Blackwall Tunnel approach
Safety rules surrounding the gasholder sit in the way of the Silvertown Tunnel

Greenwich councillors are poised to bring the Silvertown Tunnel construction one step closer next week when they will vote on removing permission for hazardous substances to be stored inside the historic East Greenwich gasholder.

Councillors on the planning board will be asked to agree to the order, which will help clear the way for more construction around the Blackwall Tunnel entrance and what remains of the East Greenwich Gas Works site.

One of the conditions laid down in the Silvertown Tunnel planning permission is that the council’s hazardous substances consent, which allows the structure to be used as a gasholder, should be removed or modified before the tunnel is opened.

A similar condition applies to the Brenntag chemicals plant across the other side of the A102 from the gasholder.

More urgently, the gasholder’s hazardous substances consent needs to be revoked so the new St Mary Magdalene secondary school – across Millennium Way from the site – can fully open as planned in September.

In April, council officers gave permission for the demolition of the 130-year-old gasholder.

Silvertown Tunnel DCO
The gasholder is mentioned in the Silvertown Tunnel development consent order

This came after its owner, SGN, used a planning loophole known as “prior approval”, which prevented councillors from objecting or officers from using their judgement on whether the structure should be saved.

With no legal protection in place for the structure – either from the council or Historic England – the final decision on the gasholder’s future now lies with SGN. A petition against the demolition had reached 1,280 signatures at the time of writing.

Redundant gasholders have been put to new uses in cities around Europe – most notably in Dublin’s docklands, where one now houses 240 flats. Apartments have also been built inside the old King’s Cross gasholders in central London, while one has been converted into a park.

If councillors agree next Wednesday to remove the hazardous sustances consent, then a 28-day consultation period must be opened before it is either confirmed by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government, or a public hearing is opened.

Councillors will also be asked to approve a nine-storey block of 26 flats (six at “affordable rent”, three at “living rent“) on Creek Road, Deptford, in a decision deferred from last September.

  • Viewpoint: ‘Greenwich’s threatened gasholder is a local icon – it deserves to be saved
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