For the first time, a coherent planning framework will look at maximising the potential of the Thames, improving and enhancing the quality of the built and natural environment, and bringing the river back to life. The guidance applies to the area along the Thames corridor from Windsor to the sea and is published following extensive consultation.
Mr Gummer said:
'The River Thames is one of the nation's major natural assets which, sadly, is often neglected or under-used. I want the river to be a focus for the capital - a living, working waterway. The river's potential for transporting both goods and people - and thereby removing traffic from London's congested roads - is enormous.
'I want to protect facilities like this by ensuring that suitable sites are available for the future expansion of freight transport on the Thames. I am today issuing statutory directions to planning authorities to safeguard 32 wharves along the river between Hammersmith and Newham. The authorities must examine the need for protecting these wharves in their development plans and, in the meantime, must refer to me any proposals for alternative development of these sites. These directions will help safeguard a declining resource whose protection is essential to the development of a sustainable city.
'My fundamental aim is to bring life back to the river and the riverfront. As well as pomoting a special quality for new development, the guidance aims to attract people back to the river. Public access, open spaces, completion of the Thames Path, a Thames cycleway, new recreation and boating facilities, and more use of the river for public events - will all help to achieve that aim.
'I welcome the renewed interest being shown in the Thames, reflected in a whole range of exciting new projects along its banks, such as the Millennium Exhibition at Greenwich. The guidance I am publishing today will help stimulate and build on that interest. It will help bring the Thames back to life.'
The Strategic Planning Guidance for the Thames aims to:
-- maintain and improve the quality of the built environment along the river, by requiring a special quality of design and making the river the focus of new development;
-- restore vitality to the riverside by bringing back people and activity in areas of dereliction and decline;
-- conserve and enhance both the natural and historic environments which are such an important part of the character of the Thames;
-- encourage the use of the river for both transport and recreational purposes.
The guidance sets out policies and principles which planning authorities along the Thames will be required to incorporate into their development plans, and which will inform their decisions on individual planning cases.
More detailed guidance on the implementation of these aims is given for different stretches of the River, with particular emphasis on the central stretch from Hampton to Crayford Ness - to be designated a special 'Thames Policy Area'.
This central stretch includes those riverside areas where the welcome revival of interest in the Thames is bringing acute pressure for new development, throwing up potential conflicts between competing land uses, and where the need for new policies and more detailed guidance are most apparent.
A draft of the guidance was issued in June 1996 for consultation, and drew a very favourable response. The text has been strengthened and amended in many areas, but the main substantive changes are the extension of the special Thames Policy Area further downstream to Crayford Ness (just beyond Erith and Rainham), and the use of supplementary planning directions to protect wharves in central London.
There are two separate sets of directions: the first has the effect of requiring planning authorities to consider safeguarding the specified wharves when they produce their unitary development plans (the guidance requires them to adopt policies to encourage transporting freight - including waste - on the River and to identify and protect suitable sites for loading/unloading).
The second requires the authorities to refer to the secretary of state for consultation any proposal for development on these sites before reaching a decision. A list of the 32 sites, most of which are currently operational wharves, is attached.
STRATEGIC PLANNING GUIDANCE FOR THE RIVER THAMES - summary
The guidance sets out the government's strategy for enhancing and revitalising the River Thames. It will provide formal guidance for riparian planning authorities, who are required to take account of it in their development plans. It will also provide the policy framework for the decisions which they and the secretary of state take on individual development proposals.
The guidance covers the length of the river from Windsor to the sea. Overall principles and objectives are set down for the full length. More detailed guidance is given for each of three sections:
-- Windsor to Hampton Court
-- Hampton Court to Crayford Ness
-- Crayford Ness to the sea
The most detailed guidance is given for the central section, which is designated the 'Thames Policy Area'.
Overall principles and objectives
These are set out in section 2 and, in summary, are:
-- to improve the built environment along the river and to secure a special quality for all new development which takes proper account of its context, including its relationship to the river, historic buildings, landscapes and views;
-- to restore and promote the vitality of the riverside in areas of development opportunity, by encouraging development and uses which bring people to the river and enhance their enjoyment of it, and by discouraging development which does not contribute to, or is inappropriate to, its riverside location;
-- to protect and enhance the natural and historic environments along the River, including areas of ecological importance and open spaces, historic buildings and locations and important archaeological sites;
-- to promote increased use of the River for transport and recreational purposes.
Detailed guidance for Thames Policy Area (Hampton to Crayford Ness)
A special quality is needed for all new development to enhance London's 'World City' status and attract people to the River. The guidance does not seek to offer a prescriptive definition of good design, but sets out a series of tests and principles to ensure proposals for new development give proper attention to:
-- its setting and context, including historic surroundings
-- its relationship with the River
-- quality and urban design issues
-- opening up the riverfront to the public
-- the views of the local community, neighbouring and cross-river boroughs, and bodies such as the Environment Agency, English Heritage and the Royal Fine Art Commission.
There remains a place for 'dramatic visual statements and landmark buildings', but these should be exceptional, and of the highest quality.
The coordination of a lighting strategy for the central stretch of the river is also advocated.
Heritage and views
Historic buildings and structures, as well as local landmarks and views, are to be protected.
Existing guidance on strategic views is to be reviewed, with the possibility of including panoramic river views.
Bridges and other structures
There is a need for additional river crossings. Their visual impact should be considered and a high quality of design encouraged. Natural environment The importance of the Thames as a linear open space and ecological corridor, linking other open spaces and network of 'green chains' is stressed.
The 'Thames Landscape Strategy' for the Hampton to Kew stretch is promoted as a model for enhancing natural landscapes.
The foreshore is an important ecological and archaeological resource. Encroachment of development onto foreshore is discouraged other than in exceptional circumstances.
Greater use of the river is to be encouraged as a potential means of relieving congestion on other forms of transport in the central area, for moving tourists between riverside attractions, and as an attraction in own right. There must be a strong emphasis on quality.
New and up-graded piers are needed at focal points along the River. Good linkages with the public transport system are essential.
There is potential for growth in river-borne transhipment if projected increases in Port of London traffic materialise. The Thames is also an important route for waste disposal.
Freight movements by river can save thousands of lorry miles and reduce pollution.
But there are heavy development pressures in this stretch, and suitable sites for wharves and other river-related activities are a finite and diminishing resource. Other uses may seem more immediately attractive.
The guidance requires planning authorities to adopt policies to encourage freight transport (including waste) on the River and to identify and protect suitable sites for loading/unloading.
Leisure and recreation
Public access to the river is to be promoted, including through completion of the Thames Path and a new Thames Cycle Route. Recreational opportunities are to be promoted, including the provision and protection of moorings, slipways, steps, etc. Public access to the foreshore is to be protected, subject to safety and environmental considerations.
Windsor to Hampton
For this section of the river it is proposed that Riparian planning authorities should consider preparing a joint strategy for implementing the overall principles and objectives set out in Section 2 of the guidance, reflecting the character of this stretch. The results would be reflected in future Regional Planning Guidance for the South East.
Crayford Ness to the sea
This area is already largely covered by the Thames Gateway Planning Framework. There are many important areas of development and regeneration opportunity, as well as sensitive ecological sites, in these lower reaches of the Thames.
Planning authorities should adopt policies to secure a high quality of design for new development. They should consider preparing design and landscaping guidance.
They are also encouraged to look for opportunities to create new focal points of activity along the river, and for developing new passenger services and recreational opportunities at these focal points.
They should consider the implications of the potential growth in port traffic and the need to protect important sites for river-related uses.
LIST OF WHARVES SUBJECT TO DIRECTIONS
Hammersmith and Fulham
1. Swedish Wharf
2. RMC Fulham
Kensington & Chelsea
4. Lots Road, Wandsworth
5. Western Riverside Waste Transfer Station
6. Pier Wharf
7. Cringle Dock
8. Metro Greenham
9. Readymix Vauxhall
10. Gatliff Road Depot
11. Walbrook Wharf
14. Granite Wharf
15. Tunnel Glucose
16. Delta Wharf
17. Angerstein Wharf
18. Murphy's Wharf
19. Lovell's Wharf
20. Victoria Deep Water Terminal
21. Ordnance Wharf
22. Riverside Wharf
23. London Steel Terminal
24. Northumberland Wharf
25. Orchard Wharf
26. Priors Wharf
27. Mayer Wharf
28. Thames Wharf
29. Manhattan Wharf
30. Sunshine Wharf
31. Minoco Wharf
32. Peruvian Wharf.