Senior Greenwich councillor Denise Hyland last night ignored worried residents’ worries about the Silvertown Tunnel – and even refused to accept two offers of meetings with independent air quality experts.
The council received 27 written questions on the Silvertown Tunnel from members of the public – most meetings usually only get about 10 or so on anything – yet none of them were answered straight.
As far as spoken questions went, Hyland claimed promoting the Silvertown Tunnel was the responsibility of Transport for London – despite the fact the council has launched an “all out” campaign to promote the tunnel, and a bridge at Gallions Reach, Thamesmead. (She can listen to evidence here, of course.)
She also refused to meet independent air quality experts about the proposals – despite proposals from myself and Conservative councillor Nigel Fletcher, playing devil’s advocate since his party backs the Silvertown proposal. (Note for non-local readers: only two parties are represented in Greenwich borough.)
In reply to the public question from myself, she suggested the experts meet TfL instead.
When Fletcher pressed Hyland on why the council had not carried out any studies to back its Bridge The Gap campaign, she replied: “These are a Conservative mayor’s plans… we are a stakeholder. You would be the first to accuse me of spending public money when actually the duty of doing these studies firmly rests with TfL.”
That’s despite the fact the council launched an “all-out” campaign to back that Conservative mayor’s proposals, as pictured above.
Indeed, the Conservatives pushed Hyland into a series of bizarre answers, which included her comparing the council’s backing of mayor Boris Johnson’s campaign to photocopy hire.
A bundle of 13 questions asking a variety of questions, including why Greenwich Council had not commissioned any studies into the effects Silvertown would have, received this reply:
“The council is responding to the Mayor of London’s high level consultation on river crossings. Once a specific package of crossings is formulated, it will be for the Mayor to undertake the necessary economic, environmental and traffic management assessments. These will need to be undertaken holistically, taking into account all the proposals, not individual transport solutions in isolation and should look at the implications of a one-crossing solution, both fixed link crossings, and the implications of doing nothing.”
Questions about why Greenwich Council’s strategic transport planner had called the plans “conjecture” were dodged, but not denied, as were questions about why the council had used “the full strength of its communications department”, while a written answer from Hyland said it would be “inappropriate to comment” on the possibility of demolition of homes for a possible widening of the A102.
A further question, about whether Greenwich would be happy just to see a Silvertown Tunnel built, was dodged with the answer that the council believes “a package of vehicular crossings [is needed] to complement the non-vehicular crossings”.
I don’t have the written answers available in a format to upload yet, but I do have audio of the public questions and the debate with the Conservatives.
10.20pm update: Here’s the written answers to the 28 (not 27) questions the public asked.
Public questions – 20 minutes long, includes non-Silvertown questions (incl foot tunnel stuff)
Conservative questions from Nigel Fletcher and Spencer Drury – 7 minutes long, well worth a listen
Hyland’s performance was so surreal, I can’t quite take it in. The audio quality’s the best I can get it, but please, take a listen and let me know what you think.
To take part in the TfL consultation which ends on Friday, go to www.tfl.gov.uk/rivercrossings. To sign the No To Silvertown Tunnel petition, visit www.silvertowntunnel.co.uk.
I thank the council for putting my question on their paper (Thanks also to Matt Clinch for posting this handy image of it https://twitter.com/mattclinch81/status/296719122245505026/photo/1/large)
However, the council have simply not answered my question or either of the other two questions shown on the image.
I also get the feeling that if I had used simpler English in my question (it was a yes or no question after all) I still would not have recieved a response from the council.
To make matters worse, I read Mary Mills’ tweet which was quite frankly upsetting to read.
@maryorelse @darryl1974 why do people put down questions & then not bother to turn up? Makes it easy to dismiss their concerns and committment to them (https://twitter.com/maryorelse/status/296753883194204161)
If councillors are dismissing the opinions of the people who voted for them and took the time to contact them with their concerns. What hope do we have?
Matt, you did well. Thank you. I think Mary apologised later, but our tweeting councillors have closed ranks at the moment.
(Have deleted a comment promoting a political party, and a comment about that comment. On topic, please.)
I appreciate how important it is for elected members to listen to and respond to the concerns of those that elected us to public office. This has been my position over many years and will continue to be so. I was ready and willing to respond to the questions tabled for me to answer last night at Council. Greenwich has a significant monitoring strategy on Air Quality. We have a clear duty under EU regulations and rightly so. We need to be absolutely sure that the proposals for the Silvertown Tunnel have regard to the health and well being of residents. I am concerned about the study on pollution in Tower Hamlets undertaken by Dr Mudchute and should not be dismissed lightly.
By his own admission John Elliott, the Transport Consultant who spoke at the Monday night Friends of the Earth meeting, said that the “roads create traffic” syndrome was counter-intuitive and he himself was of the opposite view prior to working on transport systems. Both the transport and the health parts of that meeting also dealt with the serious negative economic effect that this particular crossing would have (offsetting the supposed positive benefits).
My point is that at this early stage it is well worth Greenwich Council and the cabinet minister meeting these people, and those like them, with an open mind. Those of us who oppose this particular crossing (and like the other parties I suspect, not all local Lib Dems oppose it) have listened to what evidence there is but it has been very sparse on the pro side. The arguments against are very persuasive and should be given an airing amongst the decision formers. Last night was not an edifying sight for local democracy and openness, whichever side of the argument you are on.
The studies shouldn’t be dismissed lightly. All the evidence points to roads creating traffic and we know traffic creates pollution. Pollution damages health. It’s that simple.
We already know that all Greenwich’s air quality monitoring sites are failing to meet EU standards on a regular and frequent basis. This will only get worse if the tunnel goes ahead.
If the council has such persuasive evidence that somehow Silvertown will be different from every other new road ever built, I would like to see that evidence and can see no good reason why they should hide it.
The issue of councillors dismissing public opinion because they are in a massive majority is an important one and is on topic (in my very humble opinion) in that it answers a question raised at the very end of the first comment. If councillors can so easily dismiss the opinions of those who voted for them then it has to be time for a change. But that requires people to stand up against the bullies and be counted. Not an easy thing to do. It also requires people with a *realistic* chance of being elected as councillors to stand against the existing ones.
Obviously, as I don’t live in Greenwich, electorally there’s nothing I personally can do.
What is going on within the Greenwich Labour Party?
David Gardner – the Chair of the Greenwich & Woolwich Labour Party – posted a comment last night that said, “Greenwich & Woolwich Labour Party are strongly of the view that it is premature to support the Mayor’s proposals … until we have a thorough independent study of the traffic, environmental and economic impact of such new roads.”
Does this mean that Roberts, Hyland and Raynsford are acting in direct contravention of the local Labour Party policy on this?
Darryl, you usually know what’s going on within the inner circle. Please enlighten us! What’s happening? Is this – as it seems – open defiance of the local party by the local MP and Council leadership? Or am I misreading something?
You’re reading it right, Franklin.
Remember, also, that there’s Eltham Labour Party, which backs Bridge The Gap, but its MP doesn’t. (He wants Silvertown, but not Gallions.)
A wiser man than me reckons Boris has come up with this scheme to split the Labour Party, and the Lab/Lib/Green alliance against him in the Assembly.
Huh. Interesting. And right at the start of the selection period for 2014. Does David Gardner have the clout (and the balls) to de-select Roberts and Hyland altogether?
It’s down to votes in individual ward parties, and whoever happens to be a member of those ward parties at that particular time.
I’ve worded that very carefully.
Darryl… you are brilliant… this is much appreciated by people like me who need to know what is going on but cannot always attend… Greenwich Council should pay you – you are making their meetings accessible to everyone..
Really? There are actually individual, ward-level parties? Each of which presumably only has a few dozen members, who select the candidates for that ward? Does David Gardner have no say in the ward-level selection process? How odd…
Errr, do Labour Party members get to choose which ward their membership pertains to? Or is it automatic based on where you live? If the former, I might join the Glyndon ward party (although I have no idea where Glyndon is).
Teresa – I should be paying for your comment. (Thank you!) But you should also thank my pal Clare, who’s hosted the audio and boosted the sound for me.
Franklin – I believe it’s automatic where you live. It’s a system that’s open to exploitation.
I haven’t closed down – I’ve been out, hopefully getting a whole lot of things sorted out for people who live in my area with the community liaison staff on the GDH site plus sorting out two other major issues which people raised with me yesterday.
I didn’t mean to upset anyone with my comment about people not turning up. I spent years and years working in campaigning organisations and as a councillor now I spend a lot of time with residents who ask for help on how to raise issues – and I see it my duty to give them the best advice I can, and worry, and try to see it through with them. I guess – and Darryl is right – I should remember people have other commitments.
I really don’t think councillors are dismissive of residents’ views – (and there – I’ve upset B because she wants to talk and I am writing this).
Franklin – I’m afraid membership of the Labour Party is automatic based on where you live – you would have to join Peninsula Branch which has many many more than a couple of dozen members and I think – need to check the exact time – you have to be a member for a year before you can vote in a selection
When you tell me when we can meet – still waiting. (but I remain more interested in your views on the built environment)
Must get on – two meetings at the Town Hall tonight – hopefully see some of you there??
Happy, as ever, to meet anyone from Peninsula area who wants to talk – with over 10,000 residents now I might have to leave some time for some sleep.
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