Greenwich Council has been given £250,000 to push forward proposals to make Greenwich town centre safer for pedestrians and cyclists – which could include part of the area being closed to traffic.
The council has long wanted to pedestrianise part of the town centre, and in 2019 it revealed proposals to close College Approach and the northern half of King William Walk, on the north and east side of Greenwich Market, to through traffic.
This would mean the end of the current one-way system, with Nelson Road becoming two-way with a T-junction outside St Alfege’s Church, with the other side of the market being reserved for pedestrians and cyclists.
Funding was coming from Transport for London, but plans were held up by the pandemic and TfL.
Now TfL has given the council the cash as part of a wider grant to help it develop transport schemes across the borough.
While many visitors will welcome the partial pedestrianisation of the town centre, closing roads altogether is opposed by Greenwich Hospital, the charity that runs Greenwich Market and is a major landlord in the area, as well as the Greenwich Society.
They would rather see pavements widened instead to ease access for market traders.
“Previous pedestrianisation proposals have failed because of the impact of displaced traffic onto nearby streets,” former ward councillor Maureen O’Mara wrote in a comment piece for this website in July.
Another challenge for any pedestrianisation scheme would be finding new locations for buses to terminate. A previous plan foundered more than a decade ago after Greenwich proposed reducing the frequency of route 286 because there was no money to accommodate slightly longer journey times.
There is also £60,000 to help resurrect two cycle schemes scrapped under previous council leader Danny Thorpe, between Eltham and Greenwich Park and Shooters Hill and Greenwich Park.
The former was abandoned after controversy over the possibility of closing through roads on the Page Estate in Eltham, effectively creating a low-traffic neighbourhood in all but name. The latter – which was supposed to link a number of schools – was only partly completed in the early stages of pandemic with emergency funding, and then had its segregation removed. Over £800,000 had been spent on the projects.
This money – for design work – will also go towards looking at linking the two isolated sections of Cycleway 4 either side of Greenwich town centre, which end at Deptford Creek Bridge and the Old Royal Naval College.
In total, Greenwich has been given £1.5 million by TfL – but the destination of most of the cash has been kept opaque.
The majority of the grant – £1.06 million – is earmarked for a number of unrelated projects, including “modal filters to reduce traffic” – signalling the return of low-traffic neighbourhoods, nine months after Thorpe and his transport cabinet member Sarah Merrill abandoned the borough’s only scheme, in west Greenwich. New LTNs also feature in the council’s recently-approved transport strategy.
Another £51,000 is earmarked for design work on bus priority measures for route 108 on the Greenwich Peninsula.
While Greenwich can use cash from developers for transport improvements, it has been unwilling to do so in recent years with money committed to the building of Woolwich’s Elizabeth Line station, while the low sums charged to developers means it has missed the windfalls enjoyed by other boroughs.
However, Merrill’s successor, deputy leader Averil Lekau, said Greenwich would now look to use development cash to supplement what it gets from TfL.
She said: “This gives us a great opportunity to deliver some vital projects that will make the borough safer for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. The consultation undertaken on our transport strategy helped to identify key projects which will make a real difference for everyone, and what is most important to local people.
“Whilst this funding is lower than the council has received from TfL in previous years, we’re aware of the significant financial constraints it’s operating under. We have allocated all of the funding to priority projects in the borough and I’m focused on delivering them over the coming months.
“We’re also continuing to assess how we can use additional sources of funding like developer contributions and council revenue budgets, to complement TfL’s money and address other priorities set out in our new transport strategy.”
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