Wharves report 1980s

Extract from report prepared by the London Rivers Association 1980s.

WIMPEY Asphalt
This operation largely caters for the building requirements of the parent company. All road stone is imported by ship – about arrival a week is currently required, other raw materials for asphalt production are brought in by road. There is considerable local sensitivity about the lorry movements that this operation produces. The firm is known to be currently negotiating about sites in the Charlton Riverside area. It is believed that they are interested in a somewhat larger site than they are currently occupying (two acres). They would need good river access rot no rail access.

This firm that has been in the Borough for more than four decades is on the point of departing. The last barge to have been repaired in this yard left in December 19~6. The workforce of five were laid off and the company owners are reluctantly looking round for potential buyers.

This is the longest standing public wharf in the Borough; yet it is not safeguarded in planning terms. There is a clear awareness that, partly as a result of this, the value of the site is as great as the value of the going business. This is a family business with close association with the Thames but the prospect of considerable capital gains is becoming increasingly attractive. 40,000 tons are currently being handled which is considerably less than that achieved a few years ago or that potentially obtainable. The Company is currently heavily dependent on two steel stockholders outside the London area. The long term

This firm which is engaged in producing sophisticated armaments for submarines has not used its wharf for over a decade and is unlikely to do so in future. Unfortunately there is no separate vehicle access to the wharf and for security reasons access through the site is unlikely to be granted. There should be some discussion about; the future use of this wharf which is in relatively good condition and has good depth of water.

Victoria Deep Water Terminal
This is the only wharf in the Borough that handles containers. Currently over 40,000 boxes a year passes through the 40 acre site. This is somewhat up on previous years but is nowhere near the full capacity of the site. The terminal has two modern gantry cranes and large 279 metre berths. In the past few years the company has given up operating a shift system and undertaking groupage on site. Employment has fallen from 75 dockworkers and 60 staff four years ago to 20 and 30 respectively today. Two shipping lines account for almost all of their traffic – Bell Lines and Seacon. Both these are currently expanding and are happy with the service provided. The management are worried that by going out to attract new traffic they could alienate their long-standing customers. The company’s biggest problem is the size of their site and their rate bill (over £200,000 per annum). They are looking for a compatible tenant for part of their site and are campaigning for all ports to be assessed for rates on the same basis.

This is the largest sea dredged aggregates firm to operate on the Thames. It has recently purchased the Delta Wharf site (aver 4 acres) with a view to using it to land and process sea dredged sand and gravel. At present it has a large plant and headquarters at Purfleet but feels that it needs a processing plant on the south side of the river. The company operates t\«) 5CXX) ten sand and gravel dredgers. If it can find new processing sites it will invest in further in vessels. It considers that increasingly building materials such as sand and gravel will have to be obtained from the sea bed because of environmental objections to the use of land derived sources. At present the economics are finely balanced. Marine dredged aggregates are more expensive to mine but cheaper to transport. This gives a premium to landing these aggregates as near as possible to the end use. The first planning application was turned down because of objections from the houses that are close by and because of a concern that the operation might not generate a significant amount of new employment. A second planning application has been recently presented which the applicants hope will be more acceptable as it involves a smaller site within the S8IOO employment levels and will free parts of the 5 acre site for other employment generating uses.

This old established barge and boat building firm is occupying a one and a half acre site on the above Civil and Marine freehold. They moved here three years ago after being ousted from their premises in the Royal Docks by the PLA. They have successfully moved into boat building and repair and employ 18 craftsmen and three apprentices. Their order books are full for the next two years having recently secured a large contract to build a 60 ton private cruiser. Their main problem is that they are currently occupying; their site on a licence and could be evicted at a moment notice. While it is understood that Civil and Marine are happy that this firm continues on the site, the lack of security affects the ability to plan for a long term future and the ability to secure finance from Banks.

Ordnance Wharf
This area is let on short term leases to five firms none of which use the river. There are two wharves on the site which could be used in future for cargo handling. They have good water and road access. All the existing users have leases up to 1995 from British Gas which has said that they are interested in disposing of the site. Consideration should be given to its development for river related uses in the longer term. The whole site is over six acres.

Blackwall Point Power Station 
This has recently been bought by Brown and Mason a demolition firm which is currently demolishing the Power station and want to develop the site for their own benefit. The site is about three acres but; may well be seriously contaminated. The firm wants to develop for the highest value which they appear to believe is a high class residential development but are Prepared to talk about; other possibilities. It is believed that they acquired the site at a considerable discount because they were prepared to take on the Problems of asbestos on the site and the risk of contamination.

GREENWICH SAILING CLUB. This is owned and (currently) run by the Borough.  A 20 person Community Programme scheme has been run from these premises for the last four years. The plan is that the borough will pull out and the area (about three acres of land and metres of tideway) will be let out at a peppercorn rent to the Greenwich Yacht Club. The Club has access to a narrow slipway (called the causeway) and recently the British Steel Wharf which they intend to use as additional moorings. At present they have over 100 moorings on the tideway and over an acre of hard standing. The club is currently used by an Association of disabled people but their future involvement is unclear


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