Protesters have jet-washed an anti-Silvertown Tunnel slogan onto a Thames embankment facing the Greenwich Peninsula – and are promising more protests as construction steps up.
Activists in hi-viz jackets clambered onto the foreshore close to Peruvian Wharf in Silvertown at low tide to write “Stop the tunnel” on the river wall.
Construction work began earlier this year with land being cleared and trees being felled on both sides of the Thames. Piling work is under way on the Silvertown side of the Thames, with construction teams building a launch chamber for the tunnelling machine that will head south to Greenwich Peninsula.
In the run-up to his election in 2016, London mayor Sadiq Khan promised “a joined-up review” of the £2 billion new road between the peninsula and the Royal Docks, which will include a dedicated lane for buses and HGVs that are too large to use the neighbouring Blackwall Tunnel. But he backed the scheme within weeks of taking office and has steadfastly supported the proposal since, insisting it will eliminate persistent northbound queues at the Blackwall Tunnel and create new opportunities for bus services. Both tunnels will be tolled under the scheme.
Opponents say that creating a new road will simply bring more traffic to neighbourhoods on both sides of the Thames and that the tunnel will also mean London will break its commitments under the Paris climate change treaty.
While there is a legal commitment to monitor for nitrogen dioxide pollution, last month it emerged that TfL, which the mayor chairs, still has not decided how – or if – it will monitor harmful particular matter pollution, which comes from the tyres and brake pads or lorries and cars.
“As lockdown eases, we are going to see many more protests as local people cannot understand why a motorway spewing juggernauts and HGVs into some of the poorest and most polluted areas of East and South-East London, is still being pushed through, “ said Victoria Rance of the Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Coalition, which has recently launched a new petition against the scheme.
“Local communities are against it, doctors and health workers are against it, local MPs are against it, young people from black and ethnic minority communities are against it, climate scientists are against it. This is a project totally out of line with the current climate emergency,” she said.
One family in Woolwich Road, east Greenwich, briefly displayed an anti-tunnel banner last month, although they say it was torn down within hours.
Both Khan and his Conservative opponent Shaun Bailey support the tunnel; Green candidate Sian Berry and Liberal Democrat Luisa Porritt have pledged to scrap the scheme. Porritt has called the project Khan’s “dirty little secret”.
Even though the scheme, which first emerged in 2012, was given planning permission three years ago, protests have grown against the project. One of the 18 party groups hoping to get onto the London Assembly at next month’s elections, the Communist Party of Britain, is holding an online protest meeting next week. Last month, a TfL committee heard that the mayor’s transport agency needed to “rebuild trust with locals” over the scheme.
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