacity of the proposed desalination plant by 2029 – and over four times as much by 2019 – if it worked to best practice in demand, supply and leakage management.
Mayor Livingstone said he had “refused Thames Water’s application to build the plant on London’s green belt because Thames Water should be fixing more leaks before they find expensive ways to spend Londoners’ money on making fresh water. They have the worst leakage record in the UK and the water produced by this plant won’t even come close to replacing what they waste every day.”
Mr Livingstone said “building a desalination plant sends the wrong signal. We should be encouraging people to use less water, not more. An extra £200 million on Londoners’ water bills for a technology more appropriate for the desert is a disgrace”.
“Last summer we managed to save nearly three times more water than this plant can make through our drought campaigns, a much cheaper and far more sustainable solution to our water supply problems.”