Greenwich Council has rebuffed calls for pavements in Greenwich town centre to be widened – saying it would bid to have part of the area pedestrianised instead.
Last autumn the charity that owns a large part of the town centre, Greenwich Hospital, teamed up with the Greenwich Society to call for pavements around the market to be permanently widened.
While Greenwich Council has long wanted to pedestrianise streets north of the market, the two groups said that wider pavements – which would include service bays for market traders – would have “much more chance of getting general acceptance” than closing roads to vehicles.
The council leader, Danny Thorpe, said that the town hall had already had a funding bid for widening pavements rejected by Transport for London because it did not go far enough.
His comments came in a written response which was due to be published at a council meeting last month that was cancelled in the wake of the Omicron outbreak.
The responses to questions from residents and councillors have now been quietly published on the council website.
Kate Jaconello, a photographer and musician who trades at Greenwich Market, asked councillors what the response to the letter from the groups was.
Thorpe replied: “The Royal Borough [sic] previously submitted a bid to TfL for a more limited pavement widening scheme, of the type described in your letter.
“This scheme was not considered transformational enough to secure funding from TfL and this led to the broader proposals currently being developed, which include removing the gyratory system. Funding was secured for the project from TfL’s Liveable Neighbourhoods programme for developing the broader proposals.
“Since the Covid-19 pandemic significantly reduced its income, TfL reduced and then paused funding for the whole Liveable Neighbourhoods programme. TfL has stated its desire to restart the programme when it is able and has worked with us to maintain some level of progress on some of the technical work, indicating its continued support for the project. However, like all TfL funding, the funding remains uncertain at present.”
Thorpe said that the previous bid, submitted in 2016, estimated that widening pavements would cost £4.2 million, while the part-pedestrianisation plan would come in at £6 million.
“It would require funding from the same source(s) and would be assessed against the same criteria as the broader scheme,” he said.
“Since the previous submission, standards for schemes of this type have increased and there is increased pressure on TfL funding. Therefore, a more limited scheme is likely to be even less successful in attracting funding now.
“The broader proposals being developed offer both the best chances of securing the significant funding required – and the greatest benefit for Royal Greenwich [sic].”
The council’s dependence on funding from TfL for a high-profile public realm improvement highlights its difficulties in getting money out of developer to fund such schemes through the Community Infrastructure Levy.
Greenwich charges developers less than other councils – largely as a result of decisions made some years ago that have not been revisited since – meaning it has been denied the size of windfall some might expect in a borough seeing some intensive redevelopment, some of it just a few hundred metres from the market. Many of the borough’s biggest developments were also approved before the levy was introduced.
An agreement under former council leader Chris Roberts to use this money to fund a £15 million contribution to the cost of Woolwich Crossrail station means that what money there is in the kitty is likely to be used to settle what is currently an £8 million shortfall on the deal, first reported by 853 last month and followed up by outlets including the BBC.
Last month Greenwich was successful in obtaining £166,000 from City Hall for a scheme called Light Time Greenwich, which “will create a new culture-led high street experience that responds to local needs and tells local peoples’ stories. The project focuses on attracting new local audiences to the town centre including young people, exploring the role of markets as a setting for cultural activity, and expanding the evening offer.”
The council also obtained £20,000 to fund a scheme to “create an evening/night time economy with regular night street eateries run by the Good Food in Greenwich network”.
To ask a question to councillors for this month’s meeting, on 26 January, email committees[at]royalgreenwich.gov.uk before noon on 19 January. See more details on the council website.
Updated on 17 January – the councillor answering the question was Danny Thorpe, not the cabinet member for transport Sarah Merrill.
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