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Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant could be thwarted by London River Park

The organisers of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee River Pageant have warned that the spectacular flotilla planned for Sunday 3 June 2012 may have to be curtailed or cancelled if the controversial London River Park is built.

Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant could be thwarted by London River Park

The London River Park is a privately-funded scheme to build a floating walkway – lined with corporate hospitality pavilions – along the north bank of the Thames in the City of London.

The floating 'park' has been developed from a prize-winning concept by Gensler and has attracted funding from the Venus Asset Group of Singapore which says it has already spent nearly 6 million on the project so far.

The scheme – which is scheduled for completion in time for the Queen's diamond jubilee celebrations and the London 2012 Olympics – was due to be considered by the City of London Corporation's planning committee later this month.

Michael Lockett, chief executive of the Thames Diamond Jubilee Foundation, has written to planners at the Guildhall to warn that the proposed series of floating pontoons between Blackfriars Bridge and Tower Bridge would have a "significant impact" on plans for the flotilla of 1,000 vessels to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Queen's accession to the throne.

The Queen is due to travel in a royal barge as part of the flotilla from Putney to Tower Bridge.

"The river park will have an effect on the tide which would affect participation in the pageant," wrote Mr Lockett.

"Hydrodynamic modelling indicates that the river park will cause the tide to run up to 0.5 knots more strongly.

"This tips the balance against the river pageant running down with the ebb tide and in order to continue, timings would need to be changed to enable the event to go ahead running against the tide.

"If this happens, rowed vessels would be unable to participate, thus cutting the size of the pageant by over a third."

The foundation also fears that the presence of the river park will exacerbate the amount of wash generated by the flotilla.

The River Park's promoters have cited its potential role as a viewing platform for the Queen's river pageant as one of the scheme's benefits for Londoners.

According to the project website, "...the park and other pavilions will create an alternative stage upon which key domestic and international events can be hosted what better spot to watch the flotilla of over 1,000 vessels sail down the River Thames in celebration of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee?"

However pageant organisers have warned that the pontoons may have to be cleared of visitors during the pageant for safety reasons as boat crews will struggle to manoeuvre their vessels through the narrower channel created by the presence of the river park.

"Navigable water is constrained very significantly," wrote Mr Lockett. "A real danger exists that larger vessels such as Dutch barges which are difficult to manoeuvre and class V passenger vessels could hit the structure – it may therefore not be safe to put spectators on the structure."

The pageant organisers are also concerned that the London River Park is not scheduled for completion until the end of May – just days before the flotilla is due to take place – leaving "little to no time to allow for pageant rehearsals in this new hydrographic environment".

Mr Lockett added: "It would be grossly negligent to go ahead with the pageant if there is insufficient time to deal with any issues arising."

The conflict between the River Pageant and the London River Park will prove embarrassing to Mayor of London Boris Johnson who has been an enthusiastic advocate for both projects.

The Mayor hosted the launch of the river pageant at a City Hall press conference in early April. A month later he announced that he had signed a memorandum of agreement with the Singapore-based firm which has pledged up to 60 million to build the London River Park.

Mr Johnson's office said that 30 per cent of net revenues raised through the commercial operation of the River Park will be shared with City Hall "for the public benefit".

Last month Mr Johnson faced tough questioning from the London Assembly about his decision to sign the agreement.

The planning application for the London River Park has also been opposed by many Bankside residents who are concerned about noise from corporate parties in the new pavilions as well as the aesthetic impact of the pavilions and the effect that the pontoons will have on archaeological remains on the riverbed.

City of London Corporation sets out concerns

Now the City of London's chief planning officer Peter Wynne Rees has written to the London River Park's backers to tell them that the corporation has received legal advice that its planning and transport committee should not consider the planning application (as intended) on 15 November due to new navigational concerns raised by the Port of London Authority.

Amongst other things, the PLA says that the scheme will "increase the risk of collisions" on the Thames and "inhibits safe navigation through Southwark Bridge".

Mr Rees's letter, which outlines the City's own serious concerns about the park, significantly reduces the chances that the scheme will ever be built in London.

"It has been concluded that the development does not serve a water related purpose and is thereby fundamentally in conflict with London Plan policy [and City of London policy].

"As such it is considered that it sets an undesirable precedent for other such developments within the City and beyond. It is only the consistent application of policy to resist such development that has prevented earlier development on the site of this proposal."

Mr Rees also warns that the scheme "creates a commercial presence in the river which is detrimental to its character" and is "considered to compromise the setting and appreciation of a number of designated and non-designated heritage assets including the Tower of London World Heritage Site, listed buildings and conservation areas both on the north and south banks as well as the scheduled monument of Queenhithe".

He continues: "The proposed LRP due to of its design, length and pavilions detracts from the quality of the existing Riverside Walk by creating congestion around the brow points, by detracting from the river edge and by significantly diminishing the view from it of the river and south bank, particularly at high tides, contrary to [policy]."

The City corporation also sets out serious concerns about noise and disturbance from events on the pontoons, as well as worries about emergency evacuation of the structure.

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