Compare and Contrast

Graham at Greenwich Meridian and I have been talking about the new pier buildings. Graham says: I don’t know what it is with the new pier buildings, but they make the Cutty Sark look terribly land-locked.

I can’t help agreeing. There’s now a long barrier of frankly inappropriate fake copper buildings (I’m sure the original plans said real copper – presumably that’s been dropped because of the high price and the risk of theft but this stuff’s vile) between the Cutty Sark and any kind of water. Of course the old pier was a mess, made worse when they took away the old Victorian waiting room ‘because it was unrepairable’ – it was sold to St Kitts, if memory serves, and, er, repaired.

Compare it with Graham’s other picture, of the tall ship Thalassa, at Woolwich:

backdropped by modern buildings that I don’t care for much either, but somehow they are far less in-yer-face.

I’m not saying we didn’t need a pier building at Greenwich – we most certainly did need one. It’s just that the one that’s been built gets more intrusive every time I look at it, not less. It just isn’t blending in.

Still, we have one thing to be grateful for. The giant illuminated Frankie and Benny’s sign has been refused permission by the council after sixty-six objections. Of course it’s possible F&B always knew they were on a sticky wicket and decided that the many weeks of free advertising to all those Clipper riders was worth the sign outlay even if they were going to be caught out. Doesn’t look like they’ve appealed yet.

The utterly unloved Euston Station, built in spite of huge public protest (the loss of the original building and especially the Euston Arch outside being the catalyst for the modern preservation movement) is now, after 50-odd years, in line to be demolished and rebuilt, perhaps reinstating that arch. I hope we don’t have to wait fifty years to lose that bloomin’ pier.

the attachments to this post:

thalassa graham
thalassa graham

pier buildings graham
pier buildings graham

13 Comments to “Compare and Contrast”

  1. Paul says:

    All hail the Phantom – it’s thanks to you, primarily, that people found out about this and without the outcry, I bet the PLanning Officers would have simply toned down the signs, then passed them. Let’s hope they turn down the Zizzi sign, too.

    But yes, we’re still left with those cheesy buildings which are clearly different from those given planning permission.

    And the view from Island Gardens shows us clearly why they shouldn’t have been given planning permission in the first place – the positioning of the right hand building completely obscures the view of the Cutty Sark’s hall – all you can see is a couple of masts poking up above it. Bastards.

  2. Paul says:

    oops, make that “the Cutty Sark’s hull.”

    After spending all that money on it, it would be nice to be able to see the hull of the ship from Island Gardens (the photo above is taken from further West)

  3. PiratesPatch says:


    The Cutty Sark







    Or would you rather it have gone altogether and scrapped!!!

    just stupid.

  4. Dave says:

    Actually the Cutty Sark has been land locked ever since it arrived in Greenwich.

    Unfortuneatly the view of it is obscured by the new pier buildings. I dont give a damn about a couple of signs, the real problem is the buildings. Are people saying here that the buildings did not have proper planning permission in their present state ?

  5. Paul says:

    The planning permission was for buildings sheathed in wood, with copper panelling. This echoed the Cutty Sark, which is made of copper and wood.

    Now the wood has gone – as you can see from the photos above, we simply have that 70s glass – and the panels are a cheaper, gold colour. These changes were, apparently, passed by the Council as a minor amendment, not considered by the planning committee – I’m not sure even if a notice was posted. I believe Franklin has written to the local councillors for an explanation, which we’d all love to hear.

  6. Richard says:

    Would copper have gone green?

  7. Mike says:

    @Paul, the CS is sheathed in brass (originally Muntz Metal, but that’s basically brass anyway). Their Twitter feed detailed the hull sheathing a week or so ago in response to a query. It seems reasonable that the buildings have matching sheathing which they appear to. Copper and brass will both weather to the same dull green so I can’t really see much issue with the the change in materials.
    The buildings are ugly though (Planning Permission approval doesn’t normally make subjective judgements though!)…

  8. Paul says:

    I see your point, Mike – but the original renderings and, I believe, the spiel for the original permission all specified copper. And I don’t believe the change was made to better echo the Cutty Sark – it was to save money. In time, that metal may well age and look better, but right now it looks nasty. And the glass, rather than wood-vaned exterior will always look cheap, as it does now.

    WHatever you think of the original application, it looks better than the Value-Engineered version as built…

  9. Mike says:

    Being refused planning permission hasn’t stopped F&Bs from having their signs illuminated tonight…

  10. Franklin says:


    You’re right, Muntz’s metal is a 60/40 copper/zinc alloy – so, effectively, a low-copper brass. It was cheaper than pure copper and almost as effective as a biocide, so became popular from the 1840s as sheathing on ships.

    However, while copper oxidises and turns green very quickly – in a matter of months – only very high copper content brasses turn green. Low-copper brass, particularly when there’s an admixture of iron or lead, goes more of a grey/brown colour, and only very slowly.

    Moreover, the brass shingles that have been used on the new pier buildings are Tecu brass. According to the marketing bumpf for Tecu brass:

    “After the initial matting, the surface takes on a greenish brown tone, which slowly turns greyish brown before evolving into a dark brown-anthracite colour.”

    “Anthracite” being marketing speak for grey.

    So, the buildings as they now stand – with the garish brass shingles – are very different from the building that was granted planning permission, and are going to become even more different over time.

    Finally, Paul is correct that I have written to the Senior Planning Officer who has been dealing with the pier buildings, copying Planning Control and the six ward councillors in the two wards affected, to ascertain whether permission was granted for the significant departure from the originally granted planning permission with which we are now confronted.

    As far as I can tell from a thorough read-through of all the planning applications related to the site, the change from the original plan – in particular, the change to brass shingles and the change to using coloured wall panels instead of clear glass framed by wooden ‘fins’ to reduce the visual impact – was never properly applied for. Instead, it was mentioned in passing in a ‘Non Material Amendment’ application – which means that it was not published – relating to the relocation of the ticket kiosk that the Planning Officer seems to have nodded through.

    It has been more than three weeks and all that I have received in reply is a promise to respond to my queries. If I do not hear back within another week, I will post my full letter – which is rather long and torturously reconstructs the planning history – here and on other local blogs so that others who are concerned with the visual appearance of the new pier buildings and their impact on the World Heritage Site might take up the same or related enquiries with the Council.

  11. Franklin says:

    Sorry, but one more comment in reply to Mike – planning permission decisions for buildings in the World Heritage Site and the Greenwich Park Conservation Area should and usually do take into consideration ‘subjective judgments’ about how new buildings will impact on the WHS and the Conservation Area – and indeed are required by local and national policy to do so.

    The original planning application for the pier buildings went to great lengths to explain how they would enhance (or at least not detract from) their very delicate setting. The buildings that have emerged do not fulfil those crucial criteria. As one commenter on this blog remarked, they are more befitting a McDonalds in the car park of an American shopping mall than the entrance point to a World Heritage Site and key London landmark and tourist destination.

  12. Islander says:

    The spectacular view across the river from Island Gardens has been ruined by the addition of these new burger bars, it is beyond belief that Greenwich council gave planning permission for this mess. It’s a small mercy that the ugly illuminated signs will now have to be torn down.

    A World Heritage Site designation can be revoked if it is determined the site is not being properly managed or protected, perhaps UNESCO should be made aware of what has been happening in the middle of this WHS.

  13. Jack Cross says:

    Islander -
    You are absolutely right. I have said several times before that Greenwich Council push their luck time and time again in this regard. I imagine that thy think that Central Greenwich is such a valuable and important site that UNESCO would never revoke World Heritage status. They may or may not be right – Dresden lost its WHS status for building a road bridge that spoiled a classic view. Pretty much what has happened here.