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Last Updated: Friday, 30 June 2006, 15:23 GMT 16:23 UK
Inquiry on salt water plant ends
The proposed desalination plant
The plant would be used mainly during droughts
A public inquiry into plans to build the UK's first desalination plant in east London has been completed.

The five-week inquiry finished with final submissions from Thames Water, which is behind the project, and the mayor of London who opposes it.

The inquiry began after Mayor Ken Livingstone overturned Newham Council's approval for the plant in Beckton.

Thames Water has argued the 200m plant is essential to cater for London's short-term needs.

Long-term damage

The plant, which would be used mainly during droughts, would take water from the tidal stretch of the Thames.

The treated water would then be pumped through a new pipeline to a reservoir in east London, ready for distribution to customers.

It could supply 140 million litres of water a day, enough to supply 400,000 homes in north-east London.

"Reducing leakage is the most important part of our plan to make more water available, but it is a long-term programme and we have a shortage now," said Richard Aylard, of Thames Water.

'Natural resources'

He said the firm has argued that desalination was the only way to provide London with the extra water it needs, "quickly enough, and at an acceptable cost".

But Mr Livingstone believes Thames Water should be spending its resources on fixing leaks in the existing water network and reducing demand for water by installing water-saving devices and educating customers.

"Thames Water's record is the unacceptable, unsustainable and irresponsible face of privatisation," he said.

"We cannot continue to consume our natural resources at ever increasing rates irrespective of the damage we are doing to the planet."

It will be at least six months before a judgement into the inquiry, held at the City Aviation House in east London, is completed.

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