Paddle boarders’ victory over ‘pontoon of doom’ near Kew Bridge

A Thames jetty that became known at the “Pontoon of Doom” after three paddle boarders said they narrowly escaped being swept under it will be demolished next week.

The £100,000 pier next to Kew Bridge was built in 2014 by developers of a riverside luxury apartments scheme as a contribution to the local community as part of a planning consent deal with Hounslow council. 

However, some residents have complained it is an eyesore that ruins views of the Grade II listed bridge. Water sports clubs say they never use the structure, calling it a “white elephant”.

Paul Hyman, director of nearby paddle boarding club Active360, said the wooden pontoon, which was designed by marine engineers Beckett Rankine, had made the river far more hazardous. It has blocked off the arch of Kew Bridge closest to the north shore, forcing boarders and canoeists to pass through the far busier central arch, which is used by power boats.

Mr Hyman said inexperienced paddlers launching from a slipway on the other side of the bridge can easily be swept against the pontoon. He said: “It is a very shallow pontoon and in a strong flood tide people were being pinned against it after they launched from the draw dock. It would be very easy for them to be dragged under it and then they would certainly drown. 

Paddle boarders on the Thames (Chris Lofty / Alamy Stock Photo)

“We had three incidents where people have fallen off paddle boards and got pushed into the pontoon. Fortunately, they all managed to hold on to it and we were able to haul them out. But if they had lost their grip it would have been a different story. Two of them were very scared and it has put them off coming back to the club. It’s very dangerous.”

Mr Hyman said the pontoon has also been made unhygienic by Canada geese droppings. A seal died after becoming stranded on it two years ago.

St George West London (SGWL), the developer of the Kew Bridge scheme, in which three-bed flats sold for up to £2 million, agreed to remove the pier and reopen the blocked arch. The work will begin after the Easter weekend and is expected to last about four weeks.

SGWL’s owner, the property group Berkeley, said that the developer won planning permission to remove the structure after feedback “from various third parties … that the pontoon no longer meets the requirements of river-users”. 

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