A residents’ group in east Greenwich has questioned the effectiveness of Greenwich Council’s “low emissions neighbourhood” – claiming it is failing to address poor air quality in the area.
The scheme, part-funded with money from City Hall, was introduced after the council’s backing for the Enderby Wharf cruise liner terminal, east Greenwich’s Ikea store and the Silvertown Tunnel, all of which threatened to have a big impact on the area, caused outrage among local people. The cruise port was scrapped last year after a council U-turn, Ikea opened in February and work on the tunnel is due to start later this year.
It is one of five given City Hall funding: the others are around the Barbican Estate in the City; Shoreditch; Marylebone; and Ilford Garden Junction, a scheme to rejuvenate a flyover on the North Circular Road.
The £4m Greenwich scheme – half has come from the mayor, the rest from the council – stretches from Deptford Creek to the Greenwich Centre. But the East Greenwich Residents Association says the area has seen few benefits from the programme – with nothing being done to tackle the key problem of traffic.
“So, what’s happened since the LEN was set up? Frankly, not much,” the group says in a blog post published on its website last week.
“We’ve seen an electric bike rental scheme and a cargo bike at Drings butchers in Royal Hill. Otherwise, we’re stuck in an endless Groundhog Day of consultation about three pocket parks along Trafalgar Road (now joined by a new parklet at the junction of Creek Road and Norman Road) – none of which address the air quality issue except in the most marginal way and none of which has been started.
“Ironically, the only other significant outcome has been the disappearance of the bike parking on Trafalgar Road.”
The most obvious sign of the works has been the introduction of raised junctions along Trafalgar Road – a common feature in other inner London boroughs but rare in Greenwich – but EGRA says “how these relate to improving air quality is unclear”.
Most of the roads still remain open to through traffic, and EGRA points out that the raised paving – which have no tactile markings for those with impaired vision – could be making things worse, not better for pedestrians. “Without significant traffic management measures to control access to the popular rat-runs and clear pedestrian priority, the continuous paving has been poorly received by parents with young children and those with vision problems.”
The Shoreditch Low Emissions Neighbourhood – City Fringe, jointly run by Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets councils – includes “ultra low emissions streets”: roads closed to all but the least polluting vehicles in the peak hours. But no similar scheme has been proposed in Greenwich.
EGRA says: “A good starting point would have been some signage so residents and visitors know the LEN exists. How about closing some of the notorious rat-runs and converting them into cycleways? What about serious anti-idling enforcement especially for construction traffic and outside schools? There doesn’t appear to be any debate about licensing temporary events that require extensive use of portable diesel generators either.”
It adds that no action is being taken on wood burning stoves, cruise ships moored at Deptford Creek or “the future of Greenwich Generating Station with its ancient diesel-ignition generators which put a plume of brown smoke into the sky every afternoon”.
“We need to get the council to stop patting themselves on the back and talking about rolling out this non-scheme across the borough while at the same time adding massive amounts of extra pollution to the area with Ikea and Silvertown Tunnel,” it adds.
Two of the area’s local councillors – Stephen Brain and Denise Scott-McDonald – aligned themselves with opponents of the Silvertown Tunnel during the May 2018 local elections, but recently voted against a move to abandon the council’s pro-tunnel stance.
853 asked Greenwich Council for a response to EGRA’s complaints about the scheme.
Scott-McDonald, who is also cabinet member for air quality, said in a statement: “The £2m match-funding we received for the Low Emission Neighbourhood (LEN) area gave us an opportunity to pilot a series of transport measures to make walking, cycling, public transport and electric vehicles more attractive.
“Some examples of the initiatives are: new electric vehicle charging points to support residents and businesses wishing to switch to low emission vehicles; an electric vehicle car club to reduce car ownership levels; an electric bike loan scheme to improve public health and encourage sustainable travel; consultations to create pocket parks to increase the amount of green space in east Greenwich and to plant over 100 trees in Greenwich Gateway; and opening Greenwich town centre to people walking and cycling during Car Free Day. The information about schemes in the LEN can be found on our website.
“In addition to the LEN, we have also established an air quality action plan which sets out our wider air quality strategy.”
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