Greenwich’s Conservative councillors are to hold an online public meeting next weekend about low-traffic neighbourhoods – and are demanding “proper consultation of communities across the borough” about the schemes.
Low-traffic neighbourhoods have been introduced with government funding to cut rat-running in residential areas and to encourage walking and cycling in the wake of the pandemic. While parts of Greenwich have had measures in place for many years, there is only one low-traffic neighbourhood in the borough – in streets west of Greenwich Park, introduced after years of traffic queues and antisocial behaviour from drivers seeking to escape the A2.
However, residents have been told that the scheme is to be watered down to allow through traffic to use Hyde Vale and Royal Hill – passing a primary school with a unit for deaf children – in the morning rush hour, after residents in streets east of the park suffered from queues and unsafe driving. Cameras have already been put in place to allow this.
One resident told 853 that the decision by new cabinet member for transport, Sarah Merrill, was “a victory for rat-runners”.
The Hills & Vales scheme was long-planned and was the subject of a public consultation in 2019, but Greenwich – like many boroughs – introduced the scheme as part of emergency coronavirus measures. Its introduction also coincided with the closure of Greenwich Park to through traffic – which the council has objected to – and the introduction of Cycleway 4 through east Greenwich.
Greenwich has also launched consultations on future schemes for streets east of the park and around Weigall Road and Horn Park Lane in Lee – although the future of these proposals now looks uncertain.
The Tories – who have campaigned against low-traffic measures in Eltham’s Page Estate, and called for referendums on future schemes – say that Greenwich has not consulted properly.
A motion to be put before next week’s full council meeting says that “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”, and demands that the town hall “commits to publish an updated plan for proper consultation of communities across the borough on the future of traffic schemes, along with the monitoring reports produced so far and how schemes have been modified as a result of local feedback”.
“Labour has got itself into a total mess locally on these schemes by not consulting properly in the first place, despite the government making clear they should,” said Conservative leader Nigel Fletcher. “Those who oppose low-traffic neighbourhoods are angry, whilst those who back them are being let down by the way the council mishandled their introduction.
“We’re seeking to listen to residents ourselves, and I hope the council will do the same. The new cabinet member has made promises about better consultation and the need for compromise, and those words should now be followed by proper action.”
Residents who want to take part in the meeting, on the morning of Saturday 24 July, are asked to email GreenwichOpposition[at]gmail.com.
While Greenwich initially took a bullish approach to introducing the traffic schemes, the council began to get cold feet during May’s mayoral election campaign, which saw the Tories campaign against the initiatives, and Labour losing votes in the south of the borough, where car ownership is higher. Just before the poll, the council scrapped plans to block through traffic on the Page Estate in Eltham so a new cycle route could be introduced.
However, the issue does not fall neatly on party lines. Some Labour activists hold key roles in campaigns against the schemes, while Tory councillor Matt Clare – who is one of the signatories to the motion – one of the loudest voices on the council in favour.
Poor communication has compounded the council’s problems – Greenwich did not respond to a request for comment when 853 reported on the Hills & Vales scheme earlier this month. Instead it issued a statement to BBC Radio London’s breakfast show, which followed up the story, stating that residents needed to “compromise”.
Residents in the Hills & Vales area were also left angry last week when council contractors removed planters blocking their roads while installing the traffic cameras, then left without putting them back. The planters were back in place the next morning. However, they now fear the cameras will be vandalised in attempt to sabotage the scheme – just as they have been in other boroughs.
Help 853 continue reporting on public interest issues in Greenwich and southeast London – we are the only outlet regularly producing original journalism in the borough, and we can only do it with your funding.
Please join over 100 donors who use Steady, PressPatron or Patreon to give a little towards our costs every month. The money pays the bills, a wage for the editor and pays others to write for the site.
You can also buy the editor a coffee at ko-fi.com. Thank you.