Greenwich Council leader Anthony Okereke is to address Silvertown Tunnel activists on Sunday as they meet to discuss what to do now tunnelling work has started.
Okereke will join the Green Party London Assembly member Sian Berry and Anna Moore, a respiratory health expert, at the public event at Greenwich Yacht Club.
Tunnelling began a month ago on the £2 billion road between the Royal Docks and Greenwich Peninsula, which is due to open in 2025. Opponents of the tunnel say it will increase congestion and pollution on both sides of the Thames.
Okereke’s presence at the meeting could cause a stir in the Labour party, whose mayor Sadiq Khan is a fervent supporter of the tunnel, which he says is needed to do away with persistent queuing at the Blackwall Tunnel.
Earlier this year Khan complained to a senior London Labour figure about Okereke’s counterpart in Newham, Rokshana Fiaz, after she retweeted criticism of the “lies” surrounding the plans for the tunnel.
Okereke was elected by Labour councillors in May after saying he would join Fiaz in campaigning against the tunnel, although later backed away from that pledge.
His predecessor, Danny Thorpe, pointedly avoided criticising the tunnel and refused to join a cross-borough campaign against the scheme in 2019, seen as the last chance to halt the scheme before contracts were signed.
Greenwich councillors called on Khan to pause and review the tunnel in March, Newham’s reaffirmed their opposition a few weeks before. Khan has said critics “live in never-never land”.
Campaigners remain critical of TfL’s refusal to put in extra monitoring of PM2.5 pollutants – fine particles – south of the river.
Moore, of Health Education England, a body which trains medical staff, said that one in 16 deaths in the areas around both mouths of the tunnel could be attributed to air pollution, and that extra traffic could only make the problem worse.
“If I was the mayor, I would cancel the Silvertown Tunnel and put the money into infrastructure that would allow people to safely cycle and walk,” she said.
Simon Pirani, of the Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Coalition, said: “This is not over. The tunnel can still be paused to consider the appalling health effects from the extra traffic it will generate which will hit already heavily polluted areas – some of the most polluted in the UK.
“They have started initial drilling on the first bore of the two-bore tunnel. There is time now to debate how the second bore can be repurposed to allow cycling, walking and greatly improved public transport.”
The meeting at Greenwich Yacht Club is at 1.30pm on Sunday. Residents can book tickets via Eventbrite.
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