How and why to object to Harrods Wharf Ferry Terminal

On 3 February 2021 a planning application for the ferry terminal was validated. Objections can be made until a decision is made, due 31 March 2021.

Click HERE to make objections on the Richmond upon Thames planning portal.

Thousands of Londoners face massive delays to get to school, work and medical appointments, particularly Barnes residents. Everyone wants a solution to get across the river at Hammersmith. Most people would prefer Hammersmith Bridge to be fixed, at least opened to pedestrians and river users, but that isn’t an option yet. There is significant interest in a ferry, but there is also concern that a ferry service will allow costly repairs to the bridge to be delayed.

The political backdrop to the issue of bridge closure and funding solutions is not conducive to mutual cooperation :

  • Labour council ownership of Hammersmith Bridge in Hammersmith and Fulham
  • Conservative led central government seeking to blame other parties
  • Liberal Democrat council in Richmond with suffering residents and businesses
  • TfL forced to provide a ferry under the conditions of a bailout

This letter, published on Twitter, from Hammersmith and Fulham gives one side of the political story.

If a ferry terminal is to be implemented, a better place for it is by Hammersmith Bridge. It would be much more accessible to pedestrians and keep the towpath clear for walking, where it won’t disrupt thousands of river users. Currently there is no river traffic at all next to the bridge, just outside the TfL exclusion zone, so this the safest and most convenient place for a ferry. Boats with pontoons used the area by the bridge in the 1920s and it makes much more sense than the disruptive Harrods Wharf proposal. Watch a quick explanation from the CEO of Fulham Reach Boat Club here.

Looking through the comments of people supporting the application, it becomes clear that they would support any ferry, regardless of its route. This planning application is for a terminal, including a cafe, not for a ferry. Objecting to this terminal is not an objection to a ferry. It is an objection to the buildings and the location of the pontoon in the river. We need to object to this planning permission and get a good ferry option on the table. Unfortunately many people have supported the terminal without full information of the issues and without knowledge of the authorities decisions on ferry operators and viable landing points.

There are many Barnes residents that have valid and serious objections to this application that have nothing to do with rowing or river users (see below). There are over 1100 objections (as of 26 Feb 2021), including over 370 from Richmond residents and a significant number of those being Barnes residents.

Whilst this application appears to help speed the path to a solution, it does not. Until a ferry route is approved by TfL and the PLA and planning permission for pontoons on both sides of the river are given, no ferry can operate. Rushing to approve this terminal will not speed up the process. All this application does is give the private land owner the right to build for at least 5 years where no buildings are required or have ever existed on the towpath. Planning permission has been tried before and refused, albeit in 1977 and when the bridge was open.

Since this application went in, the PLA has made the following statement casting doubt on whether Harrods Wharf will be used at all. “Question: What is the PLA’s view/recommendation on the proposed Harrods Wharf ferry and pontoon from a safety perspective, especially in relation to small boats?  Have you been consulted? Answer: We have been consulted on the landowners’ recently-submitted planning application; a jetty does not form part of the application.There has been no application directly to us for consent for this scheme at Harrods Wharf. An application to the PLA for the ‘Thames Wherry’ scheme, using this wharf, has been deemed refused.

The government task force for Hammersmith Bridge is also distancing the ferry process from this application by saying the following on 25 Feb 2021 “The Taskforce also heard the latest from TfL regarding the procurement for the temporary ferry service, following the announcement earlier this week of City Cruises and Uber Boat by Thames Clippers as the shortlisted operators. We expect the contract to be awarded shortly, and wish to highlight that the TfL-led ferry procurement is independent of the proposed redevelopment of Harrods Wharf.

The planning application does not make people aware of the issues with the proposed ferry terminal at Harrods Wharf. This website hopes to give the information, issues, opinions and concerns that the application has not given. It collates comments from objectors, for ease of reference. It also makes people aware that there are options that work and are less damaging to the community.

Please feel free to consider and use any of the materials below in your objection to the Harrods Wharf Ferry terminal.

There are three sections to this page
1) A better ferry proposal
2) Objections to the Harrods Wharf Ferry Terminal
3) Protecting the charity work of Fulham Reach Boat Club.

  1. A BETTER FERRY PROPOSAL

Illustration of a better and less disruptive ferry route

Harrods Wharf is not the only available site for a pontoon. A simple change to the ferry route would enable everyone to get the best solution. It won’t need any private land owners and no new buildings on land. Alternative landing points for a ferry much closer to the bridge are more feasible and would not have the same negative impact.

The local boroughs own the land required on both sides of this crossing so can choose to offer it to a ferry operator and a pontoon builder. The PLA have authority for the river area between the two. No private land owner needs to be approached or paid rent at any time over 5 years (or ever). Planning permission or consultation is likely. All of it is outside the TfL safety exclusion zone.

Precedent for moorings and boats operating close to the bridge in the 1920s

This route is outside the TfL exclusion zone

The exclusion zone below is shown on TfL’s leaflet here. A better ferry route is just outside the zone and close to the bridge.

No need for facilities on the towpath for a ferry terminal at Putney

The planning permission is for buildings which are not needed for a ferry. There is no need for a ticket office and waiting room on the towpath. Many of the ferry services downstream have very little impact on the towpath. Look at the Clipper pontoon at Putney Bridge below. The facilities are on the pontoon with minimal impact on the towpath. The facilities for boarding are part of the pontoon in the river. The Hammersmith ferry terminal could be much closer to the bridge and have much less effect on the towpath. 800 people per hour would not need to walk as far along a new gangway over the towpath. As the towpath under the bridge is already closed, such a gangway would not impede towpath walkers any more than they are already by the bridge closure.

Potential pontoon and jetty at Queen Caroline Street slipway.
Hammersmith & Fulham own this slipway under UPRN 34137993 on this asset register. The PLA control the tidal area. Flood defences could remain in place whilst the pontoon connects to the bank either side of the slipway. One would hope that the Riverside Studios cafe and bar and Sam’s Riverside Restaurant would welcome additional customers waiting for passengers or the ferry. There is also considerably more space both on land and on the river to accommodate pedestrians, including wheelchairs.

Illustration of a Richmond bank pontoon that could serve the ferry

All the facilities for a ferry can be located on a pontoon in the river. There is no need to disturb the towpath or build on Richmond land, not least Harrods Wharf which is around 350 metres further away from the bridge. Professional designs could ensure that a pontoon near the bridge is easily accessible from Castelnau and the towpath whilst allowing towpath users to pass by. The bank is much lower here and so gangways would be much less steep than from Harrods Wharf. Occasional Flooding can be dealt with by a gangway to Castelnau. No on can walk under the bridge until it is reopened, so this wouldn’t impede anyone.

Even better, the design below doesn’t even need a ferry. No engine, less noise, no pollution, no turning circle. Just c. 50 metres to ping back and forth carrying people. A nice view of the bridge whilst you are crossing too.

Credit for this drawing to the Manser Practice and New Civil Engineer

Example of a “green” reaction ferry on cables powered by the flow of the river

The Westerhüsen Ferry is a cable ferry across the Elbe river, Germany. It is 27.42 metres (90.0 ft) long and 7.73 metres (25.4 ft) wide. It is a reaction ferry, propelled by the current of the water.


Richmond own the land either side of Hammersmith Bridge. No private land owner needs to be give permission for a pontoon here. No cost to Richmond council tax payers.

2. OBJECTIONS TO THE HARRODS WHARF FERRY TERMINAL

Significant numbers of objections (c. 370 at last count) are from Richmond residents with many coming from postcode SW13, Barnes. There are over 1100 objections in total (as at 26 Feb 2021).

The are many valid objections by Barnes residents that have nothing to do with rowing or river users.

Harrods Village objection

Here is the objection from the directors of the Harrods Village Estate Management Company. Nothing to do with river use or boat clubs.

We want to support a ferry, but not a major ferry terminal at Harrods Wharf, with significant pedestrian traffic through Harrods village and semi-permanent new infrastructure, to include cafes and other facilities.

– the decision on a south ferry terminal cannot be made in isolation from the location of the landing jetty on the north side of the river

– we object to any buildings either temporary or permanently being erected; the noise and light pollution is unacceptable to residents

– the noise assessment in the application is not convincing. We expect it to be major, including construction and the ferry itself

– should the Harrods Wharf Jetty be considered as a temporary south bank terminal, there is no need for more than an Oyster card reader, which is all that exists at the Putney & Chelsea Harbour river boat.

– the towpath floods at high tide, which makes it inaccessible for all users at those times;

the towpath round Barnes is well-used by walkers, cyclists and runners, but the section in front of Harrods Village is one of the narrowest stretches. Construction and ferry access traffic here will lead to congestion and be a significant issue. It is not conductive managing the targeted ferry passenger numbers (6.000 targeted passengers a day).

– the towpath is unsuitable for wheelchair users, pushchairs and the elderly. What solution will be in place for people with impaired mobility?

– there is no public transport access in the vicinity of Harrods Wharf (nearest bus top on Castelnau – shortest route via Trinity Church Road though Harrods Village is 500m)

– public access through the Metropolitan Land owned by Harrods Village is open to legal interpretation, with no access permitted before 7am and after 9pm

– drop offs in Riverview Gardens and Clavering Avenue would result disproportionate traffic and noise in a purely residential area

– the planning application includes parking for 16 bicycles, but there are concerns re more and attempted access through HV main gates or crowding of pavements, also of drop off bikes being left on towpath and in Harrods Village and Trinity Church Road (as already happens)

Objections from Fulham Reach residents association

Another objection from local residents, living opposite Harrods Wharf, with many objections not related to river use.

Objections from Riverview Gardens and Clavering Avenue, Barnes

Here is another excellent set of the reasons to object, written by a Barnes resident. Below is their summary and click here for the full text.

The devastating impact of the closure of Hammersmith Bridge on the local community is not in question and the need for an immediate temporary or permanent bridge solution is paramount. We support the idea of an interim ferry service in principle but we object to the current proposal for a ferry terminal located at Harrods Wharf (the “Proposal”) on the following grounds:

(a) The existing infrastructure cannot sustain the volume of passengers and the access to the ferry terminal that the Proposal envisages;


(b) The Proposal wrongly seeks to represent that it is “car free” and “sustainable”;


(c) 9,600 passengers per day accessing the site on foot, bike, scooter, skateboard and vehicles via Clavering Avenue (“CA”), a narrow residential street, will increase the potential for serious road accidents and unacceptable road and pavement congestion for passengers and residents;


(d) The Proposal will result in unmanageable volumes of vehicular traffic in CA and Riverview Gardens (“RVG”) with an associated negative impact on air and noise pollution and quality of life for residents;


(e) CA and RVG are within the Castelnau Conservation Area and the properties on them are locally listed buildings. The Proposal will negatively impact on the protected character of the area;


(f) Harrods Wharf and the park through which it will be accessed are Metropolitan Open Land which should be protected and retained in predominantly open use;


(g) The ferry terminal will also block access to or, at the very least, prevent proper enjoyment of the riverside and park for other users


(h) The noise generated by passengers streaming up and down CA and RVG and the restriction on residents’ access into/out of their properties will have a material adverse and intolerable impact on all the residents;


(i) The proposed access to the terminal, through a narrow gate, will create an unacceptable COVID-19 risk on the basis that social distancing will not be possible;


(j) Residents’ privacy will be impaired and levels of litter, crime, altercations between passengers and residents and incidents of breach of the peace will increase.

Objections of schools, community clubs and charities

Significant objections from community organisations representing hundreds of local residents, students and river users include:

West London Free School

Fulham Cross School

Phoenix High School

Kensington Aldridge Academy

Fulham Boys School

Sacred Heart High School

Kings College School

West London River Group

Fulham Reach Boat Club

Blades London Sports Trust

Youth Experience in Sport Charity

Barn Elms Boat House

Thames Rowing Club

London Rowing Club

HSBC Rowing Club

Cygnet Rowing Club

Westminster Boat Club

Furnivall Sculling Club

Thames Rowing Club

Thames Tradesman Rowing Club

Vesta Rowing Club

Sons of the Thames Rowing Club

NEGATIVE IMPACT

The Harrods Wharf ferry terminal planning application has significant negative impact and the application details have significant shortcomings. 

The pontoon and ferry route to Harrods Wharf create significant danger to river users including RNLI, River Police and leisure users, including thousands of rowers from the Putney Rowing clubs and Fulham Reach.

The proposal creates significant operational and financial risk to the Fulham Reach Boat Club charity, its service to 1300 local state school pupils per annum along with 200 members from the local community and almost 30 jobs.

There is similar significant risk to the numerous boat clubs of Putney, Barn Elms and their many hundreds of members, mostly local residents.

The proposal is in contravention of the National Planning Policy Framework to promote health and safe communities, specifically paragraph 92. The proposal does not “take into account local strategies”, such as FRBC, nor does it “guard against unnecessary loss of valued facilities and services”. Click HERE for link to National Planning Policy Framework and see para 92.

The proposal does not take into account the Mayor of London Strategies for the River Thames and recreational uses, under Policy 7.93 of the current “London Plan”. Click HERE for the link to the current “London Plan” and see para 7.93.

The proposal does not take into account the Port of London Authority Planning Policy and directly threatens many of the clubs referred to in the policy, including Fulham Reach. Click HERE for the link to PLA planning policy and see the 6th paragraph.

The proposal is in direct conflict with Richmond’s Policy that development concerning the river has “no interference with the recreational use of the river, riverside and navigation” and to “promote recreational river use”.

The proposal creates significant constriction of the already narrow towpath from users of the ferry and this is incompatible with social distancing. 

The proposal requires a significant increase in pedestrian traffic and access which will damage the footpath, planting and wildlife around the site.

The proposal contains development of unnecessary buildings in a prominent and visible position on the river seen from Fulham Reach, the Harrods Village estate and all the users of the towpath and river. A ferry service has no need for the proposed buildings, nor would they have the capacity to serve the volume of passengers safely.

The proposal would create significant noise pollution for Harrods Village and the application contains a report acknowledging this and also that proper tests have not been conducted – quote “It is predicted that the noise levels generated from passengers arriving and departing at the boarding area may require mitigation measures to reduce impacts on the residents located within Harrods Furniture Depository”

The proposed access route to the ferry terminal via Riverview Gardens and Clavering Avenue will likely create significant increase in car traffic and congestion in these quiet residential streets.

The times of access to the Metropolitan Open Land may not be appropriate (6am to 10pm). The use of the land for commercial purposes may not be appropriate. Further objections relating to the Metropolitan Open Land are detailed here.

SIGNIFICANT SHORTCOMINGS IN THE APPLICATION

The plans have:

no support or permissions from the PLA regarding the proposed pontoon.

no proper assessment for feasibility of a 800 person per hour ferry service from this site, including capacity of entry and exit points, waiting areas or queuing areas both on site and along the towpath.

no proper assessment of the health and safety of the public using the service, including safe boarding during high and low tides on the pontoon from the Wharf which is almost 6m above low tide channel a ferry would moor at. For example, the angle of the gangway to the pontoon would not be safe for wheelchair access, elderly or primary school aged children. It would be especially treacherous in rain or when icy. We estimate that the pontoon would need to be in the deep channel of the river, some 25 metres away from Harrods Wharf and, at low tide, the descent of 6 metres from the wharf top to the pontoon would be c. 13.5 degrees or 1:5. The only way to reduce the steepness is to make the gangway even longer, more of an obstruction to river users.

At least a 5 metre drop from the top of Harrods Wharf to a low tide ferry in the main channel of the river would make for a very steep gangway for anyone, let alone primary school children, elderly or wheelchair users

no consideration of social distancing required inside the buildings, whilst queuing for tickets, boarding or crowding around the towpath. The council must continue to assume measures to the pandemic will be required despite hopes from annual vaccination.

no detail of the size of the pontoon and its impact on the river, either visually or for river users

no support from Fulham Reach Boat Club for the use of their pontoon on the north bank opposite. Fulham Reach have made it clear that their pontoon will not be available for any ferry from Harrods Wharf as this would create significant risk to their charity work. 

no detail of any support of any ferry company 

no support of TfL.

Richmond Council and residents have said no in the past

A previous attempt to seek planning permission for Harrods Wharf was made in 1977 (ref 77/1083). This was refused on the grounds of lack of vehicular access and off street parking. The planning committee at that time also concluded that use of the Wharf (to provide moorings for non-residential pleasure craft) would “be likely to give rise to danger to users of the towpath and disturbance to residents of nearby streets”. 

3) PROTECTING THE CHARITY WORK OF FULHAM REACH BOAT CLUB

Please read the statement of the charity by clicking HERE.

The charity helps over 1,300 state school children per year and 200 members of the local community. Typically participants are

  • 61% Female
  • 53% Black, Asian or Minority Ethnicity

Fulham Reach Boat Club also hosts the Blades London Sports Trust, a registered charity, which gets children aged 11 to 18 kayaking on the river from the boat club pontoon.

The club has also runs “Holiday Hunger” programmes to ensure kids get proper meals when away from schools, plus they get exercise and experience of the river. Marcus Rashford would be proud of this work.

I have coached some of those state school children from FRBC and have first hand experience of how incredibly valuable it is to them.

Despite the benefit my own son would get from a ferry, I am passionate about protecting this charity AND getting pedestrians across the river, whether by bridge or ferry.

The Harrods Wharf ferry terminal would effectively shut of use of the river for the charity.

The pontoon would cut off inshore rowing, kayaking, paddle boarding for everyone between the bridge and Putney. That’s just some of the effect of the pontoon. Details of the pontoon are almost completely absent from the planning permission.

A ferry crossing carrying 800 people an hour, say 4 crossings an hour would also make it impossible to use the river.

The Harrods Wharf proposal creates a ferry route that is dangerous to all other river users, including life boats and rowing boats. It also assumes it can use the Fulham Reach pontoon. Not only will the charity not allow this, the pontoon doesn’t reach the water at low tide, so no ferry can get to it anyway. New pontoons will be required – so build them by the bridge.

Harrods Wharf ferry terminal kills river access

If a ferry terminal and pontoon is built in the low tide channel, Fulham Reach will have no safe access to the river. The boat club will be trapped between the bridge and the ferry.

Protect the current situation

This shows that the only option for river access, since the bridge closure, is downstream, west towards Putney. Use of the inshore shallow water would be completely lost by any pontoon at Harrods Wharf.

Use of the main channel would be totally unsafe for novice rowers and children that use Fulham Reach.