Plans for a cable car and cruise liner terminal on the Greenwich peninsula have both been backed by Greenwich Council’s planning board – with the projects’ backers banking on them both being ready by next year’s Olympics.
Both schemes were unanimously approved by a panel of seven councillors – five Labour, two Conservative – at Woolwich town hall on Thursday evening.
Although Transport for London has yet to announce an operator for the proposed cable car, which will run from the current Dome coach park on Edmund Halley Way towards Royal Victoria DLR station, it said the cable car would add “resillience” to the peninsula’s transport connections, which have been blighted in recent years by closures to the Jubilee Line for upgrade works.
The peninsula was a “high priority” for TfL, it added.
But Friends of the Earth said the cable car needed further scrutiny, pointing out its path on the north bank of the Thames passed through a safety zone for London City Airport.
Supporting objector Alan Haughton, FoE’s Jenny Bates said the recent decision to allow the airport’s capacity to expand had meant the safety zone had grown in size. But TfL insisted neither City Airport nor the Civil Aviation Authority had objected to the scheme.
Pressed on fares, Transport for London’s representative would only say they would be “affordable”, and said that while they would accept Oyster cards, any decision to accept Travelcards would need the agreement of the National Rail companies serving London.
Pointing at figures mentioned in the planning document, Kidbrooke with Hornfair Labour councillor Hayley Fletcher criticised the poor service on the Jubilee Line, adding: “I’ve never stood at North Greenwich station waiting for the Jubilee Line thinking, ‘Oh, I must pay £3.50 to go to Royal Victoria instead’.”
There were questions about noise, too, but laughter when it was confirmed the motors power the 34 gondolas will be based on the north side of the Thames, in the borough of Newham.
Greenwich’s decision now means the cable car has been approved by three planning authorities, with Newham Council backing it last week and the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation endorsing it on Wednesday.
But while mayor Boris Johnson has said the cable car could be running by the Olympics in July 2012, his own London Development Agency – which has spent £1.2m on a project which was said to be at no cost to taxpayers – has cast doubt on the timetable.
The bigger scheme to affect Greenwich, however, was the cruise liner terminal, on part of the old Alcatel/STC cable works at Enderby’s Wharf. As well as the terminal – due to be up and running for the Olympics – the development includes 770 homes, a 251 room hotel, gym, skills academy, creche and commercial accommodation, as well as a river bus stop.
Planning board members were clearly excited about the scheme, with the consultation over the project praised. Abbey Wood Labour councillor Denise Hyland calling it a “world class” proposal.
“Coming in on a cruise ship and seeing that would be absolutely brilliant,” she enthused, before adding, “someone asked if I could afford it – well, I’ll be coming in on a Thames Clipper.”
Eltham North Conservative Dermot Poston said it would be “wonderful to see it transformed in this way”.
But questions remained on the level of affordable housing at the development – which could range between 20% and 29%, depending on the grants available. Greenwich Council’s official policy is 35%, although developers may be able to secure affordable housing elsewhere in the area instead.
With the fiasco over the neighbouring stalled Lovell’s Wharf development in their minds, developers were also pressed on access to the Thames Path – which they say will be improved and joined by a public square under their plans – replying that they would be prepared to meet residents to discuss any issues. The path will be closed for the “minimum period possible,” they added.
Greenwich Council leader and planning board member Chris Roberts, who backed the scheme on television before it had been announced locally, was not present at the meeting.
Another high-profile development in the borough was also approved at Thursday’s meeting, with plans to build housing on the site of Eltham Baths getting unanimous backing.