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.

11 comments

  1. Local residents keep talking about ships using “dirtier fuels” for power generation when berthed. This is not correct. The latest MARPOL regulations mean that shipowners three choices:

    1 reduce emissions by switching to low-sulphur fuel which is more expensive than the “dirtier” fuel oil) – and needs modern engines (or of course fitting new engines and LNG fuel systems, which is even more expensive.
    2 fit scrubbers in their exhaust systems (costs in the millions per ship) to “wash” and reduce emissions
    3 avoid sailing anywhere in the low-emission zone – in W Europe that’s roughly anywhere east of Falmouth and south of Bergen

    And just to reiterate: suggesting that the cruise terminal should use electricity from the Grid to power ships on the berth is a thinly-disguised demand to kill the project completely. The cost of providing such a supply would run into millions (electrical engineers I know suggest the far side of £10m) – and involve laying new cables all the way from somewhere like Shooters’ Hill or Plumstead (months of roadworks). But perhaps that is what the locals really want?

  2. @Ken. Even if the fuel is as clean as diesel – it’s still a huge increase in pollution for an area that already already breaks pollution limits, and has further plans (Silvertown and Ikea) that are likely to increase pollution even before we consider addition of the cruise ships running generators.

    If the terminal is not economically viable without increasing the local pollution, then I’m fine with that. It’s not up to local residents to ensure that commercial ventures turn a profit. They are however, allowed to make every effort to ensure that their environment is fit for them and their children.

    I see you have londonrivers.com waiting in the wings for a relaunch. Perhaps you have an axe to grind in this debate beyond what’s best for the borough…..

  3. I’m sorry to say that contrary to what we’ve all thought, diesel really isn’t “cleaner” than petrol when you look at the emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen oxide compounds – both of which are harmful in ways similar to the lead and carbon monoxide emissions that make us choose diesels over petrol engines.

    See: http://www.air-quality.org.uk/26.php

  4. Spot on Mr Eee. Central Greenwich already has some of the worst pollution in the capital (I’ve noticed the effect on my own health since moving here about 8 years ago)

    The last thing we need is to add to the problem by allowing an outdated cruise liner terminal that disregards the latest developments around onshore power. If that makes the proposal economically unattractive for the developer – so be it.

    In any case, the potential economic benefits for local residents are dubious at best

  5. How often will the cruise liners actually dock? I doubt it even averages once a month as cruises operate during seasons.

    Sorry but if Greenwich residents really want to cut pollution, they need to get out of their cars and stop shopping at the out of town retail outlet. That would steer business back towards town centres like Woolwich as well. In the grand scheme, I just don’t see boats docking in a few times a year making much difference (as they already do sort of).

  6. Shivanee – I’m all for cutting down on car use, but why add to the problem?

    In terms of the expected number of ships – I’ve seen a projection of 50-60 annually – the majority of which would be concentrated over a 6 month period – so it won’t be just “a few times a year”

  7. I genuinely don’t know the figures but 50-60 sounds like a lot in approximately 25 weeks/6 months. That would be more than twice week which I just don’t think is realistic – I’m no expert but I can’t see cruise liners having that much demand. Eg. Why cruise into London from Europe when you can grab a cheap flight and AirBnB, or even stay at Intercontinental 02?

    When I lived in Sydney (near the harbour), I don’t recall cruiseliners stopping that often, once a week/fortnight at the most during peak season. It wasn’t an issue at all and was actually very pleasant adding to the ambiance in Summer.

  8. The 50-60 ships a season number is from their own website: http://www.londoncitycruiseport.co.uk/exhibition/cruise-terminal-contribution/

    As for why cruise ships are in such demand in Europe given low cost flights etc – I’ve no idea but the market is apparently there. Sydney may have been a bit of a special case due to how remote it is from the rest of the world.

    Don’t get me wrong – I also think seeing the odd cruise ship on the river adds to the ambience, but not the sort of numbers they are talking about here, and certainly not at the expense of local resident’s health

  9. Thanks for the link EssKay. Interesting, I’m not convinced by CityPort’s projects only on the basis of: how many people do you know who have taken a cruise to New York? I agree with your point about Sydney, though these sorts of places are more established cruise destinations. Even EasyCruise in the Med never quite took off.

    As for pollution, of course I am to blame as anyone else as like a lot of other people, I want to live in Greenwich. Lots of people want to live in London, lots of people want to visit London, and lots of people want to cross through Greenwich to get to other parts of London and beyond. Which is why despite continuing technological advancements, pollution is on the rise. In an ideal world we would live in a major global city without the issue of pollutants, noise and traffic, but as a realist, I am of the view that these are the downsides of living in a global city. However the benefits far outweigh them.

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