Thursday 21 February 2013

Deptford Creek - a tale of two footbridges

So it seems that progress is expected this year on TWO new footbridge links across Deptford Creek, one of which you may be aware of, the other of which is a past project risen from the dead; the Lazarus of creek footbridges. 

We've all heard the story about the Millennium Quay footbridge, which is intended to connect Millennium Quay to New Capital Quay across the mouth of the creek, built with the express intention of providing a direct route from Deptford to Waitrose thank you very much. 

Originally it appeared rendered on the images of the new development as some kind of slender, white-winged angel of the bridge world, the deck held aloft by magic with no visible means of support. It was an architect's impression of how all bridges would look if you didn't have to get those pesky engineers involved.

There was talk of a design competition and promises of some glorious swing bridge that would elevate the riverside walk into a transport of delight.

But when it came to actually delivering the bridge, the developer not only demanded a couple of extra storeys on top of the tower block to 'pay' for the bridge, but also delivered this lumpen monstrosity as the proposed solution.

Could it be further from the original rendering? Quite aside from the fact that it ain't up to much in the looks department, there's the small matter of navigation on the creek. Apparently there is a right of navigation on the creek for all vessels, including those with masts, which is why the bridges that exist already are opening structures. After outrage was heaped on the design from all sides, the council asked the developer to perhaps give a bit more consideration to the bridge proposal. Apparently a new submission is expected soon, let's hope they have found something more appropriate both to its location and its operational requirements.

Meanwhile a planning application has recently been submitted to Greenwich Council for another bridge across the creek, further upstream, which is intended to provide a direct link from the land next the Laban Centre (and the odious Creekside 'Village') to Greenwich railway station.

Again, the footbridge is part of the 106 agreement relating to the Creekside Village development, and has been on the wishlist of Greenwich Council for more than a decade. Previous proposals have come and gone, and when this latest incarnation bobbed up on the incoming tide like an unflushable turd, one long-term Deptford resident was heard to comment: 'Blimey, that old chestnut surfaces again!'

No sexy renderings I'm afraid, this was obviously a low-budget report. There are some technical drawings in the feasibility study if you are interested, but the main usp of the Laban bridge is the unusual tilt and twist opening mechanism by which it intends to retain the clear navigation height on the waterway. It will be interesting to see how achievable this is - it's unusual for such a structure to be designed to tilt AND twist and it raises questions about the amount of space needed behind the abutment to achieve this. 

It's also interesting to note that the proposed bridge will not offer a clear span across the creek; for some reason the designers have put a pier in the river on the Greenwich side, something which is unlikely to be welcomed by authorities such as the Environment Agency and the Port of London Authority. Maintenance and operation costs of this type of structure are likely to be relatively substantial, considering the unusual nature of the bridge and the hydraulics required to open it, and I suspect may have been somewhat underplayed in the report.   

The impact these additional bridges could have on vessels using the creek has not been given any consideration. With four opening bridges potentially having to be operated by a single person, it could take some time for masted or large boats to get from one end of the creek to another, possibly longer than the available tide, putting severe restrictions on the type of vessels that could access the waterway.


crosswhatfields said...

Thanks, Dame. Any idea of the possible timelines of either of these or is it how long is a piece of string?

Just wondering, since it's recently been suggested that the Faircharm redevelopment, should it be passed, might use the Creek to transport waste and construction materials instead of the totally undesirable (and presently on offer) alternative – 180 lorries a day up and down Creekside for 3 years!

The prospective bridges might either hasten that development or make it unworkable to use the Creek...?

Anonymous said...

It's almost as if the developers are making it as difficult as possible to install thus ensuring it doesn't happen...

Whats wrong with a simple, graceful, lifting bridge? Should be the cheapest option. Maybe I'm just too cynical and there's viable reasons preventing it.

Deptford Dame said...

@crosswhatfields no idea about timelines, all depends on planning and funding I guess.

@from the murky depths a lifting bridge would not be the cheapest option, the Millennium Quay proposal is probably the cheapest, although I suspect it wouldn't cost much more to have a lifting bridge when you take into account the cost of providing lifts on this one. They could get a good quality, simple but elegant lifting structure if they spent proper money on a structural engineer with a good bridge pedigree, rather than just getting someone in to crunch a few numbers and make sure it stands up. The Laban bridge looks like a better effort in the drawings.

Anonymous said...

The Laban proposal does look very promising if it can be delivered. I'm not sure about using the Creek for the Faircharm project; the railway bridge was designed to lift but it hasn't been lifted in decades. Can it be made to now?


Nemo said...

On an average tide a lighter can pass easily under the rail bridge as long as the Halfpenny Hatch footbridge is lifted.
The problem from a navigational point of view is for the larger vessels that moor in Lewisham. At present with two lifting bridges there is just enough time to leave or access the moorings (though there have been some close shaves in the past when the Creek rd bridge operator has taken his time getting to the Halfpenny hatch) Two more is asking for trouble. If they have to be there then it's crucial that there are a couple of soft berths costed in for emergencies.
The creekside village bridge in the down position is only just above the MHWS level which means that it'll need opening for every boat,whereas at present, shall vessels can easily pass under the existing bridges.
The bridge at the mouth has to be lifting as a fixed one contravenes the right of navigation that can only be removed by act of parliament.
Anyway, I'm reliably informed that the Creekside Village developer is teetering on the brink of insolvency so I suspect this is a tidying of loose ends excercise in order to have something to sell to the next speculator.......another round of well-stuffed brown envelopes for the Greenwich planning committee !