Residents and air quality campaigners have failed in their bid to overturn the decision to build a cruise liner terminal at Enderby Wharf at Greenwich.

Mr Justice Collins has ruled that the permission was lawful; he was dismissive of arguments that large ships would cause major air pollution; and he questioned why the judicial review was ever brought in the first place.

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Greenwich Council has welcomed the ruling which means the plan – for the London City Cruise Port handling around 55 ships a year, a hotel and 770 homes – can now proceed.

Mr Justice Collins said: “The redevelopment of Enderby Wharf to provide a terminal for cruise liners has been considered desirable by the [council], by the Greater London Authority and by the Port of London Authority for some time. Further, this development will provide housing and will attract tourists and so help the local economy.”

Shore-side generators

Campaigners had argued that ships “hotelling” on the site would burn the equivalent of 688 diesel lorries and that the terminal should provide shore-side generators to reduce emissions.

It was an argument that had won over most of the candidates in the London mayoral election in May with the ultimate winner Sadiq Khan suggesting the plan needed to be revisited.

But Mr Justice Collins rejected the idea. He said: “Very few cruise ships were able to link up to on-shore power supply and in any event those that did would require an input which differed from that provided by the UK National Grid. Furthermore, the cost to the provider and to any ship was prohibitive.”

Artist's impression of the Enderby Wharf cruise terminal at Greenwich

He also said the comparison with lorries was misleading since ships’ emissions would be “hot and fast” and at height, meaning they would disperse quickly.

The High Court judge also pointed out that the key pollution marker for ships was sulphur dioxide but that was not an obstacle to cruise liners because all ships using the Thames were obliged to use low sulphur fuel.

Environmental impact

As for the contentious nitrogen dioxide, the council relied on authoritative reports that concluded “that the impacts of the ship emissions would give rise to moderate adverse effects at worst”. A further Environmental Statement said the impact on pollution levels on nearby roads would be “negligible”.

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Mr Justice Collins was at pains to point out he wasn’t revisiting the arguments in their entirety – he complained he had been “burdened with an excess of paper” – but his role was to ensure that the council had access to all the evidence on which to base its decision.

He said that the original permission in 2012 stood regardless and this had agreed the principle of hotelling ships. The contested 2015 permission only offered minor changes.

He said: “If the claimant succeeded, the 2012 permission would go ahead and the same emissions from the ships would occur.”

Campaigners have indicated they might appeal the decision.

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