What’s going on at the South Dock in Southwark?

Proposed South Dock development

Alasdair Flint of historic London chandlers Arthur Beale has written to warn us of what he considers to be a disastrous proposed development that looks to be about to take place at the boatyard at South Dock Marina. Understandably, perhaps, he’s furious…

‘Southwark Council held a meeting on the 29th July which was called ‘Consultation Meeting No1’ – but many people seem to have known nothing about it.

‘I live next to the boatyard, have a paid up mooring in the marina and am commercially involved as a supplier to several people working in the yard, yet I only heard about the meeting weeks after the event through a mate at my running club. He had only heard about it through another friend! I am currently pursuing a freedom of information request to ask exactly how they publicised the meeting.

‘As you can imagine the current information is very vague but the council is proposing to build two tower blocks in the existing boatyard site. One will be 20 storeys high, and the other 15, joined by a wall of flats 8 storeys high. Currently most buildings in the area are low rise three of four floors high.

‘There will be about 230 flats but with only 20 parking spaces all within the current boatyard boundary. Most of the flats will be unaffordable to the local people and no doubt Far Eastern investors will snap them up as a safe haven for their cash. It also looks like some of the development may encroach on the existing Thames Path.

‘As if that isn’t enough they will build a three storey office block in one corner. They are actually claiming they will be improving the shaded scrap of a boatyard that will remain… But it is difficult to imagine the new flat owners putting up with the noise of a needle de-scaler clearing rust from a barge while antifouling dust settles gently on their babies in their prams on their new balconies.

‘The surrounding massively over-scaled buildings will likely amplify the noise of the working boatyard, and make it intolerable for the new residents, who will no doubt complain and eventually get it closed down on health grounds.

‘Commercial traffic on the Thames has increased massively over the last few years and the boatyard is used on a regular basis by both commercial and leisure craft often for urgent repairs. It is also the last remaining working boatyard with a crane along this part of the Thames and should be expanded, not shrunk.

‘The yard could provide many more jobs if it were expanded and the jobs would suit many of the local residents who don’t necessarily have the application or desire to move money around on computer screens in Canary Wharf.

‘The yard itself was saved from a hotel project about ten years ago as it was considered essential to the safe working of the river.

‘I’d say the boatyard is a little oasis along the Thames Path, a great relief to walkers from the monotonous sub standard housing developments that line the Thames from Tower Bridge. Passers-by stop to chat with the boat owners and enjoy seeing a boatyard in action. If the development proceeds, the Thames will be lined with more flats of poor architectural quality while the tiny corner of a token boatyard will be hidden from view in a horrid shady yard too small operate on a serious basis.

‘The Council are going to hold a second consultation meeting on the 7th October and we would like as many people as possible to attend to express their views. For details and to book a place at the meeting, click here.

‘Local boat owners and residents have set up a facebook site to keep people in touch here.

Letters of complaint can be sent directly to Bruce Glockling, Head of Regeneration at bruce.glockling@southwark.gov.uk

‘We need to put up a decent fight to stop this appalling development from proceeding.’

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Edwin Hunt, lighterman

Edwin ‘Ted’ Hunt is a man of amazing experiences, and some wonderful stories, as this striking YouTube shows. I’m told that at 95, he’s still with us.

He wrote the illuminating notes below for teaching lightermen – and I share them because I’m sure they are still useful and worth knowing for anyone who operates barges and other craft on the London River. My thanks to Chriss Hallam for posting on the Thames Sailing Barges Facebook page.

Lighterman Edwin Hunt's notes

Pathé film of the Thames postman, 1933

In 1933, Mr Evans the River Thames postman delivers letters to the boats and ships moored on the Thames near Tower Bridge, London.

My thanks to Griselda Mussett for alerting me to this gem.