King Henry’s Wharves – new CMP rules out river transport on cost grounds

Yet another revised Construction Management Plan (CMP) has been submitted by the King Henry’s Wharf, Phoenix Wharf and Swan Wharf developer Bridewell (Thames) to Tower Hamlets Planning which includes a detailed analysis of the cost of using the river for construction materials instead of choking Wapping with traffic jams for two years.

You can, as ever, see the new CMP on the Tower Hamlets Planning site, you need to do a search on ‘King Henry’s Wharf’ to find it. (Note: There is no point sending links around that you think point to this or any other planning application ‘cos they don’t work due to the type of web pages planning info lives on.)

The document we looked at is dated 22 May 2017 and is CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT PLAN – REV 4.

Although we have not read all 156 pages of the revised CMP we have had a look of Appendix 7, the River Transport Feasibility Report.

Here are some random extracts from Appendix 7 to give you some idea of what it contains. As the developers have gone to a lot of time, trouble and cost to get this report done it would be polite for as many residents and business owners as possible to read it – and feed back to LW with your views please?

The site benefits from riverside connectivity and accessibility however, a number of physical factors hinder the feasibility of river-based transport.

Firstly, the barges proposed have a carrying capacity of 100 tonnes, which is a factor 5-6 times greater than a HGV and subsequently requires a larger quantum of storage space on-site per trip. The landside site is proposed as a loading area for Phase 1 of the development however it has limited capacity which is insufficient to withstand the volume of material transportable per barge.

Ready-mix concrete is unsuitable for transportation by barge. It is one of the largest quantities of material required for construction, however due to the time sensitive nature of the product, it will be transported by road. This equates to 266 additional road-based trips.

The economic costs of transport by barge significantly exceed the costs of road transportation. Additional costs are incurred from water-based transport, including barge hire, mooring fees, loading requirements, double-handling costs, and cranage and forklift hire for transference of materials to and from the barge.

Furthermore, barges which do not reach maximum carrying capacity are not cost-effective, and the flexibility and reliability of transport by barge can be compromised due to external factors such as tide time restrictions which can incur time costs and increased risks.

The [Environmental Feasibility] analysis illustrates that the environmental benefits of river based transport outweigh road-based transport by 50%. Despite this, the analysis assumes all construction materials are derived from the same location, accessible by both water and road. In reality, construction materials could be derived from a number of locations. In the instance that material can be obtained locally, inaccessible by water, the benefits of river-based transport will not outweigh those generated by road.

The possibility of moving spoil and waste via river is under investigation, and a number of waste management companies have been contacted, pending quotations. The removal of construction waste by river is considered feasible, and could potentially remove a total of 166 one-way road trips from the local highway network.

The developers bottom line…

Transport by barge including the additional costs, is estimated to be 18 times more expensive than transport by road, adding around £476,700 to construction costs.

The developers conclusion…

7.14 Overall, the physical and environmental benefits for the site at King Henry’s Wharf, Phoenix Wharf and Swan Wharf are positive to promote transportation of construction materials by water to a point, however the economic offset is significant, and road-based transport is significantly more economically viable.

7.15 Water-based transport at this site would incur significant additional costs for infrastructure and loading/unloading from the barge not experienced using road-based transport.

7.16 In summary, although physically appropriate, the additional costs for the transportation of construction materials by water are too significant, and therefore not feasible for the development at King Henry’s Wharf, Phoenix Wharf and Swan Wharf.

LW Comment

River transport is the only alternative to creating a perfect storm of traffic chaos in Wapping for two years but it is too expensive.

The additional £476,700 for this option is a lot of money. Or is it?

At the moment £476,700 would buy a reasonable but not luxurious one bedroom flat on the Green Bank estate.

Now the LW Property Valuations Department have no idea how much the King Henry’s Wharf, Phoenix Wharf and Swan Wharf will cost to develop or the profit margin. But we think it must be quite a lot of money.

We also have no idea how long the developers need to recoup their costs but let’s say it is over a 30 year period.

If the additional £476,700 of river transport cost is spread over 30 years it comes to an additional £467.35 a month (ignoring interest etc).  Which ain’t bad.

Reality is the developers consider that the price they have to pay to use river transport is too high for them.

And residents and businesses think the alternative price we have to pay for the entire district, not just Wapping High Street, being one big traffic jam for so long is too expensive for us.


As ever please contact Tower Hamlets Council Planning with your views.

One afterthought – who are the developers? On the planning application they seem to be Bridewell (Thames) Limited and you can see details of Bridewell (Thames) on the Companies House site here. 

That will not get you that far though because it seems the directors of Bridewell Thames are in turn solicitors who work for Trowers and Hamlins, an international law firm with a London office at 3 Bunhill Row in the City and other offices in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Birmingham, Dubai, Exeter, Malaysia, Manchester and Oman.

Assuming that Trowers and Hamlins are not in the property development business itself the identity of the King Henry’s Wharf, Phoenix Wharf and Swan Wharf developers remains unknown.

2 thoughts on “King Henry’s Wharves – new CMP rules out river transport on cost grounds

  1. Thanks for this LW. Will have a look at the whole CMP, but am unsurprised by developers’ response – whoever they may be. It looks like we need to put pressure on TH planners to get them to reject this argument. What would be useful is some estimate of the cost to the community of roughly 300 additional HGV movements, bus diversions, traffic holdups etc. Anyone?

    1. Very good idea Tony. From the start of this planning application we have been more than a little sceptical of the time it takes for each lorry load of materials to be unloaded. It is quite likely that we have enough expertise in the community to carry out this sort of analysis.

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