Greenwich cruise liner terminal: Planners shrug off pollution fears

The new proposals for a cruise liner terminal at Enderby Wharf

The new proposals for a cruise liner terminal at Enderby Wharf

10.40pm update: The cruise liner terminal was passed by six votes to three, with one abstention. Read on for the story from before the meeting.

Greenwich Council planners have dismissed fears of air pollution from the new cruise liner terminal at Enderby Wharf, recommending councillors pass the scheme at a meeting on Tuesday evening.

Groups including the East Greenwich Residents Association and the Greenwich Society are objecting to the terminal as liners berthed there will be generating their own power, keeping their engines switched on rather than using cleaner shore-side power, as used at termimals in New York and Amsterdam.

Critics say the effects of the ships generating their own power while berthed will be the equivalent to having 50 lorries running their engines all day and night.

Across the river, Tower Hamlets Council is also objecting to the scheme, both on air and noise pollution grounds, criticising the lack of detail in the plans and branding as “nonsense” a claim that noise levels will be cut for Isle of Dogs residents.

Local Green parties in both Greenwich and Tower Hamlets have also submitted objections. In total, 117 objections were received by Greenwich Council, with just three expressions of support.

The application has gone to the planning board just a few weeks after a second consultation into the scheme closed.

EU directive 2012/33/EU says:

Air pollution caused by ships at berth is a major concern for many harbour cities when it comes to their efforts to meet the Union’s air quality limit values.


Member States should encourage the use of shore-side electricity, as the electricity for present-day ships is usually provided by auxiliary engines.

But this is dismissed by Greenwich planners.

In a response to residents of Plymouth Wharf in Cubitt Town, which faces the terminal, they declare that this isn’t their responsibility.

Implementation of the EU Directive is the responsibility of the UK Government by transposing this into national legislation. The UK Government must give the Directive effect by instituting schemes, projects etc,. to comply with the Air Quality Directive. The LPA’s role is to assess applications according to legislation and planning policy.

Later, Greenwich’s planners say that following EU directives would be too costly for the cruise liner terminal’s developers.

The applicant has assessed the use of shore power to supply vessels with electrical power in order to reduce emissions when in port. Using shore power has a number of issues attached to it namely:

• Very few cruise ships worldwide actually have the ability to link up to shore power.
• Ship power requirements vary with the size of ship
• The ship electrical requirements differ from those supplied from the UK national grid.

In addition to the above, it is understood that the costs associated with providing such facilities can be prohibitive to both the provider and user when considered against the environmental benefits of burning low sulphur fuel in generators and this is reflected in the low number of ships and ports utilise this facility globally.

Furthermore, the council commissioned a report… but it’s nowhere to be seen in the planning document.

The Council commissioned independent consultants to assess the case for on shore power. The consults report [sic] supported the application position [sic] stating that with the new low sulphur requirements now governing the supply and use of heavy diesel fuel for marine vessels it is unlikely that the huge investment in shore side power equipment can be justified.

Whose side is the council on? It’s a valid question, considering it’s five years since the prospect of a cruise liner terminal at this site was first raised by former leader Chris Roberts, who took the media out on a boat trip to show off the site. He claimed it’d be built for the Olympics.

Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts on BBC London News, 4 June 2009

These days, the planning board is chaired by independently-minded Mark James. Planning is supposed to be free of all political influence, although in practice this hasn’t been the case in recent years.

James replaced Roberts’ one-time henchman, former chief whip Ray Walker, who has now to be content with being vice chair. Current leader Denise Hyland and regeneration cabinet member Danny Thorpe also feature along with Roberts’ former deputy Peter Brooks – so much for doing things differently from the Dear Leader’s days.

So this starts to feel like the Ikea decision – rushed through in the dying days of the Roberts regime, now regretted by some on the council – all over again. Indeed, picking entirely unnecessary fights with local residents and even neighbouring boroughs has a depressingly familiar ring to it.

Will councillors recognise the serious concerns about this project, or will they just give another pet project the nod? It’ll be a big test for the council under Denise Hyland.

Here’s what local MP Matt Pennycook has to say: 

The meeting will be held at Woolwich Town Hall at 6.30pm – this post will be updated as soon as a result is known.

33 comments

  1. roytindle

    Marine low sulphur fuel still contains a great dealmore sulphur than road vehicle fuel: however, it’s not just SO2 but nitrogen oxides that will add to the local air pollution burden.

    The problem that land based cold ironing was not include in the plans is not fatal. In Germany and Norway, electrical power producing barges have been built and float alongside the facility. These are powered by gas turbines and are much cleaner than ships auxiliaries; produce less CO2, also. It is important that campaigners around Enderby’s start to measure existing levels of SO2 and NOx pollution.

  2. Larry Poulton

    So, we (or rather the council planners) can only be environmentally conscious when its cost effective? Make the developer pay, make the tourists pay but don’t make the residents pay in terms of reduced air quality. Greenwich is the embodiment of hypocrisy. They take the short term “whats in it for us” approach rather than the long term “how will it affect the environment and the quality of life for the residents”. Heaven forbid they take an ethical stance and fight for the residents rather than looking at the £££ signs and kudos they hope to achieve. Im so sick and tired of it, words are starting to fail me….

  3. Shivanee

    Haven’t cruiseliners docked around this part of town in the past? Greenwich certainly has a strong affiliation and history with boats and ships so it is at least in keeping with the area’s character. Perhaps the port will help bring the area to life and make it look less derelict, opening up the Thames Path as a visitor attraction and river boat services (much nicer commute than tube). If people are really worried about air pollution from ports, tunnels and new developments, perhaps living in a large global city is not best suited for them? After all, this is not the Green Belt.

  4. jimreason

    I’m worried about air pollution because it knocks 5 years off my already short life, Shivanee. I actually can’t tell if your post is a troll.

  5. Larry Poulton

    @Shivanee. You make it sound as if you have to accept a poor environment if you want or need to live in ta big city. You are a developers delight.

  6. The Hebridean

    Stats issued last week show that premature deaths from polluted air are twice as bad as previously thought. Almost 9500 deaths in 2010 and most from NO2 the very stuff these liners will belch out. We cannot have voluntary euthanasia in this country, so is ignoring air pollution one way of culling the population in Greenwich? Only wondering. . . .

  7. The Hebridean

    And remember that the Labour members of tonight’s Panning Board will have campaigned for Matt Pennycook at the General Election….and I still cherish his campaign flier which said “development but not at any price”. Let’s hope they don’t suffer collective amnesia tonight. Otherwise they are opening the door to some tricky lawyer who will be on the lookout for clients for a class action on air pollution (and you can bet your life, his/her advert won’t be in Greenwich Time either).

  8. Shivanee

    I think the real dangers to local public health are the fried chicken and kebab shops and processed food supermarkets that line Woolwich Rd alongside the betting shops. Add the drive-through mega M&S and ever-expanding retail park which invites people to burn fuel sitting in traffic on a Saturday afternoon. If you are fat because you eat bad food and don’t excercise, the air you breath isn’t going to make much difference to your health.

    If the air was really so bad around Greenwich, the air pollution monitor wouldn’t rate Woolwich Rd or Millennium Village as a very low 1 on the index. Whereas Wandsworth is currently rated as 4 meaning moderate (still one of the wealthiest and most desirable boroughs in London). So even according to the ‘No Silvertown’ website pollution is hardly a local issue. If people are so anxious about the air quality, maybe a move to MidSommer would suit them well. Greenwich is hardly a quaint village and the area around the proposed terminal is considered as Brownfield so no reason for it not to change.

  9. Darryl

    Hebridean – not necessarily, as many of them live in Eltham (would have been campaigning for Clive Efford – includes Danny Thorpe) or Erith & Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce – includes Denise Hyland). This isn’t a group of people who are loyal to each other, to say the very least.

  10. walt

    Usually I’m all for the new developments, but I do think air pollution is a real issue-and the science seems to back this up.. Following Shivanee’s logic we can also do without proper policing, because “if you don’t like being stabbed, might as well move to the countryside”

    The recent news clearly indicate pollution is a problem, obviously mostly around the busy roads
    (See also these maps on http://www.londonair.org.uk/london/asp/annualmaps.asp : Wandsworth doesn’t appear to be more polluted..).

    I hope this development will get the go ahead, under the condition that they provide this shore-based electricity. Shouldn’t be too difficult should it..Reading between the lines from their statement that is what they can do, only they need to be forced to…

  11. roytindle

    Developers will argue that a shore based facility will reduce the development potential thus adding to the additional costs of the facility itself. That is why I suggested a barge as has been used in Hamburg (and elsewhere) http://www.seatrade-cruise.com/news/news-headlines/hamburgs-lng-fueled-cold-ironing-barge-debuts-with-aidasol-test.html.

    The argument that there are many cruise liners cannot accept cold ironing is simply facile: a growing number of cruise liner terminals, around the world, are insisting on cold ironing, to cut air pollution, so liners will have to be modified or will lose destinations and trade.

  12. Neil C

    We all have choice as to whether we eat at fried chicken joints or sit in our cars in traffic on the Woolwich Rd; we don’t really have a choice about the air we breathe.

  13. Larry Poulton

    Shivanee.

    “I think the real dangers to local public health are the fried chicken and kebab shops and processed food supermarkets that line Woolwich Rd alongside the betting shops. Add the drive-through mega M&S and ever-expanding retail park which invites people to burn fuel sitting in traffic on a Saturday afternoon.”

    Remind me. Who agreed planning permission for most of that?……

    …….and who has the power to force an environmentally sensitive solution to this topic?

  14. The Hebridean

    Greenwich has known about the impact of air pollution on health for years. There was a flurry of “concern” 20 years ago when the incidence of childhood asthma increased and it was noticed that those most affected went to schools located along busy and congested roads such as Trafalgar Road. Since then things have not improved for any of us. I have friends whose children did not develop asthma until they came to live in the borough (and no, they were not offered housing in Midsomer, it was Greenwich or nothing).
    Development is necessary and jobs and homes are needed. But with sufficient thought and, yes, money, many of the adverse consequences could be minimised. The problem is that developers want maximum profit, hold local authorities virtually to ransom on housing and jobs, and ultimately can clear off from an area without experiencing any of the long-term problems.

  15. Darryl

    Indeed, and thanks to the wonder of the ITN Source archive, here is that flurry of concern 20 years ago, as reported by Lawrence McGinty for News at Ten in May 1995: http://shar.es/1s45Hu

    Spot the appearance of Clive Efford, then on the council, in his black cab round the back of the ITN building.

    I think this led to the lorry ban through Greenwich town centre – not sure if that’s even enforced today.

    I suspect that population changes over that past 20 years has enabled certain local politicians to dismiss air pollution as some kind of middle-class, trivial concern that gets in the way of progress, to be ranked alongside campaigns for new branches of Waitrose and demanding free-range sandals. After all, if you live in a leafy avenue close miles away from the affected area, and you’re looking for quick fixes to fulfil a “regeneration agenda”, then what does a few kids’ and old peoples’ lives matter?

  16. roytindle

    It’s not just a few kids and old people though. Work absence because of asthma appears to be growing.

  17. Paddy

    Darryl – how was Shivanee being disrespectful? She was simply putting her point across, and at least providing some back up to her reasoning.

    And Shivanee is right in my opinion. It’s a big city with a big river that doesn’t get used as much as it should.

    No doubt the development will go ahead, pollution will continue to be monitored and before long it will become part of the fabric of the city.

    And then there will be other, new developments and projects that people can complain and get hot under the collar about.

    I suspect there might be a pattern here..

  18. Darryl

    I think dismissing east Greenwich as “brownfield land” doesn’t really show respect for those who live there – until fairly recently this was working industrial land, surrounded by housing. Nor is telling people to move to the country.

    If you actually read the comments here, few are objecting to the cruise terminal itself – most are objecting to this being done on the cheap. Why is a local council acting in such a cavalier manner about this?

    Most objectors take the time and trouble to engage with the issue concerned. People who support the scheme should do the same.

  19. The Hebridean

    You may like to be aware of information from 17 October 2013 which states that the International Agency for research on Cancer (part of the World Health Organisation) has classified outdoor air pollution as a carcinogen. Its research concluded that outdoor air pollution causes lung cancer and is linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer. The IARC placed outdoor air pollution in the same category as tobacco smoke, UV radiation and plutonium. When Greenwich Council has active campaigns to help smokers quit, it is hypocritical of them to allow the overall pollution dose to increase. Not everyone smokes but we all breathe.
    And well said Darryl on the overall topic of development. Most of us accept change will happen but it needs to be handled for the long term benefit of the present and future residents even if this means rejecting a developer’s scheme and sending the company back to the drawing board. A knee jerk quick fix is no genuine solution.

  20. Paddy

    Darryl – you personalising something that is not personal. Calling something Brownfield Land is not an insult – it means land that has previously been developed / used for industrial purposes as I’m sure you know.

    I think the poster who replied to Shivanee’s comment with the accusation that she might be a troll was more disrespectful (and a bit hysterical).

  21. Maggy May

    Surely the main point is that poor air quality is imposed on us while many other things are lifestyle choices. We cant all live the country dream so look for our elected representatives to ensure we have a reasonably healthy environment. When they are caught napping, for whatever reason we all suffer, but the vulnerable more than most.
    It’s all very well trying to keep up appearances that we live in a lovely shiny borough – it helps keep up property values. But actually we have problems with dirty air that will never be solved unless we admit it and push our representatives to do something about it and look at the cumulative impact of unbridled development. Every little helps?

  22. Larry Poulton

    It is interesting to watch how quickly a discussion devolves. Maybe this is how politics works. Distractions.

    It seems simple to me. If the council wants to give the go ahead to a scheme knowing that it will adversely affect the air quality but that there is a means to mitigate or eradicate that impact which involves a cost, then if the developer wants to get permission, they need to accept the costs. Why else do we spout on about the improving the environment so much but baulk at the idea that it will cost money?

    I am not against the development. I am however against it adversely affecting an already fragile environment. Thats not unreasonable – is it?

  23. Pingback: Greenwich cruise terminal up for planning as on-site housing blocks complete | fromthemurkydepths
  24. Thudd

    Will this grow in time to be a propah cruise terminal as at Southampton? Fully MARPOL compliant? If so, Greenwich will get tens of thousands of gallons of sewage from the holding tanks, tankers full of waste oil / water from the engine room / bilge separators and hundreds of tons of putrescent waste from store to be disposed of whilst the Pax. all disappear up to London in their coaches, minibuses and limos to catch a show and dine out – and as water pressure drops on the peninsula as the ship’s tanks are refilled the pier head will be packed with refrigerated artics restocking the ships’ cavernous holds and refrigerated stores with international booze and provender; if provision for refuelling comes in time we also have the sights, smells and sounds of bulk marine fuel oil lighters alongside …

    And as everything to do with ships depends on the tides, which don’t confine themselves to the decent daytime operation favoured by planning officials, much coming and going may occur during the night hours, with the mournful notes of ships and tugs’ sound signals booming over the water whilst chains, winches, donkey engines and all the picaresque sounds of mooring and unmooring fascinate and entertain the local population.

    So. Greenwich will get the crap, the developers will get the port fees and the West End will get the tourist spend. Sounds about normal to me.

  25. Chris

    I came to live in Greenwich because I chose to. I liked the place. Why should I move to Midsomer because I am against excess NO2 and other pollutants? I can also choose what I want to eat.
    As others have pointed out, the terminal will be an undoubted boost for the local economy — although I do agree with Thudd that a lot of the tourist dollar will go upstream — but this should not be at any cost.
    roytindle is right about cold-ironing (never knew it was called that!) as well. Many people opposed the switchover to leaded fuel until they were more or less forced to comply. As cruise terminals globally get updated, ‘dinosaur’ cruise ships will have fewer places to visit — especially in Europe.

  26. Richard Wall

    I think Greenwich Council should think again,whilst the cruise terminal may be a good thing for the area, the pollution will not be . Most European countries considering a new terminal would I am sure not allow the ships to use their generators in port for any length of time. Pollution is very bad in most of London and is already causing considerable concern.If ships are allowed to use their own power source , who is going to monitor their exhaust emissions and the efficiency of their exhaust filtration ,even low sulphur fuel gives off NO2 and other pollutants. I was born in Greenwich and remember the terrible smogs and pollution of the 1950,s .We should be going forward not backwards, Greenwich deserves better!

  27. Darryl

    Am not at meeting, but am told the planning board has voted 6-5 against deferring a decision after four hours of deliberation. Some truly staggering comments from councillors being reported by those who were there.

  28. Shivanee

    Darryl, why is it offensive to point out rather serious public issues with direct community impact? Reports suggest obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are the biggest factors facing communities and peoples’ health and life expectancy, .contributing to asthma. I have read reports which suggests Greenwich borough ranks high in obesity levels and has lower life expectancy than the London norm.

    The other issue not discussed is that the development creates jobs and apprenticeships during construction and services established afterwards. Now these jobs may well not be suitable for the grandkids or kids of opposers, but they are good for others’ from across Greenwich borough (and perhaps even mine) and will provide routes into industry as I understand a Skills Academy is also part of the development (as similar to other local developments). Again, I have read this is a real issue for Greenwich borough as it has a higher unemployment rate than the London average.

    As a resident of one of the biggest part-constructed brownfield projects in the country, I find rather amusing that you think it’s insulting to suggest ‘Brownfield’ is insulting…though I am not offended. Though given I have bought into living near the Blackwall Tunnel and can see and hear it from my windows, I have put my money where my mouth is. So have all the new residents arriving who have bought or are renting next to a concrete aggregate and a waste recycling plant. Given the high prices Peninsula flats are commanding – at Enderby’s and elsewhere, I suggest pollution is less of an issue for people living in East Greenwich/Peninsula here in the future.

    Also, perhaps I and others are so proud to live in Greenwich that we want to share it others around the world who want to a experience it. Happy smiling tourists make for a nice ambient place with happy people. In a few years when the area has changed, people will wonder what the complaints were about.

  29. roytindle

    Shivanee, it depends on the source of the reports; I prefer those that have been written by scientists and which have been peer reviewed. Unfortunately the press and the broadcast media don’t do science too well and get a lot wrong.

    Kings College have been leading on air pollution, identifying the individual pollutants and the risks that they carry. Of course, air pollution has been a considerable problem, in the past – I remember, as a child, the smogs of the past. But these were largely attributable to sulphur dioxide. That has been much less of a problem since the Clean Air Act of 1956. Now we have a variety of pollutants, oxides of nitrogen, ozone and particulates (of different sizes). These are all lung irritants, leading to increases in asthma, but they have even more serious long term effects. Research at Kings suggests that NO2 causes around 9,000 deaths per annum. Particulate matter, specially the smaller particles (PM 2.5) get deep into the lungs and adhere; the WHO have designated particulates as carcinogenic to humans, not probably or possibly, and there is no dose below which there is no carcinogenic effect.

    The great offenders on both NO2 and particulates are diesel engines, due to the higher than petrol burn temperatures. Ships auxiliary engines will be diesel and, unlike buses, lorries and taxis, they remain in the same place. This will be worsened by marine diesel; lower sulphur, yes, but no where near as vanishingly low as road vehicle diesel.

    As a former industrial chemist I recognise high concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and ozone by their individual smell – and quickly avoid them. The concentrations left by exhausts is to low to smell and is invisible, in the air around one. Particulates too, so lung damage and carcinogenic effects go unnoticed, until too late. This is worsened by the fact that this is largely avoidable. Transitioning road vehicles will take time but cold ironing shipping could be made a requirement for the terminal. As I mentioned in a previous post, this could be achieved from a floating barge, generating electricity from LPG powered gas turbines. Work is taking place, in the USA, on doing the same with hydrogen powered fuel cells – zero emissions at the point of generation. Cheap hydrogen technology is still a year or two – maybe more – away but LPG is available now.

    In years to come people will wonder why we so stupid and why so many unnecessarily early deaths took place because of air pollution.

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