Thames rowers and sailors unite in opposition to Fulham Pier

Image above: plans for Fulham FC development, including the pier

Ranelagh sailing club launches petition against the pier

Rowers and sailors who use the River Thames for recreation are united “as never before” in opposition to plans by Fulham FC to build a new pier out into the river as part of the redevelopment of Craven Cottage.

Ranelagh sailing club has launched a petition against the pier. Commodore James Hayward told The Chiswick Calendar the clubs upstream from Putney Bridge are just now waking up to the plans, which are in the pre-consultation period before the club applies for planning permission, but they are all against it, as it would be “an unmitigated disaster” for anyone using the river for sport or leisure.

The problem is the introduction of ferries, which currently only operate upstream as far as Putney Bridge. Having ferries operating west of Putney Bridge would make it too dangerous for rowing and sailing boats to use the same stretch of water, James told us. The football club plans to bring football fans to the stadium by ferry to the new Riverside stand.

Image above: Sailing boats from Ranelagh sailing club out on the River Thames

“It’s either rowing and sailing boats, or it’s ferries”

Putney Reach is home to the Ranelagh sailing club and many rowing clubs which between them have centuries of water sports history and tradition. The line of the proposed pier is just about where the starting point is for varsity races on the Tidal Thames.

“There were about four thousand people out rowing on the river this weekend” James told us. Hundreds of people are involved in the Head of the the River races and thousands will turn out for the Oxford and Cambridge University boat race this Sunday (3 April).

“It’s either rowing and sailing boats or it’s ferries but you can’t have both in the same stretch of water” said James, “it’s too dangerous”. A rowing boat was broken in two on the River Thames in 2009, leaving rowers swimming for their lives when the 220-seat Hurricane Clipper ferry sliced through it near the London Eye.

“Small craft can’t cope with the wake of ferries” James told us.

Image above: Fulham FC’s riverside development

“The football stadium has to match this ambition and deliver a truly memorable experience”

The football club is building a new 8,650 capacity Riverside stand which is expected to be open early next season. Craven Cottage will be able to seat a total of 29,600 fans once the new stand is finished but the club has far greater ambitions than just being able to host more fans on match days.

The new stand is part of a Riverside development will feature restaurants, a hotel and spa, apartments, and rooftop terraces. The pier, to be built about 80 metres out into the middle of the river, would enable visitors to visit the area by boat.

Part of the project is to create a public walking route along the river between Hammersmith and Putney Bridges, allowing better access to and from the stadium on match days. The planning report from 2017 stated:

“FFC wants to remain at Craven Cottage, its home since 1896. The club is ambitious, wanting to re-establish itself within the Premier League.

“The football stadium has to match this ambition and deliver a truly memorable experience. The existing Riverside Stand is unattractive, detracting from the riverside and conservation area: it turns its back on the Thames. The new stand celebrates the location and creates a positive landmark on the Thames involving high-quality architecture.”

Image above: “Welcome to Ranelagh” picture from the sailing club’s website

Taking up the fight

The development has been delayed by Covid and certain elements of the scheme have been altered, with Fulham now planning a private members’ club on the top of the stand.

James Hayward met representatives of the football club earlier this year with Putney MP Fleur Anderson.

“They told us this [the pier] is going ahead” said James, but the club will have to get licences from the Port of London Authority, the Maritime Agency and the Environmental Agency as well as planning permission from LB Hammersmith & Fulham.

The football club carried out a consultation on the pier amongst its fans last August.

“We’re building a new heart to the community” boasts the Fulham Pier website. “Positioned along the Thames and nestled by parkland, we’re bringing to life this pocket of South West London by creating a unique destination that’ll be open morning, noon and night.”

The developer say Fulham Pier will offer “an exciting new destination to this area of the Thames.”

Image above: CGI of Fulham FC’s new riverside development

“Risks of collision, serious injury and death will escalate”

The organisers of the petition consider that a threat rather than a promise:

“Fulham Football Club wants to build a pier that will extend about 80 metres into the middle of river. It will create a significant navigational obstruction at a location that is already a natural bottleneck especially at low tide.

“This is one of the most busy stretches of water for boating activities in the UK given the rowing, sailing and sea cadets/scouts clubs nearby. It is an important sporting and recreational venue for schools, youngsters and adults who wish to learn something new, and for local, national and international racing.

“The pier will pose a dangerous hazard as boats converge to avoid it in constricted, tidal waters. Risks of collision, serious injury and death will escalate.”

The petition against it, set up two days ago, has already attracted 147 signatures. The Ranelagh club has had flyers and banners printed ready to attract the attention of the Boat Race crowds this weekend.

“Fulham FC has negotiated a contract with Uber clippers to extend the ferry west of Putney Bridge. If they are allowed to do this, what is to stop them introducing ferries all the way up to Richmond and destroying water sports on the Thames?”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Christ Church Turnham Green want homeless people camped on their land moved on

See also: Met Police approach to corruption ‘not fit for purpose

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

Support The Chiswick Calendar

The Chiswick Calendar CIC is a community resource. Please support us by buying us the equivalent of a monthly cup of coffee (or more, if you insist). Click here to support us.

We publish a weekly newsletter and update the website with local news and information daily. We are editorially independent.

To subscribe to the weekly newsletter, go here.