Plans to demolish the historic gasholder which sits at the entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel have been blocked by Greenwich Council – but only temporarily.
Owner SGN plc asked the council if it would need permission to dismantle the 130-year-old structure, one of the last remnants of the huge East Greenwich Gas Works which dominated the peninsula until the 1970s.
Planning officers have decided that SGN does need permission to take the gasometer down, but not on grounds of history. Instead, it is on how it plans to dismantle it.
The refusal notice sent to SGN’s agent, Firstplan, says: “Insufficient information has been provided to the Local Planning Authority in relation to the method of demolition.”
Officers also indicated they wanted to see a demolition plan that related to the specific site, rather than the generic information about gasholder dismantling supplied in the original application.
This leaves SGN free to come back with a new plan to take down the decommissioned structure, which it says represents a “significant security and safety liability”.
Gasholders have been retained around the world and incorporated into new uses, including at King’s Cross where they have been moved and incorporated into housing and leisure facilities.
There are no legal protections in place to protect the East Greenwich gasholder on historic grounds – indeed, Historic England has issued a certificate of immunity stating the site cannot be listed for five years, because it is too similar to an earlier structure on the Old Kent Road.
East Greenwich’s gasholder was originally one of two on the site – the second structure was taken down in 1985.
Greenwich Council could still place the remaining structure on its own local list of buildings of historic interest – something Lewisham Council did last year with the gas holders at Bell Green, Sydenham.
However, last year a planning brief for the peninsula said development in the area “should build on the heritage value of the gas holder to enhance the character and distinctiveness of the area”.
It added: “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.”
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