Council planners back saving Greenwich’s historic gasholder

Blackwall Tunnel approach
Greenwich Council envisages a “high quality residential-led mixed use neighbourhood”

The historic East Greenwich gasholder, one of the peninsula’s best-known landmarks, may now escape demolition after council planners recommended future developers keep the structure in any new plans for the site.

It had been feared that the landmark, which has stood on the site for 130 years, could disappear when the site next to the Blackwall Tunnel approach is finally redeveloped.

But after residents complained about the possible loss of the gasholder, a planning brief for the site will now suggest that future uses keep all or some of the structure.

The gasholder, which predates the Blackwall Tunnel, was part of the huge East Greenwich Gas Works, which dominated most of the Greenwich Peninsula until the 1970s. There were originally two gasholders, but the adjacent No 2 structure was damaged by an IRA bomb in January 1979 and demolished six years later.

Council plans envisage “a high quality residential-led mixed use neighbourhood to provide for the community of Greenwich and play an integral role in the development of Greenwich Peninsula as a world-class district for London”.

East Greenwich gas holder
The structure is 130 years old (photo: Tee Cee via Flickr, used under Creative Commons licence CC BY 2.0)

The future of the site remains uncertain following the government’s decision to delay for a further six months a decision on whether or not the Silvertown Tunnel should be built. If approved, the new tunnel’s approach road would run through the site of the old No 2 gasholder.

Construction of the tunnel would also mean fewer new homes would be possible on the site, while the threat from air pollution is also acknowledged.

The revised planning brief says: “Proposals should reflect and respond to the industrial character of the area as a means of relating new development to the local context. In particular, development should build on the heritage value of the gas holder to enhance the character and distinctiveness of the area.

“This could be achieved through a variety of means. For example, the retention of all or part of the structure within a public open space or building, or reinterpretation of the structure and its industrial history through the design of building façade details, public realm/landscaping or the layout of the development. Prior to any work to the gasholder, heritage and structure surveys are required.”

Redundant gasholders have been put to new uses in cities around Europe – most notably in Dublin’s docklands, where one now houses 240 flats. Apartments have also been built inside the old King’s Cross gasholders in central London, while one has been converted into a park.

East Greenwich gasholder
Photo: Danny McL via Flickr (used under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A similar condition has also been placed on the former Dreadnaught school building, which is one of the few remnants of the old community that used to live by the tunnel entrance.

The building has been used as a storage and archive facility for the Horniman Museum since the 1960s.

The planning brief is set to be approved at a Greenwich Council cabinet meeting on Wednesday 15 November.

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