Greenwich Council’s Bridge The Gap campaign runs aground

So, you’re the PR boss of a London borough, earning £125,000 a year. You’ve cooked up a campaign to get a new road tunnel built which is going to lead to even more traffic piling into your already-saturated borough. It’s a controversial one.

Your social media launch had to be pulled, so now you’re now launching it to the mainstream media. You pick a nice riverside location. After all, your borough has London’s longest riverfront.

But you forget to check the tide tables. So when you arrive, it’s low tide…

Bridge The Gap press launch, 4 January 2013

Perhaps doing it in view of the much-loved Woolwich Ferry, which you’re campaigning to get rid of, probably wasn’t wise either. Oh dear, oh dear…

Greenwich Council Bridge The Gap launch, 4 January 2013

Next, all you’ll need is your senior councillor admitting not having done any research – but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Sadly, I couldn’t be there, but Greenwich and Newham councils’ launch of their Bridge The Gap campaign on Friday ended up being shared with a protest on the North Woolwich foreshore from Friends of the Earth, Roads To Nowhere and Stop City Airport. If only they’d done it at high tide, eh?

These campaigners are flat out against any new roads, while it must be emphasised the No Silvertown Tunnel petition doesn’t have a view on other crossings, but it’s good to see Greenwich and Newham’s attempt to hijack TfL’s river crossings consultation itself hijacked once again.

Will Greenwich Council now get the message that campaigning for an additional tunnel branching off the A102, attracting more traffic, more jams and more pollution, is suicidal? We’ll have to wait and see, but you can help by signing the petition.

For some strange reason, neither Greenwich’s Dear Leader Chris Roberts nor Newham’s elected mayor Sir Robin Wales bothered to show up, so the gig was left to regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland and her Newham counterpart, Conor McAuley. Neither were particularly convincing, as this video from London 24 shows…

Ah, Denise Hyland – cabinet member for minicab firms. To be fair, she could have told Adam from Kidbrooke Kite to bugger off, but she did talk to him. What she said showed just how little thought Greenwich Council put into this campaign.

Had Greenwich considered the impact on traffic and pollution before campaigning for a Silvertown Tunnel? No, she said.

“This is TfL’s job to do this not the Royal Borough of Greenwich. We are a stakeholder and we will hold TfL to account around traffic modelling, environmental impact and the like.”

Holding TfL to account by backing its mad scheme? Eh? But never mind, it’s okay, because the Romans did it…

“What we know, and I take you back into history, is that the Romans discovered that when you put a bridge across a river you get prosperity either side of that bridge and that is really important to us.”

Funny that, because it wasn’t the construction of the second Blackwall Tunnel in 1967 that brought development to the Greenwich peninsula (the old gasworks were entering a 20-year decline) – but the opening of the Jubilee Line in 1999. There’s no sign building a third will do any better.

Indeed, it seems Greenwich has launched the campaign on nothing more than a hunch and a desire to “show leadership” (going back to its basic “do as you’re told” instinct again) – and we’re into a bizarre world when a Labour council is relying on a Tory mayor to come up with the figures to justify what they want.

Curiously, Newham doesn’t seem as on board with the campaign as Greenwich is – a planned campaign page at has failed to materialise. Wonder why that is?

Unfortunately, despite the fact that parts of the Greenwich Labour party are revolting against the scheme – local party chairman David Gardner is among the petition’s signatories – it seems that councillors are digging in. And covering their ears. Here’s cabinet member John Fahy, who, incredibly, is in charge of public health issues, so you might think would be worried about something which would cause more pollution.

A veteran of local politics should know and act better than this.

Even more bizarrely, he later used the forum to imply that more congestion in Kidbrooke wasn’t an issue because “these issues exist already”.

That’s what we’re up against – but we can still force the council to listen. Please, if you haven’t already, sign the petition and fill in TfL’s consultation. And if you live in the borough of Greenwich, please, ask your local councillors what the hell they think they’re playing at.

Might be worth reminding them they’re up for election next year.

Finally, the London Assembly, which scrutinises the work of the mayor, is holding a seminar on Wednesday about river crossings. If you can’t make it – it’s in the daytime, after all – they’d be delighted to take a written submission. Mine’s on its way, so why not send one too?

11.30pm update: This week’s edition of council pravda Greenwich Time ignores the protests, but wrongly claims TV crews showed up.


  1. Your comments clearly misrepresent wha I said about the current log jams that currently exist in Kidbrooke and elsewhere. The point I was making now repeat to clarify is that the solution is the development of greater access across the Thames. Of course we need to continue to reduce th use of the car and extend alternatives such as Crossrail. Improving rail infrastructure will further help and the investment in London Bridge will see additional trains in the longer term. I note tha you have responded to the consultation organised by Tfl. Hope to see this published in due course.

  2. John, considering you’ve painted objecting to the Silvertown plan as a “do nothing” option, that’s a bit rich.

    “Of course people will be concerned and full consultation is important but the general thrust of the case for the Tunnel is sound. Questions about traffic issues in Kidbrooke and elsewhere are being quoted. The reality is that these issues exist already.”

    Doesn’t sound like you’ve got a plan to reduce traffic through Kidbrooke, does it?

  3. John, on the subject of Crossrail, is the funding in place from Berkeley for the Woolwich station fit-out yet?

    Last I heard you were looking at an supplemental Community Infrastructure Levy, increased Council Tax or using funds from RBG reserves. The clock is ticking!

  4. Funnily enough the protest banner didn’t appear in the latest Greenwich Time paper.

    Had a look at the petition – only 237 signed so far??

    I do feel sorry for anyone living near a busy road, the noise and pollution is horrendous. But until the MOT enforces stricter controls on emmissions this is not going to change any time soon.

    There can’t be any doubt that at least one new crossing (be it tunnel or bridge) between Silvertown and Dartford is needed, and this must surely allow the usage of Commercial Vehicles for transit of goods.

  5. Colin, the petition isn’t a no to all crossings (although some signatories may feel that way).

    If you have a £125k director of PR, plus a weekly propaganda rag, to help with the promotion, then please send them our way.

  6. Darryl, I’m afraid I’m not Greenwich council nor a relation of Rupert M’s, just a resident of plumstead who drives a van.

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