Sunk: Greenwich’s Enderby Wharf cruise port scheme abandoned

London City Cruise Port
The cruise terminal was first approved in 2011, then again in 2015

Plans to build a “toxic” cruise liner terminal at Enderby Wharf in east Greenwich have been abandoned, council leader Danny Thorpe announced last night.

Pressure has been mounting on Morgan Stanley, the investment bank which owns Enderby Wharf, since Greenwich Council reversed its own stance on the issue in the summer.

Thorpe said that the decision had come after a meeting between the council and Morgan Stanley last week.

“I have just received confirmation that the Enderby Wharf cruise liner terminal in Greenwich is no longer going to be developed and will not be built out as part of the scheme,” he said on Twitter.

“I expect Morgan Stanley will be making a more public statement tomorrow about their plans and [the council] will liaise with them to ensure their revised proposals are developed with the local community and addresses the concerns raised by the community.”

The London City Cruise Port scheme would have allowed berthed ships to power themselves with their own highly polluting diesel engines, with the emissions from one vessel alone equalling those from hundreds of heavy goods vehicles.

‘More affordable homes’

Morgan Stanley had put the site up for sale earlier this year, under the name Maritime View – Royal Greenwich.

Thorpe added: “I will be pushing Morgan Stanley – or whoever comes forward to develop the site – for a greater number of affordable homes. I’m also keen to see whether, together, we could build a new municipal park on the riverfront for all to enjoy.

“There is a long way to go now to achieve a better scheme but I’m hopeful the developers will ensure that a new community led conversation begins as possible to ensure a better proposal comes forward.”

The No Toxic Cruise Port campaign tweeted in response: “Plans for the cruise liner terminal at Enderby Wharf have been shelved! This is fantastic news after three years tireless campaigning. We’re absolutely delighted if not somewhat in shock. This is the right result for our community.

“A very heartfelt thanks to all of our supporters and campaigners – everyone that signed our petition, helped with crowdfunding donations, supported us on social media and shouted so loud for the community that we could no longer be ignored.”

Liberal Democrats on Greenwich Peninsula (spot Green candidate Arthur Hayles in the background)
Local political candidates flocked to back the No Toxic Cruise Port campaign, such as these Lib Dem council hopefuls

End of a riverside saga

The decision appears to bring to an end a saga which has been raging since the London City Cruise Port was given planning permission in 2015, defying opposition from residents and MP Matt Pennycook, and this remains in force despite the scheme’s abandonment.

A smaller scheme had been given the go-ahead in 2011, before concerns about air pollution and cruise ships were as widely understood. Residents first found out about it in June 2010, when then-council leader Chris Roberts appeared on TV to promote it.

Thorpe tweeted on Tuesday evening: “I know that this has been very controversial and perhaps a very clear example that the planning process can sometimes appear remote from our local communities. It has been a very difficult issue and one whose original permission goes back a number of years.”

As cabinet member for regeneration, he was on the planning committee which backed the scheme in 2015, voting in favour. A year later, after a judicial review brought by residents failed, he cited former Conservative mayor Boris Johnson’s backing of the scheme as justification for the council’s decision.

Notoriously, then-council leader Denise Hyland – who at the time was the only council leader in London to sit on her borough’s main planning committee – told the meeting that she could not see any pollution when she went to visit the cruise terminal in Southampton, in a visit with the port’s promoters. She voted in favour and was a passionate advocate for the port.

Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts on BBC London News, 4 June 2009
Former Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts appeared on TV to promote the cruise port in June 2010

Thorpe said at the time: “The Royal Borough [sic] understands that a number of local people feel passionately about Enderby Wharf. We have always sought to listen to their opinions at all times and will now ensure that the conditions and obligations put in place by the planning board are honoured by the developer.”

“The new Enderby Wharf development will see the creation of new jobs, boost tourism in the borough helping to benefit the local economy and further contribute to London and Greenwich as a leading world city.”

However, opposition to the scheme grew – particularly in the run-up to this May’s council election, where Labour councillors and candidates broke ranks to condemn the scheme after the relaunch of the resident-led No Toxic Cruise Port campaign. The scheme also led to angry exchanges between the area’s Labour councillors and Green candidates on social media. After becoming leader, and being told to “do the right thing” by current mayor Sadiq Khan, Thorpe reversed the council’s stance.

The saga has also had an effect on the council’s planning system, with Hyland’s position on the planning committee becoming an increasing distraction. Thorpe later banned cabinet members from being on the committee.

Green Party leaflet
The scheme was politically damaging for Greenwich Labour

‘Addressing pollution on the river’

Greenwich Council has, for many years, wanted to see a cruise terminal sited in the borough, with proposals set out in the 1990s for a port on the site where the New Capital Quay development now sits. Cruise ships have traditionally berthed at the mouth of Deptford Creek, but the revelations about pollution have caused increasing alarm among residents.

Thorpe said the No Toxic Cruise Port campaign had “helped to raise the whole issue of pollution and air quality on the river and we’re working hard with the London Port Authority to address”.

Matt Pennycook said: “As someone who has been fighting since day one for a clean, green Enderby Wharf cruise liner terminal or none at all, I’m absolutely delighted by the announcement that the scheme has been abandoned.

“Few will ever know just how much work went into securing this outcome. Credit due in particular to [Thorpe] for reversing the council’s policy on the issue and to all the local residents who put so much time and effort into campaigning against the scheme over many years.”

London City Cruise Port’s chief executive Kate O’Hara remains on the board of the council’s tourism company, Visit Greenwich.

Enderby Wharf
The scheme was one of three in east Greenwich criticised for its effect on air quality

East Greenwich’s toxic trio

The abandonment of the Enderby Wharf terminal means that of the three east Greenwich schemes backed by the council which attracted campaigns against air pollution, only two are now going ahead.

Construction workers are completing the new Ikea store – passed by a planning committee featuring former leader Chris Roberts in 2014 – which is due to open early next year. Residents fear it will be a magnet for traffic in an area that is already heavily congested.

And pre-construction work is to start on Transport for London’s Silvertown Tunnel, with structural and environmental monitoring already under way. A main contractor to build and operate the tunnel is to be chosen next year, Construction Enquirer reported this week. 853 understands that TfL’s plans to use a public-private partnership to build it are unaffected by chancellor Philip Hammond’s plans to scrap such financing schemes in the Budget.

Asked about the tunnel in an interview with onlondon.co.uk published on Monday, Danny Thorpe said of the scheme, now being overseen by Sadiq Khan’s transport deputy Heidi Alexander: “I don’t think anyone’s ever happy with [it].”

He added: “Clearly, the tolling and stopping generating new traffic is the number one aim. We’ve been putting that on Heidi’s radar.”

Thursday update: 853 asked Greenwich Council if it would still back a cruise liner terminal which used onshore power, and enquired as to London City Cruise Port boss Kate O’Hara’s position on the board of Visit Greenwich. It did not answer either question, and sent over this statement instead.

Morgan Stanley sent 853 its letter to Greenwich Council: “As you are aware, creating a cruise terminal at Enderby was strongly supported by the previous leadership of the Council and the former Mayor of London, as well as being a planning condition without which the original scheme would not have been granted approval. The council’s position on the desirability of the cruise terminal has clearly changed, as has the position of the Mayor’s office, following the concerns raised by the local community.

“As the indirect owner of the site, we have taken this change into account, and listened to the comments expressed by both the council and the broader community. As a result, we are discussing revised plans and proposals for the Enderby site that would no longer include a cruise terminal at Enderby Wharf and will continue to explore options to meet the needs of the Council and the local community.

“We look forward to continuing discussions about our revised plans.”

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