Greenwich pedestrianisation – council consultant drops clanger

Last Wednesday I popped along for the first hour of a public meeting about plans to pedestrianise Greenwich town centre, a project about which I have mixed feelings – good idea, looks like it’s being implemented badly. I went along to see what others thought, and wrote some of it up for this blog. I thought the lack of attendance from Greenwich council officers or councillors was rather telling, so led with it. Job done, a bit of a debate in the comments section, a story to watch for the future.

Until this lunchtime, when this comment appeared from a Brian Hanson…

When organising a public meeting at which you wish the Council (or any public body)to be represented, it is important to address your invitations to persons with the authority to authorise officers (or consultants) to attend. Namely Cabinet Members and/or Chief Officers.

If you failed to do this, it is little wonder nobody within the Council knew about this meeting, or if they did, felt that they were not authorised to be present.
Nobody “snubbed you” – you simply failed to organise the meeting through the proper channels. Please try again and do it right this time.

Huh? What? I’m not sure why he mistook me for an organiser of the meeting, or why I deserved this kind of sniffy treatment – and then I checked his e-mail address.

Brian Hanson is a technical director for Hyder Consulting, which is rather close to Greenwich Council. Hyder is working for Greenwich Council on the pedestrianisation scheme, and has also been commissioned to look at “public realm improvements” in Eltham town centre. A recent commenter on this site, the Greenwich Phantom and on, “ME” of Deptford, reported he’d been using the title of “‘L B Greenwich Commission Director”.

So it appears one of the people in charge of the Greenwich pedestrianisation scheme – and taking our council tax money to do this – has taken to the keyboard to publicly abuse and patronise those who are scrutinising his work. He’s not even doing it accurately if he thinks I’m one of the organisers of the scheme.

But why is he doing it? Is he worried the scheme may fail because of public opposition? Or has he just been given permission to abuse people who are seen as somehow “anti-” whatever Greenwich Council wants to achieve here? Aren’t we all meant to be in this together, wanting the best for a battered town centre?

And why is a man from a private company lecturing me on how the council works?

Unfortunately, Brian Hanson’s intervention raises yet more questions about a scheme which is causing great worry among many people. If this is his attitude to people who are commenting on the process, then why is Greenwich Council paying him and Hyder money to work on our behalf?

UPDATE 3:25PM – Brian Hanson has responded to an e-mail in which I pointed out I was not connected with the meeting organisers.

I don’t blame you for organising the meeting, but the misleading headline implying that the Council deliberately “snubbed” the event does feature prominently on your blog and could be construed as lazy journalism. Before rushing to print such disparaging assertions in the future, it would be gratifying if you could make more effort to ascertain all the facts concerning the event and the nature of the actual invitations extended.

For the record, as lead consultant to the Council I would have been delighted to have attended this meeting had I been authorised to do so through proper channels (despite its premature timing with regard to addressing the concerns that have been voiced).

We are currently processing the feedback of consultation with some 8,500 premises in Central Greenwich, including other comments received on the Council’s website. This follows a public exhibition of the plans (with micro-simulation traffic models) in late June, that was attended by some 500 persons. Members will be briefed on the outcome of this consultation shortly and, unless they resolve to scrap the plans, one imagines, they will advise on what forums they wish to establish to promote further local debate.

Assuming the plans are taken forward, we are already committed to addressing the specific problems of ‘rat-running’ raised by the Crooms Hill and Hyde Vale Residents Associations (amongst others) and are close to resolving many of the concerns of local bus users with extended services agreed with TfL / LT Buses. We would also be happy to engage with local cycle groups to address their outstanding concerns as and when instructed to do so.

For the record, it was clearly stated at the start of the meeting that council officials had been invited to the event, which had been announced two weeks in advance. It’s inconcievable that the three Greenwich West councillors were unaware of the meeting, especially considering the appearance of a neighbouring councillor (in a non-official capacity) and two representatives of the local Conservatives.

UPDATE: 10:30AM TUESDAY Here is a statement from Transition Greenwich, which organised the meeting, explaining that apologies were recieved from council officers, and that neither local councillors nor local MP Nick Raynsford responded to their invitations.


  1. Apart from the tone of the comment, I would actually say he is fundamentally wrong.

    It would be very rare for me to write directly to a senior manager to get an underling to attend a meeting.

    You write to the person/office you want, and let them sort out any permission issues via their own internal procedure.

    Quite why an elected councillor needs permission to attend a public meeting is a separate issue.

  2. Oh dear, he’s made himself look a bit of a wally there. If you’re gonna be shirty with someone in public you better made damn sure its the right person.

  3. Brian Hanson was for many years an employee of Greenwich Council and his comment reflects the bizarrely hierarchical nature of the borough. Whether his comment reflects Hyder Consulting’s attitudes is entirely another matter, I suspect his new bosses might not be too impressed if they knew what he is saying. It cannot do any harm to ask them if such comments reflect their company policies.

  4. Seconding Ianvisits comment. Standard practice is to invite the people you want to invite and let them sort the permission etc. out. They aren’t kids beng asked on a play date; they are professionals who should be able to coordinate and prioritise their own workloads and invitations.

  5. If we take Mr. Hanson’s process description at face value, then this “policy for getting permission to attend a public meeting” business seems to constitute a kind of snub-in-anticipation, all on its own, regardless of who contacts whom or who shows up.

  6. ”…despite its premature timing with regard to addressing the concerns that have been voiced…”

    Is Brian saying that there’s a correct, non-premature, time to raise concerns?

    Any time is the right time to raise concerns. No, the earlier the better…otherwise they build the thing anyway regardless of the concerns.

  7. Dearie me. He does rather come across as a patronising [expletive deleted], doesn’t he?

    But his subsequent email raises a number of points as well. First, he’d have been delighted to attend subject to authorisation: fine, but (as IanVisits notes) surely it’s up to him to sort out the permission he needs.

    Second, he says councillors will decide what forums they wish to establish to promote local debate. Seems to me that the local debate is already happening, and while it would be foolish of locals to refuse to engage with the council’s chosen channels, it would be equally foolish of the council (and its consultants) to refuse to engage with existing forums and existing participants in the debate. Dismissing the meeting as premature seems to me a bit, well, dismissive.

    Third, as a consultant and presumably being paid for his expertise, I’d have thought he should already be actively engaging with local cycle groups and their outstanding concerns rather than waiting a bit supinely until he’s instructed to do so – or does he need explicit instructions before engaging with each and every group of stakeholders?

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