Moselle Brook water quality checks – why the delay?

It's now a couple of months since St William told us that January's wet weather had interfered with the first of their engineers' annual checks on water quality in the Moselle at the Heartlands. The results would therefore be delayed.

Then in March we were told that there was a hold up in their receiving the consultants' report. But that it was expected very soon. It's now the May Bank Holiday and the results have still not been made public.

Graphic providing an impression of the heights of the various buildings of Clarendon development
The Heartlands housing development, now rebranded as 'Clarendon'. Planning consent stipulates that developers submit a plan for deculverting the Moselle.

Last week PMRA and the Rivers Forum wrote jointly to St William and to the Haringey planners asking for the results to be shared as a matter of urgency. The email hasn't been acknowledged - very unusual for St William who generally reply by return.

So what is going on? The planning consent given last year requires St William to submit plans to deculvert a short stretch of the river on their Clarendon site. This is in keeping with government guidelines and Haringey's responsibilities to develop the Blue Ribbon Network under the London Plan. But Haringey accepted that the plan would only be implemented if the water quality reached a good standard under the European Union Bathing Water Directive. That would mean showing that the Brook was clean enough to swim in and that there was no risk to human health by ingestion (in effect, by drinking it) - its the same standard that is applied at Hampstead Ponds and the Serpentine.

A glimpse of the brook near the former gasholder no 3

The Haringey Rivers Forum has been unable to find an expert - be they engineer or environmental scientist - who considers this to be a valid test of water quality in a tiny urban river. The borough is right to be concerned about public health and St William's wish for the Brook to be clean is responsible. Both have an understandable anxiety about factors beyond their control - ie. what happens upstream. But both must trust the public.

Despite the Moselle being badly polluted in Lordship Rec for several years there have been no reports of anyone falling in or being made ill. In the present state of the system we can respect and enjoy a river without expecting to play in it. And rivers have to be opened up if we are ever to get on top of the environmental problems that affect the whole system in the city. So to set a standard that is in effect unattainable is not responsible policy-making - in fact, it makes it more difficult to implement the policies to which the Council is committed. Recent discussions suggest Haringey has realised this.

So why the silence from developer and planning department at this point? Is Haringey at last trying to persuade St William to revise its position on this matter? Or is it conceivable that the stream now meets the bathing water standard and that the deculverting can go ahead? Either way its time to put the debate in the public domain. Not least because, if the Moselle Brook is now significantly cleaner, that is a massive achievement on the Council's part - whether in working with Thames Water to persuade property owners to sort out their plumbing or by installing SUDS (sustainable urban drainage systems) to remove pollution from the roads.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. First the developer must act in the public interest. Come on St William! Its time to publish those results!

One comment on “Moselle Brook water quality checks – why the delay?”

  1. The case for opening up the Moselle is absolutely clear. Faced with almost daily warnings of the consequences on nature of human activities, it's essential that we use every opportunity to re-create natural spaces whenever we can. Not just for wildlife, but for the proven mental health and life quality benefits that green and blue spaces provide. And of course this would help generate an asset that symbolically links up our borough East to West. Fountain Area Residents' Association fully supports the daylighting of the Moselle

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