While many of the prime riverside sites in east London have been sold to developers, stripping away traces of the industrial heritage of the Docklands, the Port of London Authority has been fighting a rearguard action to keep some wharves open for business.
Despite the anachronistic air of heavy industry amid the glass and steel residential tower blocks, there is a very modern imperative – the movement of aggregate by the river takes tens of thousands of lorries off the road, reducing congestion and air pollution.
This week, Peruvian Wharf, in the Royal Docks near the West Silvertown DLR station, was re-opened 20 years since it handled its last cargo. It is one of 50 ‘safeguarded wharves’ along the Thames. In the Docklands, there are 17, including the jetty that services the huge Tate and Lyle plant in Silvertown.
Peruvian Wharf’s tenants are expected to handle more than 400,000 tonnes of cargo a year, keeping more than 20,000 lorries off London’s roads each year.
The PLA bought Peruvian Wharf in late 2016 for £3 million, after 17 years of legal battle to bring the site back into use. After a further £3 million of improvements, the principal tenant, Brett Group has started operations operating a building materials terminal on the site.
Speaking at the opening, London’s deputy mayor for planning and regeneration Jules Pipe said: “It is great to see sites like Peruvian Wharf brought back into use and to recognise that traditional activities like moving cargo by river are as relevant as ever in our growing capital city.
“This site now serves as an important part of a vital industrial area along the Royal Docks. It will play a key role in the Mayor’s plans to take more lorries off congested roads and supply materials for the construction of some of the 66,000 homes a year that London needs.”
The PLA has now purchased the neighbouring Royal Primrose Wharf for cargo handling too.
Brett development director Oliver Brown said: “Our batching plant at Peruvian is ideally located to meet the demand for construction materials for housing and infrastructure projects in rapidly developing East London. At the same time it keeps the impacts on local highways and air quality caused by construction traffic to a minimum.”
Every year London requires 10 million tonnes of aggregates for the construction of new homes, workspaces and infrastructure.
Pictured, from left, James Trimmer from the Port of London Authority, deputy mayor Jules Pipe and Oliver Brown from Brett Group