Lewisham Council could install extra Silvertown Tunnel pollution monitoring

A102 southbound queue
The new tunnel will feed into the southbound A102

Lewisham Council is considering installing more pollution monitors on streets threatened by Silvertown Tunnel traffic.

The news comes as London Labour party representatives rebuked their mayor, Sadiq Khan, to call for the controversial £2 billion toll road between the Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks to be scrapped.

Transport for London, which is chaired by Khan, has always insisted that the tunnel will eliminate queuing at the Blackwall Tunnel.

Opponents of the tunnel – including Lewisham Council, which passed a motion against the scheme six years ago – fear the road, which will include a special lane for HGVs and buses, will lead to an increase in congestion and pollution in neighbouring areas. They also say it will make it impossible for London to meet climate change targets.

When the tunnel was approved in May 2018 only one form of pollution, nitrogen dioxide, was due to be monitored, with no plans to monitor for PM10 and PM2.5, microscopic particles which can come from tyres and brake linings and pose a threat even from electric vehicles.

Deptford Church Street is expected to see more traffic heading to and from Rotherhithe Tunnel to avoid tolls

In a written answer to a question at Lewisham’s full council meeting last Wednesday, cabinet member for transport Sophie McGeevor said that Lewisham was considering taking matters into its own hands and installing its own monitoring for PM2.5, including on Deptford Church Street, which may see more traffic heading towards Rotherhithe Tunnel to avoid tolls at Blackwall and Silvertown.

“Representations have been made to TfL including requesting additional monitoring. TfL are still actively considering the possible monitoring of PM2.5 outside of the development consent order,” she said in the answer to Mark Morris, a former Liberal Democrat councillor in the borough.

“Lewisham is also considering additional monitoring. including the siting of one of the council’s PM2.5 monitors, for example around the A2209 at Deptford where there may be a rise in traffic associated with the opening of the Silvertown Tunnel.”

In March, Khan admitted that no decision had been taken on monitoring these particles. The subject was raised again last month by Liberal Democrat assembly member Caroline Pidgeon, and TfL commissioner Andy Byford has confirmed in a letter to her seen by 853 that only one site on the north side of the Thames will receive additional monitoring.

“We have therefore agreed to install additional PM2.5 monitoring at one of the already established continuous monitoring stations for the scheme in the London Borough of Newham,” he wrote in a letter seen by 853.

“This will be supported by existing PM2.5 monitoring in the Royal Borough of Greenwich and, alongside wider initiatives by TfL, the Mayor and local authorities, will allow us to better understand the impact of this pollutant on Londoners.”

Silvertown Tunnel drawing
Plans for the southern entrance to the tunnel were recently submitted to Greenwich Council

Opponents of the tunnel have also received a boost from London Labour representatives condemning the tunnel in a motion backed by 74 per cent of delegates at the party’s regional conference over the weekend.

“If Labour are truly committed to clean air and tackling climate change there is no justification for the tunnel,” the motion – proposed by delegates from Greenwich & Woolwich constituency as well as neighbours in Erith & Thamesmead and Lewisham Deptford, declared.

The motion is advisory so Khan can ignore it, but the vote is a symbolic victory for tunnel opponents within the party and could store up trouble for the mayor with his party in the future.

Sian Berry, a Green assembly member who has long opposed the tunnel, told 853: “The mayor isn’t listening to Londoners when it comes to the polluting Silvertown road tunnel, but hopefully now he will listen to members of his own party.

“This project will make it impossible to meet climate targets, doesn’t make economic sense and revenue should instead focus on accessible, affordable, green and efficient public transport.

“The Labour conference highlighted these issues, all of which Greens have been campaigning on for years, cross-party, in City Hall.

“It’s clearer now than more than ever that the mayor needs to do the decent thing and cancel the project before it’s too late.”

TfL’s own modelling shows increases in rush-hour traffic at the Blackwall/Silvertown crossings (source: page 239 of its transport assessment)

For the Lib Dems, Pidgeon tweeted: “Many of us have been telling him to scrap Silvertown [Tunnel] for years, but now the message from his own party is clearer than ever.”

Greenwich and Woolwich’s Labour MP, Matt Pennycook, another long-time tunnel opponent, retweeted a news story about the Labour vote.

Opponents of the tunnel also include Newham, Hackney and Southwark councils, as well as West Ham MP Lyn Brown and Erith & Thamesmead’s Abena Oppong-Asare. Greenwich leader Danny Thorpe refused to join a cross-borough campaign against the tunnel last year.

A spokesperson for Khan told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that there was an “urgent need” for another river crossing and that tolls on both the Blackwall and Silvertown tunnels would mean “no overall increase in traffic and an overall improvement in air quality”.

However, TfL itself has conceded that there will be increases in traffic during the rush hour – particularly in the evening rush hour, with southbound traffic converging into the A102 – according to its evidence given to public hearings on the scheme in 2016.

Preliminary construction work is under way on the tunnel, which is due to open in 2025.

Additional reporting by Joe Talora, Local Democracy Reporter

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