Local people in Greenwich met last night to discuss council plans to pedestrianise the town centre – but no council official turned up to listen to their views or explain the proposals.
Despite being invited, no officer attended the meeting, organised by the new Transition Greenwich network, held at St Alfege’s church hall.
Also absent were the three Labour councillors for Greenwich West ward, where the scheme will take place, turning much of the area into a large gyratory system.
Speakers lined up to criticise the proposals, with Greenwich Cyclists dubbing it “very poor”. Other concerns expressed included fears of rat-running in residential areas, how deliveries would be made to town centre shops without causing gridlock, the effects on local buses, and whether it could cope with vast new developments planned for Nelson Road and along Deptford Creek.
Greenwich Council recently extended its consultation on the scheme, which now runs until 1 August.
So if no officials don’t turn up, and if the local councillors are a no-show, then how much does Greenwich Council really care about what people think? To be fair, Peninsula ward’s Mary Mills was there, but to meet cyclists rather than represent the council. So the people who were meant to be there didn’t show to take the flak, leaving it to someone who didn’t have to be there.
I went to last month’s exhibition, and came away impressed with the fact some thought had been put into what could be done with the space freed up by taking cars away from King William Walk and College Approach. But I had some niggling doubts in my head that last night’s meeting has firmed up. And, frankly, the council not bothering to attend makes me fear the worst for all of this.
I think pedestrianising Greenwich could be a good idea. But Greenwich alone can’t be looked at in isolation – change something here and Lewisham gets affected. There’s still no sense of any co-operation with Lewisham – and, indeed, Deptford’s adjacent Crossfields Estate has been left off the areas consulted by Greenwich on the scheme.
A gyratory seems like the wrong proposal – sending traffic from Lewisham on a lengthy diversion and ruining bus route 199, which would presumably not be able to call in Greenwich town centre heading northbound. Bus services can be recast to take into account the gyratory – and are likely to be if Convoys Wharf gets built – but the lack of thought in this proposal is worrying.
Convoys is just one of a number of new developments in the area that will have an impact on traffic in Greenwich – Norman Road and Creek Road in 2020 could be vastly different places. A gyratory doesn’t take this into account.
And none of this rewards people for getting out of their cars and using alternative forms of transport – cyclists face longer journeys, so do bus users. There’s no sense of an overall policy for reducing car use, or measures to prevent traffic building up when problems occur.
I stayed for the first hour of the meeting, and no speaker backed the scheme. A couple seemed neutral at best, but what was a gathering to swap viewpoints soon morphed into what started to feel like a protest meeting. A few points made were the usual moans – and there was a reluctance on behalf of some to realise that dumping on Deptford to save Greenwich isn’t a brilliant idea – but it’s the cyclists’ opposition, plus the points made about Nelson Road, that swayed me. And the fact the council couldn’t be bothered to show.
The cash for this may not even be forthcoming – it appears to be based on a bid for annual funding which has to be put into Transport for London by the end of the year. But I hope opposition to these scheme is expressed in a constructive manner, and doesn’t fall prey to spite and snobbery.
These are worrying times in Greenwich – the place looks like a building site, the bullying tactics around the market, and Greenwich University’s plans for the old Stockwell Street market are underwhelming (and don’t include a market).
Pedestrianisation needn’t be a disaster, but rushing headlong into a scheme like this could be. Greenwich Council would be better off deciding quite what it wants the town centre to be, instead of trying to boss us around with flawed masterplans such as this one.