The Thames Path on the west side of Greenwich Peninsula has been largely closed for two years – but Greenwich Council now expects the walkway to be open again by September, with developer Barratt hoping to have some of the work finished by May. GUY MIDDLETON takes a look behind the closure signs to see what’s been happening…
853 exclusive: Greenwich is defined by its relationship with the River Thames, but public access to the river path for significant stretches has been blocked over recent years to allow for large scale residential development and improvements to the path.
The path is normally a significant route for residents travelling between the base of the peninsula and North Greenwich who wish to avoid major roads, as well as legions of walkers attempting to walk the Thames.
Now Greenwich Council, which licences any footpath closure, expects the developers to reopen the barred sections in August and September this year.
The base of the peninsula is the site of two mega-developments – by Barratt London and Bellway – that have seen the public footpath blocked in phases over recent years, with residents experiencing significant delays to the restoration of public access.
Barratt London, responsible for the Enderby Wharf development, most recently shut a section of the path on 30 October 2017, with works due to run until 16 March 2018, while developers worked on drainage for the 200 metre-wide riverfront site.
But residents and ramblers who attempted to use the path after 16 March found barriers in place and no update as to what was happening with the public path.
The recommended alternative route tracks the Blackwall Tunnel approach, a rude shock for any tourist hoping to combine an experience of the Georgian splendour of maritime Greenwich with the modernity of the Dome and the peninsula’s other new developments.
After being contacted for comment, Barratt London revised its signs to announce that it would not open up the public path for a further 10 weeks.
Partial opening in May
A spokeswoman told 853: “We opened a temporary access path through our site on request by Royal Borough of Greenwich. This was closed in October last year to enable the continuation of construction works on site.
“The path will remain closed until 25 May due to continued construction works, at which point it will be opened up at the north of the site. New notices with the updated timings are due to be posted today to ensure local residents are informed.”
She added: “In 2016, Bellway Homes was granted a temporary footpath closure by the Royal Borough of Greenwich to allow them to undertake the construction of river frontage works on its site, including a section of the new river footpath. This closure has been in place for over 18 months and expired on 18 March 2018.
“Due to the difficulties accessing the existing footpath, the Bellway closure included the river footpath fronting the Barratt London development, Enderby Wharf, as well as other industrial sites north of Enderby Wharf.
“This raised major concerns with those who wished to use the river footpath, as it significantly restricted the length of path open for use.
A tale of two developers
“Shortly after the closure, and following a request for assistance from the council, Barratt London constructed temporary access paths on Enderby Wharf to allow the river footpath to be reopened to the north of the development. This action allowed significantly more access to the river footpath for more than a year.
“However, in October 2017, Barratt needed to start its own river frontage work. These include: a new surface water drainage outfall to replace the existing outfall which had fallen into disrepair, a new wider river footpath and ecological enhancement to the river foreshore.
“These works are covered by Barratt’s own footpath closure licence. The works are planned to be completed in two phases, allowing the public access to the northern section of the river path up to and including Enderby House at the end of May 2018 and phase two by the end of August 2018.
“We appreciate that access to the river footpath is very important and are doing everything we can to keep as much of the path open as possible throughout the development of Enderby Wharf.”
Increasingly important path
In the near future, the river path is likely to become an increasingly important means of travelling through Greenwich as the peninsula’s population explodes over the coming years and transport links from North Greenwich to the rest of the local area continue to suffer from major congestion.
A Greenwich Council spokesperson said: “The council recognises the value of the Riverside Path and is keen to ensure that if any section has to be closed it is for the shortest practicable time and that suitable diversions are in place.
“The development works currently taking place on the west of Greenwich Peninsula are both extensive and complex, with the developers having to comply with the requirements of a number of agencies, and because of this the work cannot be completed quickly.
“Once the development works are complete the area will be transformed and access to and along the River Path will be much improved.
“Officers from Highways, Planning and Planning Enforcement have met regularly with both Barratt and Bellway and proactively secured public access through the Barratt site for a period in 2017 and again in May 2018 until completion of the project. The council has also instructed the developers to display enhanced signage.
“The council has been advised by Barratt and Bellway that their respective works to Olympian Way will be completed and linked up by August / September 2018.”
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