Hills and Vales: You need to compromise, angry low-traffic zone residents told

Planter on Maidenstone Hill
Planters will be removed from the Hills & Vales area and replaced with cameras

Residents in Greenwich borough’s only low-traffic neighbourhood have been told they have to “compromise” over plans to allow traffic to run through their area during the morning rush house.

Sarah Merrill, the cabinet member for transport, told BBC Radio London that residents and drivers needed to “find a way to share our space respectfully”.

853 revealed the council’s plans to reopen Hyde Vale to through traffic during the morning rush house in a story last Thursday, with one resident calling the climbdown “a victory for rat-runners”.

Greenwich Council has not responded to a request for comment on the story made two days before it was published. Instead, it gave a statement to the BBC, whose local radio station followed up 853’s story on Friday.

Streets west of Greenwich Park, such as Crooms Hill and Point Hill, were closed to vehicles last August as part of the long-planned Hills and Vales low-traffic neighbourhood. This aimed to stop rat-running in the area’s narrow streets and to make it easier to walk and cycle in the area.

Residents had long complained of traffic queues and anti-social behaviour from drivers using the local streets to avoid the A2.

The closure came five months after Greenwich Park was closed to through traffic, and was followed by traffic queues and anti-social behaviour from drivers in streets east of the park. Merrill has previously blamed problems in streets such as Maze Hill and Vanbrugh Hill on “a cocktail” of measures, including the Hills and Vales scheme and the construction of Cycleway 4 between east Greenwich and Charlton. She has called for Greenwich Park to be reopened to through traffic after receiving what she called “alarming” feedback from emergency services.

Maze Hill jam
Merrill has said that a number of traffic schemes had caused congestion in east Greenwich

The Labour council had previously taken a strong stance on the issue, planning to introduce similar measures east of the park, and telling residents it would “just be the start”. A former councillor for the area, Mehboob Khan, said earlier this year that the council introduced the road closures under police pressure because they were concerned about the levels of rat-running traffic.

But after Labour suffered disappointing results in the south of the borough – where car ownership is higher – in May’s elections, the council began to get cold feet.

Greenwich Council did not clarify its plans to 853, but BBC Radio London reported that three sets of planters would be removed and replaced by automatic number-plate recognition cameras, which would allow traffic through each morning.

This would mean traffic streaming along narrow Royal Hill, including James Wolfe primary school, which has a unit for deaf children. Residents have told 853 that they understand the street would be open from 7am to 9am, although BBC Radio London reported that it would be 7am to 8am.

Merrill said in a statement issued to the Vanessa Feltz breakfast show: “Every area has different needs and challenges and it is essential that we are able to compromise and find a way to share our space respectfully.

“While it is essential that congestion and pollution is reduced in the borough, we also need to be mindful that some people have no choice but to use a car. This is why we need to be flexible and monitor the impact different traffic measures are having across the borough.

“With regards to Hyde Vale, I want to reassure residents that we aren’t walking away from this issue. We are helping to alleviate traffic in the short term but our overarching aim is to work closely with residents across the borough to reduce traffic in the long term and we may just have to make some changes along the way.”

The radio station’s reports on the issue can be heard on BBC Sounds (from 06.07 and 07.07).

Residents in west Greenwich are particularly angry because the council’s highways committee recommended keeping the scheme at a meeting earlier this year, with committee chair Bill Freeman branding it a success while a similar scheme in Lewisham had been an “absolute disaster”.

A letter from the Hyde Vale Residents Association to Merrill says: “How you could believe that opening up one route from four (Greenwich Park, Crooms Hill, Hyde Vale and Point Hill) will lead to anything other than chaos escapes us. We had enough traffic issues when there were four routes, but potentially allowing four times the traffic down the road is madness.”

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