A panel of experts has been tasked with reviewing the suitability of London’s new super sewer plans following the launch of a new commission backed by Richmond Council.

The Thames Tunnel Commission launched this morning, with the aim of probing super sewer proposals in depth and looking to find better alternatives.

Richmond is one of 14 boroughs along the Thames riverside, including Southwark and Kensington and Chelsea, which has lent support to the initiative probing the multi-billion pound super sewer.

Lord True, leader of Richmond Council, said: "The case for the Thames Tunnel has not been properly made. It is time for Thames Water to rethink and deliver a scheme that secures greater value for money and less disruption to Londoners.

“With the country still plunging into debt at £16m-an-hour, inflation too high and utility bills constantly growing, this is one prestige project that could be shelved until better days."

Sponsored by Hammersmith and Fulham Council, the independent commission will be made up of experts including Lord Selborne, representatives from the Consumer Council for Water, engineers, and the US-based National Resources Defense Council.

Issues explored will cover everything from the proximity of homes, schools and businesses to proposed construction sites, the possibility of greener alternatives for cleaning up the river and sewer drainage. It will also examine how other countries have gone about creating combined sewer systems and look at the rising cost of the project.

Lord Selborne said: "I welcome the opportunity to pose the questions that millions of water bill payers are starting to ask.

“The key question is whether this multi-billion pound project is the best solution to making the Thames cleaner or whether there are sensible alternatives that are cheaper, greener and less disruptive."

Hammersmith and Fulham Council leader Councillor Stephen Greenhalgh added: "At a time when our public services are under intense pressure, Londoners cannot afford to effectively write a blank cheque for this scheme without proper scrutiny, accountability and debate.

"Doing nothing is not an option, but we need to consider the possibility that there are better alternatives.”

Issues concerning Richmond residents about the construction of the 20-mile tunnel have so far focused on the listing of Barn Elms playing fields as a preferred site.

Concerns included the fact the site, located on the Barnes and Putney border, is greenfield land and building an entrance shaft for drilling equipment on it would mean 24-hour-a-day construction work seven-days-a-week for three years.

As well as the commission's launch, a meeting between the Environment Minister, Richard Benyon MP, and the leaders of the 14 riverside London boroughs that will be affected by the scheme has been arranged.