Turning wharves into homes kills Thames as working river, warns London Assembly

Bow Creek... wharves unsuitable for larg barges

Bow Creek... wharves unsuitable for larg barges - Credit: Archant

Historic riverside wharves in east London are in danger of losing their protection as commercial trading centres.

Plans to turn many wharves into luxury homes could damage the Thames as a working river and seriously effect economic growth, the London Assembly warns.

It follows proposals by the Mayor to allow nine wharves, from Canning Town to Rainham, to be removed from a list of 50 protected waterfront sites.

Two wharves at Canning Town on the Bow Creek are described on the list as “less favourable” for the river trade.

Priory Wharf is said to be disadvantaged by its location on the winding Lea estuary, while the nearby Mayer Parry Wharf is hindered by barge sizes needed for heavy bulk cargo.


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Silvertown’s Sunshine Wharf also has “navigation restrictions” to keep cargo-handling operations on a large scale.

The London Assembly’s planning chief has now written to the Secretary of State urging him to scrap plans to let wharves be turned to residential use without planning permission.

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“It could jeopardise London’s future economic growth,” said planning chair Nicky Gavron.

“The low land value of wharves puts them under pressure to be redeveloped as riverside flats.

“But if they’re snapped up by developers, it rules out the future option of transporting waste by river and would reduce the potential to tap into the emerging green economy.”

The Assembly warns this would lead to a future shortage of cheap commercial premises.

“London may have spare office space,” Gavron added. “But turning business premises into homes is not the answer.

“Once the wharves are gone, they’re gone forever—the Thames will slowly cease being a working river.”

Other east London wharves under threat are the Welbeck in Barking, due to inland navigation restrictions at Barking Creek, and DePass Wharf at Dagenham with the poor condition of its jetty and potential impact of the proposed DLR extension to Dagenham Dock. Another three at Bexley are also at risk.

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