Lewisham Council’s long running planning saga around Convoys Wharf on the Deptford riverside has taken a mysterious twist.
During a webinar event that was held on 1st December 2020, in place of a drop-in consultation event due to Coronavirus restrictions a number of options were put forward for plot 21 of the scheme. This phase of the scheme contains the ‘safeguarded wharf‘ on the River Thames. These included the statements HGV access is not compatible with the residential development proposed and a reference to Lewisham Council and the GLA demands for more housing and the consequential additional affordable housing on the plot.
Looking at the original GLA planning report in 2014, it concludes that the proposed contraction and reconfiguration of the safeguarded wharf at the site is acceptable, and that the proposed wharf location, plot boundary, and associated maximum floorspace quantum would provide a viable, flexible and commercially attractive environment for a range of potential river freight operators. Necessary assurances are in place to secure the appropriate use of the Blue Ribbon Network for construction logistics, and measures to reasonably incentivise uptake of the wharf by one or more suitable operators are to be included within a section 106 legal agreement. Furthermore, subject to the inclusion of planning conditions to protect neighbourhood amenity, GLA officers are satisfied that the potential impacts of the working wharf on sensitive uses could be suitably mitigated.
The GLA planners provide quite a contrast to the statements from the planning consultants for the developers.
Interestingly, the local park users group, the Deptford Folk issued a demand for more green space and a new park. In the webinar, the consultants made reference to unlocking the site for housing and affordable housing to include open spaces linking the existing parks together.
However, Lewisham Council’s new Cabinet Member for Housing & Planning, Cllr Paul Bell has issued a new statement on his personal website refuting the claims: “At no point have we lobbied the GLA to put more units on this site. On the contrary, we have been consistently clear to the developer that any planning application for Plot 21 would require a strong planning justification. This has yet to be provided.” But, he does say that the Council has been engaging closely with the developers in order to ensure that local residents are able to have their say on the future of the Convoys Wharf development.
“We have consistently emphasised the importance of proper community engagement throughout this process.” The obvious question is to ask to see the evidence of this great working relationship and an explanation how this misunderstanding could have arisen?
Meanwhile, on 7th October 2020 the Port of London Authority issued a press release saying:
“The UK Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has confirmed the continued protection of strategic sites for port use on the banks of the Thames in London, after an extensive review process conducted by the Greater London Authority (GLA) and supported by the Port of London Authority (PLA).”
“Wharves on the Thames were first protected in 1997. Since then the initiative has become a well-established feature of planning in the capital and many millions of tonnes of materials have been handled through the sites, keeping countless heavy goods vehicles off London’s congested roads.”
PLA director of planning & environment, James Trimmer went on to say:
“Safeguarding wharves is a key policy for London. The Thames offers an unfettered, low carbon route to move goods and materials in and out of the capital. Confirmation of the continued safeguarding of these sites comes at a time when the river renaissance is stepping up another gear. The established movement of bulk materials is now complemented by the first river parcel service, being operated by DHL, and the planned consolidation of the City markets to Barking will provide a generational opportunity to make more use of the river for light freight. Innovation will continue as we transition to a zero-carbon future.”
The PLA is working with partners including the GLA to secure greater use of the river for moving freight, as set out in Thames Vision development framework launched in July 2016.
In 2019, 4.769 million tonnes of freight were moved between terminals on the Thames, equivalent to more than 200,000 HGV loads.
This is a key action to mitigate the climate emergency in Lewisham, surely?