In a statement following public concern on the construction site, the Port of London Authority has issued a position statement on the controversial, high rise, riverside development in Deptford on the former Henry VIII Royal Dockyard known as Convoys Wharf. The Port of London Authority was created to bring order to the chaos and congestion that prevailed on the Thames as rival wharfs, docks and river users battled for business in the late 1800s.

In the statement the PLA state that they would like to see ‘expeditious progress with reactivation of the wharf’. They are in touch with a number of potential operators.

The PLA support the use of the river to ship construction materials and they expect to be consulted on this.

On Tuesday 9th June and the early hours of Wednesday 10th June 2020, Lewisham Council’s Strategic Planning Committee met to discuss the first phase of the development since Boris Johnson determined the planning application himself at City Hall whilst he was Mayor of London. He held a reprentation hearing on 31st March 2014 to listen to concerns. Cllr Alan Hall was present and he had led the Lewisham Council non executive councillors who had agreed that the use of the river for construction materials and waste from the commencement of the project should be used to manage and mitigate construction impacts.

Surprisingly, Boris Johnson agreed with the Council’s representation that the Build the Lenox Project – a vision to build a replica wooden ship in the historic dockyard – was important. However, he granted the application and passed it back to Lewisham Council to sort out the details of implementing his decision.

“The approach to Sayes Court fails to provide a meaningful green link between the site of the Gardens with the remains of Sayes Court House. The opportunity to link these two historically significant spaces should be fully explored. The Lenox preferred building location is either within the Double Dry Dock or Olympia Warehouse. These options need to be explored further, as does the future use of the Olympia Warehouse and an agreement reached on the deliverability of the double dry dock or Olympia Warehouse as options for constructing the Lenox.”

Lewisham Council’s formal response in 2014 led by Cllr Alan Hall
Promises made to reflect the historic and strategic importance of Deptford

Port of London Authority Statement:

“Convoys Wharf is currently safeguarded by ministerial direction and planning policy protects it for waterborne cargo handling use (policy 7.26 of current Plan – Sl15 of emerging London Plan). As part of the Mayors Safeguarded Wharves Review (2018), the safeguarded wharf boundary for Convoys wharf is recommended to be reduced in size to reflect the extant planning permission for the site (Ref: DC/13/83358). The PLA supported this proposed change, whilst emphasising the requirement for the site owners and partners, including the PLA to expeditiously progress with reactivation of the wharf.

The GLA hearing report (March 2014) on the overall redevelopment strongly features the requirement to reactivate the wharf (which would be located at the western part of the application site) stating the overall redevelopment was acceptable.

And that the location of the Wharf provides a viable, flexible and commercially attractive environment for a range of potential river freight operators. The PLA is aware of interest from several operators about reactivating this as an operational wharf. The PLA wish to work with all stakeholders to achieve this.

We point out the S106 agreement for the overall development requires that “every 6 months commencing no later than 18 months prior to anticipated completion of Phase 1, the owner shall request details of suggested potential wharf operators….using it for waterborne freight handling uses from the PLA, GLA and the Council”. The PLA is keen to ensure this forms a key part of the overall project plan for the Convoys development.

Turning now to the specific recent applications for plots 08 and 15 (both southeast corner of site) and plot 22 which comprises the proposed riverbus terminal. We understand the planning committee discussed all three plots and plots 08 and 22 were approved. Plot 15 has been deferred.

Plot 15

The PLA made representations on this in May 2019.

We emphasised the need for the design to take into account potential impacts (eg noise) of the adjacent wharf (once reactivated) on future occupants of the building. We highlighted the need for the development to progress in line with the Agents of Change principle, set out in para 182 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and policies D12 and Sl15 (water transport) of the emerging London Plan.

The PLA also requested further information regarding use of the river as part of the construction stage. The previously submitted site wide Code of Construction Practice (CoCP) referred to the potential for bulk deliveries and material removal using the Thames. It further stated the client and their consultants would explore river use with all contractors to achieve this. The CoCP stated the volumes of river movements would be determined on a phase by phase basis to confirm river use was economic and viable. The developer committed to investigating for each phase or sub-phase a strategy to maximise river use where reasonably appropriate. It was not clear from the submitted documents for plot 15 whether this process was carried out.

The submitted Remediation Strategy for the application stated the contractor will produce a works specific Construction Phase Environmental Management Plan (CEMP). The PLA emphasised this must include full consideration of using the Thames as part of the construction phase of the development and that this form a condition as part of any planning permission.

The PLA’s position on these matters is unchanged.

Plot 22

The PLA initially raised an objection (Aug 2018) due to the lack of a Navigational Risk Assessment (NRA) in the submitted documents. However following discussions between the PLA and the applicant – including on the need for freight operators to be involved because of the close proximity of the safeguarded wharf to the river bus terminal – the scope of the NRA was agreed. An appropriately worded condition was also agreed. Further issues were also discussed and agreed to be dealt with via condition including on riverside lifesaving equipment.

Plot 08

The PLA raised no in principle objection to the proposals for plot 08 (July 2018). However – as with plot 15 – we emphasised again the importance of using the river during the construction stage of the development.

Deptfords narrow and congested streets by the River Thames

Lewisham Council has clarified some frequently asked questions here:

1.     What arrangements will there be for using the wharf for the the delivery and removal of construction materials and to limit traffic through Deptford’s narrow streets in this area?

This was addressed in the outline approval.  Condition 44 requires the submission of a code of construction practice for each plot or phase and needs to include details of arrangements for the use of the river for construction.

2.     Will there be a proper cycle path along the riverbank and pedestrian footpath? The Thames Path is well loved and a new development is a great opportunity for a proper cycle path as well.

Yes – this was secured in principle in the outline approval

3.     Has the Port of London been involved in the decision making process? What do they say?

Yes – their comments are reported in the committee reports in the P22 officer report at paragraph 6.29

The full text of this paragraph says:

  1. No objection subject to the following issues being managed by condition
  2. The Navigational Risk Assessment (NRA) for the proposed river bus terminal and consultation with freight operators. It would be helpful to confirm that depending on the outcome of the NRA, the final position of the terminal may need to be amended.
  3. Provision of Shoreside Safety Measures
  4. Requirement of further assessments mentioned in the jetty structural assessment (part 2.6 of the assessment)
  5. Ecology statement (Timber fenders) and lighting strategy (sensitive lighting strategy) conditions

4.     Have all the formal conditions of the planning permission granted at City Hall in 2014 been discharged or satisfied?

No – not all are required to be discharged by this point.  The committee reports outline what conditions have been discharged in table 8 in the P22 officer report, table 11 in the P08 officer report and table 10 in the P15 officer report.

5.     What was the final formal agreed decision of the Strategic Planning Committee? I would not wish to misquote or misunderstand this.

Plot P22 was approved subject to additional informatives.  Plot P08 was approved subject to additional conditions/informatives.   An informative note allows the local planning authority to draw an applicant’s attention to other relevant matters – for example the requirement to seek additional consents under other regimes.

Lewisham Council’s Strategic Planning Committee reconvened on Monday, 22nd June at 8pm and approved the remaining application subject to a condition on ‘pepperpotting‘ the affordable housing.

Cllr Paul Bell said that London Affordable Rent was social housing and this has prompted questions in the past.

Here is the exchange of letters between the then, Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock and the then, Mayor of London Boris Johnson. This outlined the Lewisham Strategic Planning Committee’s concerns in 2014.

It is interesting to note that Boris Johnson heeded the advice of his officials and refused to meet the Mayor of Lewisham directly on a planning matter he was to determine and referred the representations to his trusted Deputy Mayor, Sir Edward Lister former Leader of Wandsworth Council.

In the news: South London Press

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