Tagged: east greenwich residents association

Neighbours launch court challenge over Greenwich cruise liner terminal: Can you help?

London City Cruise Port

Greenwich Council is facing a judicial review over its decision to back a cruise liner terminal at Enderby Wharf in east Greenwich – and local residents are appealling for help in funding the challenge.

The council’s planning board backed the scheme last July, ignoring objections from neighbours on both sides of the river, as well as Tower Hamlets Council and Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook.

Residents fear pollution from ships berthed at the terminal, on the west side of the Greenwich peninsula. As the terminal will have no means of generating its own electricity for ships, the vessels will have to power themselves – burning at least 700 litres of diesel an hour.

A single ship will generate the same emissions as 688 permanently-running HGVs, residents say, using far dirtier fuels. Residents want to see power for the terminal provided on shore, as happens at at ports in New York and Amsterdam, but the developers say this will cost too much.

Now a crowdfunding campaign has been launched to raise £6,000 to challenge the council’s decision in the High Court. If you’d like to chip in, visit www.crowdjustice.co.uk/case/cruise-liner.

The council is already defending the challenge, Dr Paul Stookes of legal firm Richard Buxton says. The High Court will now decide whether to allow the judicial review.

Dan Hayes, chair of the East Greenwich Residents Association, says: “We believe that the planning decision is short-sighted and ruinous to Londoners’ health. Nearly 10,000 people die of air pollution in our capital each year and far more suffer ill-health because of bad air.

“We have been constantly exhorted to use public transport, buy cleaner cars or cycle, only to have dirty developments thrust on our communities. It’s time to call a halt on decision-making that makes air pollution much worse for Londoners, and the cruise terminal proposal, without on-shore power, is a striking example of this.”

Why did council leader vote on issue?

The terminal has been vehemently defended by council leader Denise Hyland – who sat on the planning board that gave the terminal the go-ahead. She is the only council leader in London who regularly sits on their borough’s main planning committee.

Hyland chose to sat in judgement on the cruise liner terminal despite having previously publicly endorsed the scheme. In the months before the planning board meeting, she held four meetings with terminal promoters and their associates without most other board members being present – including one just five days before the planning board meeting, according to information provided in response to a Freedom of Information request submitted by this website.

Advice from the Local Government Association says that “members of a planning committee… need to avoid any appearance of bias or of having predetermined their views before taking a decision on a planning application or on planning policies”.

Regeneration cabinet member Danny Thorpe – regarded as Hyland’s effective deputy on the council – also chose to sit on the planning board, despite being present at three of those meetings.

Thorpe joined Hyland on a trip to inspect a cruise liner terminal in Southampton. Hyland spoke about this during the meeting, saying she could not “see” any air pollution there – despite the fact that it is usually invisible.

Hyland also criticised residents for not bringing up air pollution fears when the proposals first came before the planning committee some years back – even though plans for the terminal have substantially changed since then.

The court challenge has the potential to embarrass both Labour and Conservative candidates in this spring’s mayoral elections, since outgoing Conservative mayor Boris Johnson has joined Labour’s Hyland in defending the terminal, to the discomfort of grassroots members of both parties.

Green mayoral candidate Sian Berry and Lib Dem counterpart Caroline Pidgeon have both supported the legal challenge.

Isolated on cruise liner and Silvertown Tunnel

Indeed, this website understands Hyland’s ambivalent attitude to air pollution – an issue which remains high on the political agenda – is causing unease within her party’s ranks. As well as leading Greenwich to an isolated position on the cruise liner terminal, she has now been left in a similar position on the Silvertown Tunnel.

Greenwich is now the only one of the three boroughs closest to the tunnel to remain offering unconditional support; with Lewisham, Southwark, Hackney and Waltham Forest opposing the scheme on air pollution and congestion grounds, and Newham withdrawing its support over congestion fears.

Asked at a council Q&A in December about Southwark’s opposition, she said she continued to support the tunnel because “it arrives in Greenwich and it helps our residents”.

She also told the Q&A she believed air pollution would not be an issue by the time TfL plans to open the tunnel, in 2023, even though the current Conservative government is showing few signs of wanting to tackle the issue, and plans for a central London ultra-low emissions zone do not cover Greenwich.

If the residents’ judicial review over the cruise liner terminal is accepted by the High Court, it will put her stewardship of the council on this issue under a harsh spotlight.

‘Green Trafalgar Road’ scheme wins City Hall cash for Greenwich

A visualisation from EGRA of what Woodland Walk could look like

A visualisation from EGRA of what Woodland Walk could look like

Congratulations to the East Greenwich Residents Association, whose scheme to “green” Trafalgar Road has won an £18,000 grant from City Hall.

The neighbourhood group recently raised over £6,000 in a crowdfunding exercise to promote the plan to improve the environment along the main route through the area.

EGRA wants to see street barriers covered with plants, a green canopy and seating in the neglected Woodland Walk alleyway (pictured above), and the return of market stalls to Tyler Street and Colomb Street.

The City Hall cash, part of the Mayor’s High Street Fund, now brings the kitty to over £24,000, but the cash can only be a start – it also wants Greenwich Council to do its bit by removing street clutter and maintaining the area properly.

It’s a big victory for a group that’s not been afraid to take on the council – it recently called on leader Denise Hyland to stand down from its main planning committee, where she is the only borough leader to have a full-time role in planning decisions.

The council’s notoriously tribal leadership will now have to swallow its anger about EGRA’s criticisms to work with the group on its plan for Trafalgar Road. Council officers have already helped with the plan, including securing the future of the market pitches, which have not been regularly used since the 1990s.

Residents would like to see the neighbourhood get a fair amount of the cash the council is getting for the huge developments in the area.

Getting hold of this Section 106 money could be tricky – this cash tends to disappear into borough-wide pots, as the fate of the £1.5m given for the Charlton Sainsbury’s development shows.

But one source could be the cash generated by selling the “pocket park” on Blackwall Lane to a developer, where 20% of the £1m+ receipts have been earmarked for projects in Peninsula ward, which covers Trafalgar Road.

Local councillor Denise Scott-McDonald argued in favour of the sale in July, telling her fellow cabinet members: “I think it’s a great opportunity. The fact that we’re getting 20% of the money is an opportunity for our ward to really put money into areas that we need to be developed.”

There’s also a message here for local groups – moaning about the council simply isn’t enough; you have to get off your backside and do things yourself. Those in Charlton murmuring about whether that area needs a regeneration scheme might like to take note.

If you’re interested in finding out more about EGRA, it’s holding one of its regular open meetings in the Star and Garter pub in Greenwich Park Street at 7.30pm this evening (Tuesday 15th).

Other south-east London schemes to win cash includes the ambitious Peckham Coal Line project – a New York High Line-style scheme to turn disused rail sidings into green space – as well as a social enterprise grocery store in Catford and a plan to turn a disused water tank in Lewisham into an art space.

Stand down Denise: Residents call on Greenwich Council leader to quit her planning role

London City Cruise Port

Local residents in east Greenwich are demanding council leader Denise Hyland stands down from the borough’s main planning committee after it was revealed she is the only council leader in London who is regularly directly involved in taking decisions about major new developments.

The East Greenwich Residents Association has made the call following Hyland’s role in pushing through plans for a controversial cruise liner terminal in the area.

Hyland, who has led the council since June 2014, told the planning meeting that the terminal’s planned 31-storey residential tower was “nothing”, criticising residents for not bringing up air pollution fears when the proposals first came before the planning committee some years back – even though plans for the terminal have substantially changed since then.

She also said that on a trip to a cruise terminal in Southampton, she could not “see” any air pollution there – despite the fact that it is usually invisible. Her performance at the planning board earned her an appearance in this week’s Private Eye magazine.

The planning board shrugged off air pollution concerns about the London City Cruise Port, and the lack of any comprehensive, timely environmental assessment. It accepted developers’ claims that it would be too expensive to install on-shore generating equipment which would reduce the impact of ships spending extended stays at the terminal, despite European guidelines recommending this system is used.

Local MP Matt Pennycook and councillors Stephen Brain and Chris Lloyd were among the objectors, along with Tower Hamlets councillors and Isle of Dogs residents.

Research by EGRA – independently verified by this website – shows no other borough in London allows its leader such a prominent role in taking planning decisions, a role where politics should play no part.

Large or contentious decisions across Greenwich borough are usually taken by a committee of 14 councillors, called the Planning Board.

Most boroughs operate a similar system – though using different names for the committees – which usually see less high-profile cases taken by area committees.

But Denise Hyland is the only one of London’s 28 council leaders (a further four are run by elected mayors) to regularly sit on her council’s main planning committee.

The only other council to permit a formal role for its leader in planning decisions is the controversial Conservative-run authority in Barnet. But even here, Richard Cornelius is only a substitute member of its planning committee, deputising for his fellow Conservative councillors where necessary – a role he hasn’t carried out since June 2014.

Indeed, 13 out of London’s 32 boroughs only allow backbench councillors to take major planning decisions – removing any suspicion that may arise from having high-profile councillors taking sensitive formal decisions.

Denise Hyland's accession t the council leadership as reported by its weekly newspaper, Greenwich Time

Denise Hyland’s accession t the council leadership as reported by its weekly newspaper, Greenwich Time

Of the 14 planning board meetings held since Hyland became leader, she has attended nine of them.

This continues a system which began under Hyland’s predecessor Chris Roberts, who started sitting on the planning board in 2007. Roberts did not take part in the 2011 meeting which gave the terminal its original green light, after appearing on TV promoting the scheme.

But Hyland – then regeneration cabinet member – did take part in that meeting, then praising the scheme as “world class”.

In May, ahead of the planning board’s decision, the London City Cruise Port’s chief executive Kate O’Hara was invited to the council’s £20,000 private mayor-making ceremony, attended by Hyland.

Advice from the Local Government Association says that “members of a planning committee… need to avoid any appearance of bias or of having predetermined their views before taking a decision on a planning application or on planning policies”.

Hyland’s successor in that role, Danny Thorpe, has inherited her position the board. Just six other boroughs – Barking, Camden, Harrow, Lambeth, Newham and Richmond – allow his counterparts to assist in making planning decisions.

In an open letter to Hyland, EGRA’s executive committee says:

“We are concerned that your presence as council leader alongside the regeneration cabinet member could make the planning board susceptible to political pressure and decisions made on policy and party lines rather than in the wider public or community interest.  

“This concern is reinforced by your tendency and Councillor Thorpe’s tendency to sum up and make your positions known before voting takes place. The recent decision on the cruise liner terminal is a good case in point.

“Our community feels extremely frustrated at the way in which our attempts to raise legitimate concerns over the development of our area are not being taken seriously and are being batted away through a process that is less than scrupulous at times and is susceptible to what we perceive as potential political interference.

“We call on you to restore our confidence in the borough and the decisions it makes and we formally request that you step down from the Planning Board. We need to have confidence that our borough is making the right decisions for the right reasons and operating in the same way as other London boroughs as part of the statutory process.”

Residents are now pinning their hopes on London mayor Boris Johnson “calling in” the application to decide himself – a move supported by Liberal Democrat, Green and Conservative members on the London Assembly. Tower Hamlets Council has since backed away from its opposition to the scheme. A decision is expected soon.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that European money could have been available to help fund the London City Cruise Port fund on-shore generating equipment.

Trade publication Ship Technology, which accuses the developers of “cutting corners”, reports that the EU can fund up to half the costs of research and 20% of the costs of installation if a member state opts to use such a system. But councillors were not told this before they made their decision.

7pm update: Former Greenwich councillor Hayley Fletcher, who sat on the planning board alongside council leader Chris Roberts, responded to this story…

Air pollution threat from new Greenwich cruise liner terminal

The new proposals for a cruise liner terminal at Enderby Wharf

The new proposals for a cruise liner terminal at Enderby Wharf

It’s been four years since Greenwich Council approved plans for a cruise liner terminal at Enderby Wharf in east Greenwich – it got the green light at the same planning meeting as the cable car. In fact, it was given unanimous approval.

Planning documents said: “It is the applicant’s intention to deliver the cruise liner terminal and pier in time for 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games bringing a major piece of new infrastructure to London,” adding that an independent study had found this was “realistic and achievable”. This was loyally written up in council weekly Greenwich Time – it was “anticipated” it’d be open by the Olympics.

By April 2011, nothing had happened on site apart from the vandalism of historic Enderby House. In June 2011, Greenwich Time declared the terminal would be open “in 2012”, and mega-liner The World would be docking there in 2013.

It never happened. Last year, Barratt Homes moved in on part of the site and hid Enderby House away.

Now the cruise liner terminal is back – hey, maybe in time to watch the 2020 Olympics on television. And surprise, surprise, the plans have grown.

Here’s the East Greenwich Residents Association:

The developers propose building two towers near the riverside, Blocks Y and Z. Block Y will be 23 storeys high and will have 113 flats. Block Z will be 31 storeys high and will be home to 150 dwellings.

These two blocks will have no affordable housing in them – the idea is that they will generate the income required for the new terminal.

There is a further block planned for the rear of the site, Block A. It’s proposed this will have 9 storeys at one end and 26 at the other, this is where the affordable housing will be.

The developers already had planning permission to build 93 apartments here. Now they are proposing to build a further 121 in this block.

The three blocks combined represent an increase of 384 apartments from the original plans.

Under this proposal the overall affordable housing provision for the site drops to 16% from the 20% promised by Barratt London when it unveiled its plans back in July 2013.

More homes, but a smaller proportion of “affordable” ones – a depressingly familiar story. Plans for a hotel have now gone.

Then there’s the threat of pollution – not just from the traffic accessing the development, but from the ships themselves.

While emissions from motor vehicles are coming under ever-tighter legal restrictions, this isn’t the case with ships. When a ship is docked, it needs power – and there are no plans to supply this from generators on the shore, as used by similar terminals in New York City and Amsterdam.

I don’t recall this being an issue in 2011 – but it’s been forced up the agenda by a determined resident of the Isle of Dogs, who’ll also be affected by the terminal.

European Union 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 instead, the Enderby Wharf plans see the ships’ diesel engines burning day and night, spewing out emissions that will affect residents on both sides of the Thames. The impact of this is barely acknowledged in a health assessment belatedly submitted by the developer last week.

The East Greenwich Residents’ Association is demanding an environmental assessment. It says:

“A ship like The World may burn up to 2 tonnes of fuel an hour. This is the equivalent of 1200 HGVs with their engines idling. A ship will burn this 24 hours a day.

Cruise vessels do not need to comply with strict emission treatment controls as do trucks, and they may well use dirtier fuel. Given that the proposed terminal will operate in the summer months, when pollution is worst, and that it lies at the heart of a dense residential area dramatically raises concerns.

East Greenwich already suffers from high, often illegal, air pollution levels. Yet another huge source of deadly pollution is not what anyone wants on their doorstep.”

EGRA says permission should not be given until the UK government responds submits its plans for complying with EU air pollution laws by the end of the year – or until the developer comes up with an acceptable plan to generate its electricity on shore.

There’s only one day left to comment on the plan yourself – yes, residents have had only three weeks to go through 130+ documents and come up with a response. Visit Greenwich Council’s planning database and enter 15/0973/F for more.

PS. If you’re still in the mood for responding to planning applications that close tomorrow, 15/0457/F is a plan to build housing on the beer garden at the Vanburgh pub in east Greenwich – something that’s definitely worth objecting to.