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Cruise Port Legal Challenge Update

High Court hearing for toxic cruise liner terminal battle

The legal challenge of the Council’s decision to permit cruise liners to berth at Greenwich and permit significant levels of air pollution will be considered by a judge at an oral hearing on 19 April 2016. A local resident backed by an increasing number of supporters applied for permission for judicial review in early February 2016. The court has considered the papers at the initial stage and did not grant permission. Now the case will be heard in the High Court for the first time.

The news of the hearing comes at a time of growing disquiet about the emissions of docked cruise liners in towns and cities. At the end of March the Guardian carried a front page story of growing pollution from shipping.

Approved despite Mayor's reservations

The cruise port was approved by Greenwich Council in late December 2015 after being rubber stamped by the Mayor of London, even though he admitted that cruise ships could be highly polluting.

Local residents have been requesting a clean solution to “hotelling” cruise ships in Greenwich for over a year. Developers own figures suggest that an average cruise ship will burn 700 litres of diesel an hour by running its auxiliary engines. The London Mayor’s consultants (AMEC Foster Wheeler) estimate that this is the equivalent of 688 idling lorries. Exhaust fumes will be spewed out up to 7 days a week for 6 summer months, when air quality is at its worst.

Diesel pollution kills

A study by Kings College London (and commissioned by GLA and TfL) estimates that nearly 10,000 early deaths in London are attributable to air pollution mainly from diesel emissions. A very recent report by the Royal College of Physicians has fully supported these horrific estimates. And in a YouGov poll London mothers claimed that they saw air pollution as the biggest health threat to their children.

There is a very real alternative to Greenwich Council and, indeed, the Mayor risking the lives and health of citizens they are supposed to protect. It is to supply onshore power supply (OPS) to the cruise vessels rather than running filthy diesel engines in the city (see article in Ship Technology). This is the clean solution for which local campaigners have been pressing. It is likely to be made obligatory by European Union Directive 2014/94/EU by 2025. Within 9 years this cruise port may have to install OPS. So let’s do it now. Indeed, it would be a clear statement of intent to people visiting the UK that this is a world class city but that it does not tolerate pollution.

Yet the current planning permission does not require a cleaner operation. Nor has a feasibility study to save Londoner’s lives and health been undertaken. A crowdfunding campaign to support the judicial review has been launched. We, The East Greenwich Residents Association fully back the legal action.

Local organisations speak out

EGRA Chair, Dan Hayes, says: “This is the opening shot in what is set to be a long drawn out battle. EGRA continue to fully support the brave stance taken by a local resident in defiance of the Royal Borough Greenwich and Morgan Stanley. The cruise liner terminal in its current form is a polluting health hazard to the population of London. It is still our hope that RGB and Morgan Stanley will do the right thing by the community and deliver a clean Cruise Terminal”.

Other local societies support the local resident’s action. Richard Baglin, Chair of the Greenwich Society, explains: "The Greenwich Society supports efforts to boost our tourist economy but not at the expense of the air we all breathe. So we believe the developers should be required to invest in a clean port not a dirty one and that is why we are supporting this campaign".

Paul Stookes, from Richard Buxton Environmental and Public Law notes:

“The High Court hearing is likely to be listed in April. The Council has made it quite clear it is intending to defend its position to let ships berth at the proposed terminal and emit high levels of pollution throughout the days and nights that they are docked; and so add to the already critically-high pollution levels in and around London.”

ClientEarth's legal challenge

The application comes at a time when another legal challenge has been made by ClientEarth into national and regional government’s continued failure to protect the health of its citizens. It is surely time for all levels of government to recognise this major public health crisis and quash or properly mitigate polluting developments.

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