Published: 10 October, 2014
By DAN CARRIER
THE Regent’s Canal could be a key route for getting heavy goods vehicles off the streets of Camden Town, according to campaign groups and the Canal and River Trust.
Their claims come after a report, commissioned by developers Stanley Sidings Ltd from engineers Arup, said using the canal to move materials to and from the multi-million-pound redevelopment of Hawley Wharf would be uneconomic.
Stanley Sidings won planning permission in 2012 to build a canalside market and restaurant complex, blocks of housing, a cinema and school.
When permission was given, the council struck a deal with the developers that they would explore moving waste and building materials via water. The Town Hall planning committee said: “...the use of waterborne transport shall be maximised during the construction unless an assessment demonstrates that such use of the canal is not physically or economically feasible.”
Now the developers have asked for permission to scrap this deal.
The Arup report includes a list of materials that could be moved by water and contractors who have experience in such work. It also suggests sites where barges could load and unload alongside Hawley Wharf. But it concludes it would mean a “supply chain complexity” and adds Camden Lock is so busy that it could be potentially hazardous to pedestrians. It adds a new temporary wharf facility would be needed, including a gantry built over the tow path and a crane to lift goods – all adding extra cost.
But the Canal and River Trust, the Friends of Regent’s Canal and the Camden Cycling Campaign say with Hawley Wharf directly next to the canal, it is a prime opportunity.
Friends of Regent’s Canal chairman Ian Shacklock said: “This is yet another missed opportunity to use the canal for its intended purpose. If the developers were serious about embracing the canal instead of exploiting it then they would invest in the canal by shifting traffic from the roads to water.
“Very few residents or road users will thank them for this. Haven’t we got enough HGVs on our crowded streets already?”
He added that the potential cost of using the canals was not a legitimate reason for using lorries instead. “Economic viability is a tried and tested excuse for avoiding an environmentally friendly means of transport,” he said. “The consultants are putting short-term cost savings ahead of everybody’s long-term interests. This lacks imagination. They could be showing off corporate social responsibility. Businesses are too scared of change, even a positive change that could put them in a good light for years to come.
“They would rather
pay extra road tax than help to invest in the canal infrastructure.” His views have been echoed by Jean Dollimore of the Camden Cycling campaign.
She said: “We have been seeking this for some time. There is a need to use the canals – particularly in Camden Town, where there are narrow roads. If you were to add HGVs going to and from the development, it will make the streets of the area more dangerous.”
Waterway managers the Canal and River Trust say they support proposals to re-introduce the canal network as a major transport system.
Richard Rutter of the Canal and River Trust cited the building of the Guardian newspaper HQ in Kings Place as an example as barges were used to bring in heavy-duty concrete panelling. He said: “It proved the canal is essentially an empty road running through the centre of London. All too often developers do not see it as that. We need to change the mindset. It was used for this in the past to move freight, so why not today?”
A spokeman for Stanley Sidings told the New Journal that while it was not feasible to use the canal for the first tranche of development that includes a primary school on Hawley Road, they would reconsider whether it was possible for the buildings directly on the towpath.