Local river clubs say ferry service stop will prevent their activities
A visualisation of the pier originally published on Fulham FC's web site
Putney’s MP Fleur Anderson is backing a campaign against Fulham Football Club’s plan for a new pier saying it could endanger the future of the University Boat Race on the Thames.
The club is planning to build a structure out on the river that would enable an Uber by Thames Clipper Service to operate but river sports clubs operating in the area say if it was built they may have to cease their activities.
Fulham FC denies that the pontoon is a large as opponents claim it is and reject the suggestion that it could impact the operation of the Boat Race.
A regular service operating from a passenger pier, which opponents say would be 80 metres long, could make it impossible for clubs to use the river particularly for activities involving children. It is claimed that the pier will create a significant navigational obstruction at a location that is already a natural bottleneck especially at low tide. In addition, the pier will service passenger ferries whose regular schedules will extend up river from their present limit at Putney Bridge, thereby encroaching into this busy boating area.
There are around 4000 members across 41 clubs along this stretch of the river and at least 30,000 people have believed to have participated in rowing races in the first quarter of the year.
According to Ms Anderson around 1,400 children from clubs and rowing centres near Fulham Football Club use that part of the river several times a week, and there are also around 200 local Sea Scouts learning nautical activities in the vicinity.
She says most clubs have significant numbers of young and learner members who would be at increased risk of collision with the large ferries and that the pier would also potentially mean the end of the Boat Race on the Thames, as it has very fixed start and finish points in Putney and Mortlake, and it would severely impact preparations for the race.
Rowing, sailing, kayaking and paddleboarding could become more dangerous, leading to a steep increase in insurance premiums and a decrease in the viability of all clubs.
Presentation material about the pier published on Fulham FC's web site
Members of local clubs and stakeholders held a public meeting with the MP to oppose the plans on Thursday 24 March. The clubs unanimously agreed that the pier would likely cause them to close, and that the future of the Boat Race and all racing on the Thames are under threat.
Many clubs came together to make objections to the plans at the meeting, including Ranelagh Sailing Club, South Bank Sailing Club, Vesta Rowing Club, Barn Elms Boathouse, Fulham Reach Boat Club, Thames Rowing Club, a local branch of the Sea Scouts and more.
They have launched a petition Save Our Sports on the River Thames: STOP THE PIER which, at the time of writing, over 5,000 people had signed.
Local river sports club hold meeting to protest against proposal
Fleur Anderson said, "I hope that Fulham Football Club will see sense, listen to all the clubs and stop these plans to build a huge pier out into the river. I’ve already worked with two local youth clubs to save them and keep opportunities for young people to use our river, but now this could mean they have to close.
"I have met with the Chief Executive of Fulham Football Club, the Port of London Authority and the Chief Executive of Wandsworth Council to make sure they understand the concerns of local river users and urge them to press Fulham to abandon their plans.
"It was great to meet with lots of local stakeholders at the Ranelagh Sailing Club to share our ideas for this campaign. We are certainly not going to take this lying down."
Local sailing clubs believe that the new stadium has already created a giant wind shadow which is impacting their activities.
The impact of the closures of river sports clubs on local businesses is also feared with many dependent on visitors to the clubs for custom.
James Hayward, Commodore of Ranelagh Sailing Club, said, “Just over the course of last weekend alone around 4,000 people rowed in the Heads of the River Race, with thousands of spectators lining the Thames from Chiswick to Putney. Next weekend it's the Boat Race, with a global audience of millions. If this pier gets the greenlight and UBER ferries start ploughing their trade west of Putney Bridge then you can say goodbye to all rowing, sailing and other recreational activity in Putney and beyond. It would be devastating - all for 25 home matches a year at Fulham FC and a few commuters to the City. “
The local branch of the Sea Scouts issued a statement saying, "The proposed pier at Fulham Football Club, would make an already really busy stretch of river increasingly dangerous. This home water stretch is enjoyed by thousands of young people, not just the 200 sea scouts at the 4th Streatham, but other schools and youth river clubs along Putney embankment, where these children are just starting to learn nautical activities such as rowing, kayaking and sailing."
A spokesperson for Fulham Reach Boat Club said, “There is simply no way we can safely operate these sessions in the vicinity of this jetty and, in particular, the Uber Boats commuter service. The jetty itself will block off access to half of the river which will be needed in times of an emergency and the commuter boats turning to and from the jetty will use most of the remaining space.”
The Thames Regional Rowing Council and British Rowing have also expressed their opposition to the proposal.
A Fulham FC spokesperson said, “The comments made by Fleur Anderson MP yesterday (31.03.22) are inaccurate and wrong. These are disappointing as club representatives had written to and met with Ms Anderson.
“For clarity, there is no proposal to extend a pontoon 80 metres across the Thames (nor has there ever been) and there is absolutely no risk whatsoever to the boat race. Fulham’s design would, in addition to creating substantial and obvious benefits to the local community, focus on providing a wonderful viewing platform which would enhance the boat race atmosphere, experience and accessibility.
“The Club is encouraged by the results of an initial survey in the local area for a passenger pier service, which showed an exceptionally positive response, with over 80% in favour. Whilst Fulham will continue to liaise with all relevant stakeholders as it moves forward with this process, it does not welcome any further sensationalist and incorrect statements on this matter.“
Uber By Thames Clipper was approached for comment.
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April 1, 2022