23 June 2015
I am responding on behalf of the 300-plus members of the Greenwich Green Party as part of the public consultation on the above planning application. We have a number of serious worries.
We are deeply concerned that the question of air pollution from the ships has not been addressed in the planning application. Cruise ships are vast floating hotels which use huge amounts of energy even when they are at berth. Because they use dirtier fuel and are much less regulated than land structures, they are far more polluting. As far as we can calculate, a 3,000-passenger cruise ship of the kind the proposed terminal will accommodate would pump out as much air pollution during a single visit to port as 1,000 cars and trucks would emit driving in an entire year.
Given that Greenwich already suffers some of London’s worst air pollution, which according to Public Health England contributes to around one in 12 deaths nationally, we consider it highly irresponsible that the council ever agreed to a cruise terminal without addressing this question. The current proposal to allow each ship to stay two or three times longer will make matters much worse. We call on the council to require the cruise lines to plug into shoreside power, a practice which has been shown to greatly reduce dirty air emission of cruise ships in ports, as a condition for any terminal going ahead.
We note that the cruise terminal is to become 81 percent larger. The developer blames this on the introduction of new Emission Control Areas by the International Maritime Organisation, which it implies will make the terminal commercially unviable unless it get far more out of the facility. To this end it proposes to completely redefine the function of the terminal: it will no longer be a simple tour stop for day visits. Instead it will support longer stays or two or three nights and it will be a place for passengers to begin and end their voyage.
We are very concerned about the extra transport pressures this will entail, and we note that the developer makes little attempt to answer the most obvious questions in its application. We assume that most foreign visitors arriving in London via the new terminal will want to see the sights of the city centre in preference to Greenwich itself. The application refers to river boat provision, but it is also clear from the terminal design that coaches will be used to take passengers on excursions (which is the usual mode of sightseeing for cruise passengers). What proportion of passengers will travel to the city centre by road and what proportion by river boat? Will there be any stipulation what route they have to take, so that they use the Blackwall Tunnel rather than adding to the congestion and pollution in the World Heritage Site of historic Greenwich?
Of even greater concern is the redesignation of the terminus as an embarkation and disembarkation centre. The application talks about the provision of public transport for the terminal (basically the buses along Blackwall Lane or a long walk from Maze Hill station, North Greenwich Tube or Cutty Sark DLR). It is hardly feasible that high-paying passengers laden with suitcases will begin and end their journeys in such an arduous way, so the reality is that there will be some form of motor transport ferrying most of them down the access road to the terminal, further adding to the pollution and road congestion in the area. That will be compounded by the extra freight traffic coming to stock the ships with food and drink.
One of the main selling points of the scheme has been the new employment it will supposedly bring to the area. The figure of 500 full-time jobs has frequently quoted. But we note that the vast majority of these jobs come in the category of ‘indirect employment’. Forty-three people will be employed at the cruise terminal, eight on the river bus (which in itself shows how limited this extra transport provision will be) and 18 at the new skills academy. The other 432 of these supposed full-time jobs will be generated indirectly through expenditure by passengers, crew and the cruise line.
These numbers are simply guesses, and we note that they could be wild overestimates. Given that most cruise passengers have paid for all their meals on board, they are unlikely to spend much cash dining on shore, and any money they spend on souvenirs is as likely to be in the city centre as the Royal Borough. Furthermore, it is well known that cruise lines boost their income by charging passengers for shore packages, so most excursion spending will go back to the cruise company itself or to its approved suppliers onshore.
We note that the developer is proposing to add a further 384 homes to the 770 for which it already has permission on this site. As the total number rise, so the proportion of affordable homes falls – from 20 percent under the original planning agreement to 16 percent now – and while the developer promises to build the affordable units to the same design specification, it will ignore the basic principle of mixed housing by locating them in a ghettoised affordable block at the back of the development, far removed from the high-status waterfront blocks. We are concerned that this will further increase inequalities in the borough.
The increased number of units will mean more residents’ cars. The application attempts to disguise this by arguing that the provision of spaces per residential unit will fall, without acknowledging that the net number of spaces will rise. This will further contribute to congestion in an area already snarled with traffic and which is expected to support thousands of extra car owners thanks to the large number of similar developments, all agreed by Labour-run Greenwich Council, which are already planned in East Greenwich and the Greenwich Peninsula.
In common with many of the residents of East Greenwich and beyond, we have very grave concerns about this development even according to the original application. Its expansion makes it worse in almost every regard. If the developer says the terminal will be unviable without the expansion, then perhaps it was not meant to be.
for Greenwich Green Party
PDF version: here
Greenwich Cruise Terminal: A Plan to Vastly Increase Air Pollution: here
Letter to Evening Standard: here
Clean Air London response: here
Planning Committee meeting 21 July 2015: here