Greenwich Council wants to see a 45 per cent drop in the number of cars on the borough roads in the next nine years – and could implement controlled parking zones right across its area, according to its plan to address the climate emergency.
The plan, to be discussed by councillors next week, aims to see the borough become carbon neutral by 2030. It includes pledges to make council homes fossil fuel-free and to make them more energy efficient, and to make its office and other buildings zero carbon. (Read the plan.)
But it is the demand to slash car use which is the most eye-catching – particularly from a council which has recently campaigned for major new road-building schemes including the Silvertown Tunnel, which is to be built by London mayor Sadiq Khan, and Gallions Reach Bridge, which was shelved by the mayor.
The borough’s homes – most of which are heated by gas boilers – are the number one culprits for emitting carbon dioxide, which is heating up the planet at an accelerating rate. Transport is the number two source of emissions.
Residents will be able to have their say on the plan in a consultation to be launched next month.
Councillors voted to declare a climate emergency in June 2019, four months after the notion had been initially dismissed by Denise Scott-McDonald, now the council’s deputy leader.
Since then, an evidence base has been produced, and the council hopes to approve the plan in the spring.
But many of the asks are out of the council’s control – either lying in the hands of Transport for London or the Westminster government.
The total plan – including items beyond the town hall’s control – is costed at £1.6 billion, way beyond the council’s budget, but an estimate of what it would cost for all bodies to take the action needed to cut emissions by 87 per cent. This would include retrofitting homes and phasing out the use of gas boilers, something which would cost £350 million for council housing alone.
For transport, the scale of the challenge is illustrated by figures showing that vehicles drove 130 million more miles on Greenwich’s roads between 2009 and 2019 – a decade which saw the council lobby for new roads and approve out-of-town retail such as the Ikea in Greenwich.
Even as recently as this summer, the council allowed and promoted a drive-in cinema on Blackheath while objecting to measures neighbouring Lewisham Council was making to stop traffic rat-running down a side road in Lee.
But setting its recent decisions aside, slashing car use in a borough containing the A2, A20, Blackwall Tunnel and South Circular Road – and where public transport connections are often poor – is going to be an enormous task; since the pandemic traffic levels have risen still further with travellers put off using buses and trains.
The council says it needs “to make walking cycling and public transport the first choice and support the roll-out of ultra-low emission vehicles”.
It plans to charge owners of polluting vehicles more for parking permits – a system already adopted in Lewisham – and cut speed limits to 20mph on all residential roads, something which is already happening. It also plans to increase electric vehicle charging points and “deliver a programme to support bike ownership”.
In future, it wants to reduce the number of car parking spaces, introduce a borough-wide controlled parking zone and cut speed limits to 20mph on “appropriate major roads”, something which has already been done in Lewisham, Southwark and Lambeth.
It also wants to “collaborate with the Port of London Authority to investigate the feasibility of requiring ships to turn engines off or use anti-pollution technology while in berth” – five years after backing a cruise terminal without that technology at Enderby Wharf, a proposal that was later scrapped – and to “assess the feasibility of freight consolidation centres”.
The council also wants to see the ultra-low emissions zone – which will expand to the South Circular Road next October, charging the drivers of polluting vehicles £12.50 – become a zero emissions zone, while also lobbying TfL to expand the zone to cover the South Circular itself within the borough.
It is also wants to TfL to consider making the Blackwall and Silvertown tunnels only available to vehicles with ultra-low emissions, and for “high quality cycle access at key river crossings”. The town hall also wants to see London City Airport switch to emission-free technologies.
Councillors will discuss the plan at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
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