Richmond council’s planning website has been inundated with messages of support since the proposal to create the dock in front of the former Harrods Furniture Depository was made publicly available only three days ago.
As well as 1,452 public comments in favour of the plan as of Friday morning – thought to be a record in such a short space of time – there have also been 190 objections.
One of those in favour said: “The process of repairing the bridge is an utter shambles and has caused misery for many residents. I totally support this application for a ferry to alleviate the problem until the bridge is reopened.”
The backer of the scheme, entrepreneur and Prince’s Trust patron Jamie Waller, wants to build a terminal at Harrods Wharf that could serve as the departure point for a ferry on the south side of the Thames.
Barnes has been left largely isolated since the 134-year-old crossing was shut to the 16,000 pedestrians and cyclists – including thousands of schoolchildren – who used it daily exactly six months ago tomorrow.
In a survey 87.5 per cent of local residents said their mental health had worsened since the closure, which follows the discovery of cracks in the cast iron structure. It is not known when the bridge will reopen to pedestrians but a full repair to allow it to carry traffic as well will take more than six years.
Transport for London is currently running a tender process for a ferry service that is expected to start operating by the early summer. It had originally been hoped that the shuttle could start by Autumn half-term last year but it has been hit by a series of delays.
Three bidders for a new ferry service are due to submit their final applications to TfL by Monday with a winning bidder announced by the middle of next month.
David Rowe, TfL’s Head of Major Projects Sponsorship, said: “We know that the closure of Hammersmith Bridge has caused upheaval in the lives of residents and disconnected communities, and we are working at pace to ensure a ferry is available to get people across the river as soon as possible.”
The proposed ferry terminal has been designed by Hammersmith architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands. Mr Waller said: “Harrods Wharf already exists and is still structurally sound since its former use for offloading furniture shipments bound for the Grade II listed Harrods Furniture Depository.
“A dry, safely-lit route is already in place – passengers can travel to and from the wharf via the municipal park. “Both the park and the wharf will sit above high tide, so are not at risk of flooding, unlike some other locations being considered. Operations can quickly be started, with minimum impact on the ecology of the Thames bank and neighbouring residents, rather than requiring significant and complex construction.”
Isabel Scruby, planning consultant at advisers JLL said: “This proposal will reinstate the currently derelict Harrods Wharf back into river related use supporting Richmond and the Mayor of London’s desire to enhance the use of the river for public transport.
“Additionally, the benefit of this service will also be realised in surrounding areas extending to the East Sheen, Putney, Chiswick and Hurlingham, as residents in the Barnes and Hammersmith areas will no longer need to use Chiswick Bridge and Putney Bridge to access the other side of the river, which in many cases is a daily trip for the residents.”