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30 November 2017

MPA highlights the importance of protecting Wharves and Railheads in London

Following the publication of the Mayor of London's Draft London Plan, a new report from the Mineral Products Association highlights the critical importance to London of protecting wharves and railheads in the capital from other types of development. Without effective protection the supply of essential construction materials would be threatened, jeopardising homebuilding and infrastructure improvements, and leading to worse air quality and road safety.

Plans to build more houses and better infrastructure in London will only be delivered if the sources of essential construction material supply are properly protected.

The Draft London Plan takes a very welcome and robust approach to the safeguarding of wharves and rail depots1. These policies now need to be fully implemented, particularly by London Boroughs, to ensure housing is in the right place and designed to avoid conflict with operation of these critical sites

London needs 10 million tonnes of sand, gravel and crushed rock every year to build, maintain and improve housing, buildings and infrastructure. Without an effective supply chain delivering around 30,000 tonnes every single day, construction in the capital city would become increasingly restricted. 

97% of these raw materials are transported into London by river and rail and delivered to wharves and rail depots that handle these aggregates for onward distribution across the capital.

The use of water and rail freight to deliver materials to the heart of the city reduces the need for long distance lorry movements, with every aggregates train the equivalent of 75 lorries and every dredger the equivalent of 250 lorries.

The supply chain for construction materials are increasingly being threatened by other types of development, especially housing, adjacent to wharves and rail depots, which can lead to restrictions being put on site operations. Once lost these strategically important sites won't be replaced, cutting off supplies of the raw material that feeds construction in London. 

Effective safeguarding of these sites, together with manufacturing facilities such as concrete batching and asphalt plants, is critical to the delivery of the London Plan and the Mayor's transport, environmental and air quality strategies.

MPA Executive Director of Planning and Mineral Resources, said:
"This report is a wake-up call for every planning authority in London to protect London's vital wharves and rail depots to enable delivery of the housing, transport and other improvements our capital desperately needs. Delivering essential construction materials into the heart of the city on ships and trains has wider environmental benefits for all Londoners, through reducing lorries and improving air quality. Don't make bad planning decisions which would threaten these critical sites."


Notes to Editors:

Examples of wharves and rail depots in London subject to other development pressures include:

Greenwich: The majority of marine dredged aggregate that feeds London's construction is landed at Greenwich. Greenwich wharf operators had to take legal action to negotiate with developers to alter the design of adjacent apartments so that new residents would be less disturbed by noise from the extensive wharf, rail, recycling and manufacturing activities at Greenwich wharves, including deliveries by ships.  The redesign is intended to reduce potential conflicts which could lead to pressure to reduce operations the wharves, which need to be 24/7. There are similar concerns about planned development on the north side of the Thames opposite the wharves.

Bow: Bow East Goods Yard (rail depot) supplied most of the aggregates used to build the Olympic Park and is well placed to supply the extensive housing and related developments planned for East and North East London. The London Legacy Development Corporation refused permission for development of minerals facilities on the safeguarded site, including concrete and asphalt plants on the site, in favour of plans for residential development.

Tolworth: Tolworth Rail depot is strategically located to receive deliveries of aggregates that are then supplied to South West London. Its operation is threatened by plans for housing, hotel and retail development adjacent to the depot which could lead to restrictions on its operations and strangling of supplies of aggregates.

The Draft London Plan states that "Wharves and railheads involved in the distribution of aggregates should be safeguarded in line with Policy SI9 Safeguarded waste sites, Policy SI10 Aggregates and Policy SI5 Water infrastructure.2".

1 Mayor of London (December 2017): The London Plan, The Spatial Development Strategy for Greater London  Cited online via: (accessed 29/11/17) page 431 2


For further information, please contact Robina Longworth at   tel: 020 7963 8017.

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