On 19th September we were invited to another “consultation” regarding the proposed development on the South Dock Marina Boat Yard site. The proposal has once again changed and now the height of the tallest tower has increased to 28 floors and the percentage of “affordable” housing has dropped even further. They are clearly getting tight on funds. The consultations are pretty pointless. Bruce Glockling clearly pointed out during the second “consultation” (he first consultation was held in virtual secrecy) that the proposal was going ahead no matter what. In effect we would probably have a say in the colour of the front doors although I doubt they would trust our judgement on such an important matter. A Southwark Council development is to be scrutinised by the Southwark Council Planning Department. At no point has the council said to the local population or the people using the boatyard “Here is an area of land in our borough that we believe is underutilised. We need more affordable housing and we must preserve the boatyard. What do you think would be a good proposal?” Instead they go ahead and hire a firm of architects to come up with a high density plan that no one around here wants. They then hold ridiculous tick box consultations with vague information which are sprung upon us with hardly any notice.
There are many reasons why the development is badly conceived which I will leave to others to argue with the council. Here however are just a few:
1) Lack of transport infrastructure to support the amount of new housing in the area – Canada Water tube station is already wildly overcrowded and the Jamaica Road is known as one of the slowest in the country. The River Bus costs £6.50 for a single journey and no longer always stops at Greenland Pier.
2) There is a lack of schools, clinics, and doctors etc to cope with the extra people.
3) The area is predominantly low rise moderate density suburban area. High-rise high-density urban development doesn’t fit in.
4) There is a lack any detailed drawings to show that the development has any architectural merit. Judging by the already tight funds (shown by the lack of affordable housing) I would doubt there would be any merit to these buildings whatsoever. Not that we have had a chance to look at any detail.
5) There is a constant failure to meet the council’s own dead lines. They just shunt things to suit them while the area is suffering from the planning blight.
6) Creating the tallest riverside building on the Southbank between the boatyard and the centre of London is inept and not in keeping with the Thames valley effect where taller buildings are placed further back from the river edge.
7) Parking and traffic chaos will be caused by 600 people travelling to and from work (somehow) and the ever increasing use of online delivery services. This will be exasperated by the fact that the road is a dead end and cars and trucks will be turning near boat lifting operations. The chaos will be made worse when a predicted 39 heavy goods vehicles a day are due to use Plough Way during the building of the Thames Super Sewer.
8) The development will totally destroy a quiet pleasant leafy part of the Thames Path
9) The proposed tall buildings will create a wind vortex and shadow around the buildings making the environment unpleasant.
10) There is a lack of demand for high priced luxury flats while there are currently over 3,365 flats available on Zoopla* for sale within one mile of the boatyard and over 10k available within 3 miles! There are 4,813 flats available to rent within one mile. Clearly there is no shortage whatsoever of this kind of property and with many more developments underway within a few yards there could well be an oversupply. The house next door to me, overlooking the boatyard is empty and has been on the market for about two years. (*as of 30th October 2016)
11) There is a very small and decreasing percentage of what are called “affordable” homes incorporated into the development. The need in the area is for truly affordable homes.
I could go on but my gripe is to do with the potential loss of the boat yard. London needs industry. The boatyard is fully protected under the London Plan which states:
Policy 7.27 Blue Ribbon Network: supporting infrastructure …
A) Development proposals should enhance the use of the Blue Ribbon Network, in particular proposals:
a. that result in the loss of existing facilities for waterborne sport and leisure should be refused, unless suitable replacement facilities are provided
b. should protect and improve existing access points to (including from land into water such as slipways and steps) or alongside the Blue Ribbon Network (including paths). New access infrastructure into and alongside the Blue Ribbon Network will be sought.
c. should protect and enhance waterway support infrastructure such as boatyards, moorings, jetties and safety equipment etc. New infrastructure to support water dependent uses will be sought. New mooring facilities should normally be off line from main navigation routes, ie in basins or docks.
The South Dock Marina Boat Yard is currently 5,907 m2. The area can be clearly seen on Google Earth covered in boats and containers which mainly house boating related activities. The new proposal will obliterate well over half of the ground area which can hardly be called an enhancement. Of course we haven’t had the chance to see the proposals in any detail but it doesn’t look like there will be enough space to swing a cat. In fact they have already admitted that they are struggling to find the necessary car parking spaces. They said they are “looking into the matter” but there is clearly either enough space on the site or not. The council may well be thinking of using other areas to provide car parking so we need to ensure our nearby open spaces don’t become designated overflow car parks. The same goes for the possible expansion of the lock office as rumours are out about a proposal to extend this building too. Surely there should be enough space within the boatyard?
It seems that consulting is not a strong point for Southwark Council. On 5th September I decided to check with the Port of London Authority to see if they had been made aware of the proposal to build housing on two thirds of the boat yard. I received this reply.
“For example in 2013 in relation to the Draft Revised Canada Water AAP, the PLA wrote formally to the Council and stated the following:
“Given that South Dock Marina is London’s largest marina and the document identifies that boatyards are protected in the London Plan it is surprising that the Council is considering alternative development on the car park site. It is also surprising given the desire to see an increase in passenger and freight transported on the River Thames. It is questioned how the existing boatyard would be able to expand to meet any increased demand for their facilities if the car park site is developed in accordance with the AAP as currently drafted.””
Whoops a daisy, Southwark must have accidentally forgotten the consult with the Port of London about the latest proposals. It also appears that Southwark Council are describing the boat yard as a car park site.
The reality is that the boat yard’s potential working area will be reduced from 5,907 m2 to well under half that.
Even ignoring the massive reduction in the area available to work on boats my other main concern is that the close proximity of housing to the boatyard will cause an understandable conflict of interest between yard users and residents. Eventually the yard will become effectively useless for carrying out serious work on boats due to the restrictions on noise, solvents, dust etc. The fact that the boat yard was here first holds no weight in court – a noise nuisance is a noise nuisance full stop.
During the last consultation the architects said they had managed to resolve any potential noise problems by the use of special moveable sound barriers. On the plan that they briefly showed to us the barriers looked about 600 mm thick. They would encircle the yacht or barge and supposedly reduce the noise to an acceptable level. I was intrigued by these barriers but sadly there was, as usual, no time to ask any detailed questions. Mr Bruce Glockling assured us that if we haven’t had time to ask questions then we should email them and they would reply. So I sent off a polite and very simple question asking for more details about these proposed sound barriers. Of course I received no reply, so a week later I asked if he could acknowledge receipt of my email and of course got no reply. So now I have had to use the Southwark Council complaints procedure to try to get an answer and I still await the response. Of course it only leads me to speculate about the suitability of these temporary noise barriers if indeed they exist.
I will keep you informed if I hear any more news.
In the meantime Southwark are proposing yet another consultation next year. I wonder how tall the block will be by then. Oh joy!