Sadiq Khan sides with Enderby Wharf campaigners in clean air battle with Greenwich Council

The new proposals for a cruise liner terminal at Enderby Wharf

The proposals for a cruise liner terminal at Enderby Wharf

Labour’s mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan has backed campaigners who are taking Greenwich Council to court over the planned Enderby Wharf cruise liner terminal.

Khan has issued a statement of support backing the East Greenwich Residents’ Association, which is crowdfunding a legal action against the council’s decision to allow the terminal to permit ships to use their own generators when berthed for an extended period of time – emitting hundreds of heavy lorries’ worth of pollution each day.

Greenwich Council leader Denise Hyland – the only borough leader in London who regularly sits on their own planning committee – backed the scheme after she said she couldn’t “see” any pollution while visiting Southampton’s liner terminal with an executive from its developer, London City Cruise Port. Air pollution is normally invisible. Greenwich’s decision was later ratified by Boris Johnson’s deputy mayor, Sir Edward Lister.

EGRA wants to see the terminal use power generated on-shore, with many residents suggesting London Underground’s Greenwich power station on Old Woolwich Road could be used.

Khan, the bookies’ favourite to succeed Boris Johnson next month, said in a statement issued on Saturday: “I praise the dogged campaigning of the East Greenwich Residents Association who are right to be fighting for cleaner air. Too many lives in London are blighted by filthy, polluted air and we should be doing more to clean it up, not make it worse as the proposal at Enderby Wharf risks doing.

“I support bringing everyone involved back to the drawing board to discuss how a clean solution to this can be found involving an onshore energy supply, and as Mayor I’ll do all I can to help this.”

EGRA also secured the backing of Conservative contender Zac Goldsmith at a meeting earlier this month, and have also been backed by Green candidate Sian Berry and Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon – increasing the chances that Boris Johnson’s successor will take steps to make sure the terminal uses onshore power.

The crowdfunding campaign – which has so far raised over £11,000 – is to bring a judicial review of Greenwich’s decision to approve the terminal in September 2015. There will be an initial hearing in front of a judge on 19 April.

An earlier version of the scheme, which did not involve ships effectively being used as floating hotels for extended stays at the terminal, was backed by the council in 2011. Hyland was insistent that objectors should have made their case back then, despite the major changes to the scheme.

Khan’s intervention will be deeply embarrassing for a Greenwich Council leadership that has been ambivalent at best about the effects of air pollution on the community, and that has tried to paint criticism of the cruise liner scheme as being a political plot.

Regeneration cabinet member Danny Thorpe has called criticism of the terminal “scaremongering” by the Green Party, even though the Labour MPs for both sides of the Thames, Matt Pennycook and Jim Fitzpatrick, have both made clear their unhappiness about Greenwich’s decision to back the scheme.

Indeed, given the cautiousness of Khan’s campaign for the mayoralty and his reluctance to criticise schemes backed by other Labour boroughs – such as Lambeth’s support of the deeply controversial Garden Bridge – his comments will be seen as all the more damning of Greenwich’s approach.

But they will also give strength to those Labour councillors – and other figures within the party – who want to see the council adopt a different attitude in its dealings with both developers and local residents.

Charlton Road/A102 bridge, 2 April 2014

Air pollution has been one of the biggest issues in the election

Khan coughs on Silvertown Tunnel

Khan has also appeared to distance himself from the Silvertown Tunnel – another scheme backed by Greenwich’s leadership in the teeth of opposition from its Labour neighbours. He told industry publication Transport Network that while he wanted to see more road river crossings east of Tower Bridge, he was unhappy with the current proposal and wanted all current plans – which would also include plans for crossings at Thamesmead and Belvedere – to be reviewed.

“Plans as they stand for the Silvertown Tunnel do not fully take into consideration the importance of greener transport, and imposing a toll is in many people’s minds a tax on East and South East Londoners,” he said.

“We need a proper joined up review, looking at river crossings and improved public transport connections east of Tower Bridge, but in a strategic fashion, not piecemeal like the current mayor.”

Khan’s comments leave former environmental campaigner Zac Goldsmith as the tunnel’s only outright supporter in the race for City Hall. At the very least, they reflect his need to win second-choice votes from supporters of Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon and the Green Party’s Sian Berry, who are both opposed to the scheme. The No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign is currently asking supporters to send the two leading mayoral candidates postcards telling them to oppose the plans.

Greenwich is the only affected borough to have continued backing the scheme, despite opposition from rank and file party members and many councillors.

Newham submitted an objection last year after originally supporting the idea, while Lewisham, Southwark, Hackney and Waltham Forest have all criticised the tunnel.

You can contribute to the Enderby Wharf crowdfunding campaign at www.crowdjustice.co.uk/case/cruise-liner. Full disclosure: I’m a founder member of the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign.

9 comments

  1. Kevin P Sweeney

    This is typical of the demagogues of Greenwich Council, all is about revenue. They have forgotton that Local Govt is for the Community it serves. They could care less about the air pollution in the borough and the damage it does. That part of the borough has so much pollution you can see it, perhaps that is why the Council Leader expected to see it in Southampton, a place on the coast where pollution blows away. It does show that this woman probably isn’t the right person for her position. If you oppose them you are wrong, if more than one opposes then it is a conspiracy.

  2. Chris

    It beggars belief that the council are prepared to tolerate this additional level of pollution to an already shamefully polluted borough? Haven’t they been to Greenwich Park on a hot summer’s day and discovered that sometimes it’s hard to spot Canary Wharf and the City is invisible because of the smog?
    And that’s just the pollution you can see.

  3. Andy

    Ignoring the judicial review process at this stage, but can a new Mayor cancel a scheme that’s already received Mayoral approval prior to his appointment? It would seem to cut across the certainty investors will require before committing capital to this scheme, so I would be surprised if he could rescind the approval upon his arrival . I may be wrong, but it certainly wouldn’t be a very business-friendly course of action and in my view sets the wrong precedent, irrespective of which side of the fence you fall on this issue.

  4. Darryl

    As I understand it, this is why the judicial review is so important, as a successful JR would send the case back to planning, and then City Hall would call it in. Otherwise, it looks as if you’re down to negotiating with the developers.

    As for setting the wrong precedent, well, democracy is messy when it works properly…

  5. Andy

    Totally agree – if JR finds in favour of the EGRA action then this of course should prompt another planning approval process and subsequent (new) Mayoral approval. My concern was more in relation to action of the new Mayor in isolation of that, or where the JR does not find in favour of the EGRA view

  6. Ken Welsby

    For the umpteenth time: face reality. Onshore power will NOT work at Enderby Wharf. The cost of installing the connection and berthside equipment would run into millions, so the charge for electricity used would be much more expensive than on-board generation.
    In any case most of the ships which are likely to berth here are not equipped to use shorepower.
    So why do the campaigners continue to peddle their myths about onshore power – instead of being honest and calling for the cruise terminal to be scrapped?

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