By Allan Fuller
Approval has been gtiven for a new Uber boat pier at Putney Embankment. The council has given the green light despite concerns from river users.
The application (2022/2916) by Uber Boat for a new pier by Putney Embankment has been approved despite strong opposition from river users.
Commuter river boat services will be expanded at the site despite reservations from Olympic rowers who feared they would interfere with the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race course and the rowing clubs based nearby.
Uber Boat by Thames Clippers applied to build a new stop at Putney Bridge Pier, next to Putney Pier, to make its service more accessible. The existing pier is often too steep for wheelchair users and the new structure would support the expansion of the company, a planning statement said.
The application received 74 objections and five letters of support, with rowers raising concerns the new pier will interfere with the Tideway course – home to the Boat Race.The same meeting which approved the Uber application rejected a proposal by Livett’s Launches (2022/1280) to build a 74-metre extension and upgrade what is there already.
Olympic rower Guy Pooley, head of rowing at Eton College, wrote, “Many nationally significant events such as the Boat Race and the many Head of the River races use this area as the finish of the race and crews pass through Putney Bridge and return to Putney embankment. The position of the proposed pier will interfere enormously with this.”
Alastair Marks, CEO of British Rowing, called the plans the “latest in a seemingly endless series of applications which threatens the most important and longest-established rowing course in the country”. Paralympic rower and two-time World Champion Erin Kennedy MBE added: “It would seriously impact all social rowing on the Tideway, including the boat races and all domestic regattas.”
Visualisation the proposed new pier. Picture: Uber Boat by Thames Clipper
Wandsworth Council officers said the new pier will provide an extra obstacle for rowers to navigate but their boats could pass underneath. The report said the applicant had shown “sufficient consideration” of the needs of other river users.
It concluded the “special recreational and sporting character of the area would be protected and able to continue to be operational”, subject to conditions and any further mitigations that might be needed.
Wandsworth Council’s planning committee discussed the proposal. Speaking at the meeting on Tuesday, 21 March, Conservative councillor Guy Humphries said, “There does seem to be a disparity of views between the rowing community saying it isn’t going to be navigable and the various experts on the other side that say that it is and that’s somewhat alarming.”
Elen Richards, team manager in planning and transport at the council, said the applicant had provided clear diagrams of the route which show it “doesn’t impinge or obstruct” established routes. She said rowers will still be able to navigate the area along “safe” routes within the rowing zones.
Ms Richards said the Port of London Authority (PLA) had not objected to the plans after acknowledging the applicant had done as much as it could at this stage, but that they would want to carry out further trials if planning permission was granted.
A ramp would lead down to the pontoon in the Thames Clipper proposal. Picture: Uber Boat by Thames Clipper
Uber Boat by Thames Clippers previously told the Local Democracy Reporting Service a risk assessment had been carried out and the new pier poses no greater risk.
The spokesperson said, “A new pier would allow us to future-proof the Putney river bus route and to explore a more frequent off-peak and weekend service in Putney. This will help more Londoners enjoy fast, convenient commutes and day trip journeys by river.”
The committee voted to approve the application subject to conditions and a licence from the PLA being granted. Uber Boat currently stops at 24 piers along the River Thames from Barking Riverside Pier to Putney Pier. The RB6 service would instead call at Putney Bridge Pier every 15 to 30 minutes during the weekday morning and evening peaks under the plans, according to a further statement.