Permits, Licences, Assessments…Understanding the complexities of building on the River Thames.
Tim Beckett of marine engineers Beckett Rankine talks us through working on Thames infrastructure projects.
Beckett Rankine are the marine consultants advising Thames Baths. Based in Westminster the firm works worldwide and has been responsible for the design of some of the world’s largest ports, such as Ras Laffan in Qatar. Closer to home Beckett Rankine has designed and helped gain consents for more than 200 projects on the tidal Thames over the last 20 years.
The Thames through central London is experiencing a level of construction activity unprecedented in living memory. Leading these projects is the Thames Tideway Tunnel (TTT) where construction of the first temporary wharf facility has recently started on site at Chambers Wharf. A similar cofferdam structure on the foreshore is due to commence shortly at King Edward Memorial Park with a new slipway for Shadwell Basin Activity Centre also being constructed.
Other TTT sites due to commence construction in 2017 are at Blackfriars, Victoria Embankment, Kirtling Street, Albert Embankment, Chelsea Embankment, Cremorne Wharf, Putney and Hurlingham Wharf. Advance enabling works for the TTT project include the recently completed replacement of Blackfriars Pier and the moving of PS Tattershall Castle.
A sad departure from the river has been the HMS President which has been moved to Chatham Docks to make way for the TTT works at Blackfriars. We hope she will be returning to a new berth in the Upper Pool but that is by no means certain as it is dependent upon fundraising.
Non TTT projects for 2017 include a new passenger pier at Battersea Power Station which has just started on site. Planning permission has been granted for the Diamond Jubilee footbridge at Imperial Wharf while there are a number of other new or replacement piers in the pipeline; both Canary Wharf East and Royal Wharf piers should be delivered this year.
Beckett Rankine have been assisting many of these projects both with the engineering designs and also in obtaining the statutory consents. Obtaining consents for works within the river are much more time consuming than for land based developments. Planning permission from the local planning authority is required for any development but once planning is achieved, onshore development may not need any other consent other than complying with the Building Regulations.
If the project is in the Thames then in addition to planning consent the project will also require a River Works Licence from the Port of London Authority, a Land Drainage Consent from the Environment Agency and a Marine Licence from the Marine Management Organisation. These marine consents require a number of supporting studies such as a hydrodynamic assessment, ecological study, archaeological assessment and a navigational risk assessment. The navigational assessment can be particularly challenging as the Thames is a busy tidal river; areas where there is deep enough water for vessels to navigate at all states of the tide tend to be heavily trafficked.
While the river may look little used to a casual observer this is because the majority of the heavy freight movements take place an hour or two either side of high tide. Furthermore some of those movements, such as the tugs towing the waste barges, are difficult to manoeuvre and therefore need a generous clearance around them. Once the TTT starts excavation work in 2018 and the spoil is removed by river there will be a dramatic increase in freight movements for the navigational risk assessments to consider.
Despite these constraints the PLA’s new vision document, proposes to encourage increases in use of the river for freight, passenger vessels and sport and recreation. To deliver these intensified activities in central London without compromising safety will require an increasing degree of inventiveness.
• River Thames