Greenwich Council snubs pedestrianisation meeting

Local people in Greenwich met last night to discuss council plans to pedestrianise the town centre – but no council official turned up to listen to their views or explain the proposals.

Despite being invited, no officer attended the meeting, organised by the new Transition Greenwich network, held at St Alfege’s church hall.

Also absent were the three Labour councillors for Greenwich West ward, where the scheme will take place, turning much of the area into a large gyratory system.

Speakers lined up to criticise the proposals, with Greenwich Cyclists dubbing it “very poor”. Other concerns expressed included fears of rat-running in residential areas, how deliveries would be made to town centre shops without causing gridlock, the effects on local buses, and whether it could cope with vast new developments planned for Nelson Road and along Deptford Creek.

Greenwich Council recently extended its consultation on the scheme, which now runs until 1 August.

So if no officials don’t turn up, and if the local councillors are a no-show, then how much does Greenwich Council really care about what people think? To be fair, Peninsula ward’s Mary Mills was there, but to meet cyclists rather than represent the council. So the people who were meant to be there didn’t show to take the flak, leaving it to someone who didn’t have to be there.

I went to last month’s exhibition, and came away impressed with the fact some thought had been put into what could be done with the space freed up by taking cars away from King William Walk and College Approach. But I had some niggling doubts in my head that last night’s meeting has firmed up. And, frankly, the council not bothering to attend makes me fear the worst for all of this.

I think pedestrianising Greenwich could be a good idea. But Greenwich alone can’t be looked at in isolation – change something here and Lewisham gets affected. There’s still no sense of any co-operation with Lewisham – and, indeed, Deptford’s adjacent Crossfields Estate has been left off the areas consulted by Greenwich on the scheme.

A gyratory seems like the wrong proposal – sending traffic from Lewisham on a lengthy diversion and ruining bus route 199, which would presumably not be able to call in Greenwich town centre heading northbound. Bus services can be recast to take into account the gyratory – and are likely to be if Convoys Wharf gets built – but the lack of thought in this proposal is worrying.

Convoys is just one of a number of new developments in the area that will have an impact on traffic in Greenwich – Norman Road and Creek Road in 2020 could be vastly different places. A gyratory doesn’t take this into account.

And none of this rewards people for getting out of their cars and using alternative forms of transport – cyclists face longer journeys, so do bus users. There’s no sense of an overall policy for reducing car use, or measures to prevent traffic building up when problems occur.

I stayed for the first hour of the meeting, and no speaker backed the scheme. A couple seemed neutral at best, but what was a gathering to swap viewpoints soon morphed into what started to feel like a protest meeting. A few points made were the usual moans – and there was a reluctance on behalf of some to realise that dumping on Deptford to save Greenwich isn’t a brilliant idea – but it’s the cyclists’ opposition, plus the points made about Nelson Road, that swayed me. And the fact the council couldn’t be bothered to show.

The cash for this may not even be forthcoming – it appears to be based on a bid for annual funding which has to be put into Transport for London by the end of the year. But I hope opposition to these scheme is expressed in a constructive manner, and doesn’t fall prey to spite and snobbery.

These are worrying times in Greenwich – the place looks like a building site, the bullying tactics around the market, and Greenwich University’s plans for the old Stockwell Street market are underwhelming (and don’t include a market).

Pedestrianisation needn’t be a disaster, but rushing headlong into a scheme like this could be. Greenwich Council would be better off deciding quite what it wants the town centre to be, instead of trying to boss us around with flawed masterplans such as this one.

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19 comments

  1. How annoying, I managed to take my eye off the ball and ended up not knowing that this meeting was taking place. I wonder whether Greenwich Council have a better reason for not attending….

    I guess my views on this are pretty basic. The problem is too much traffic – you can’t address this problem by inconveniencing alternative means of transport, e.g. bikes and buses. At best it displaces the problem. Which is not a solution.

  2. I think that was what the meeting’s organisers wanted people to consider as well. Unfortunately, there was a bit too much “well, let’s build a tunnel under Blackheath” without thinking of the consequences when that traffic hits New Cross Road…

  3. Lots of criticism but does anyone have a better idea?

    Surely no-one thinks we should leave the current (and steadily worsening) system in place.

  4. No, Darryl. I actually agree with the council on this.

    The current ugly and fume-choked gridlock just cannot continue and, of all the alternatives available (status quo and the various council options), the gyratory is the best one in my opinion.

    The 199 bus route can be altered, the gyratory’s route via Norman/Creek is only 200m longer than via Greenwich High Road (= whole extra 15secs by bike!) and an enforced 20mph limit will ensure gridlock is not replaced by manic driving.

    Also, take away the current gridlock means the gyratory will obviously be quicker so complaints of “longer journeys” are simply nonsensical.

    To say that this does not discourage driving is also a bizarre argument. Gridlock discourages driving but also slows down buses, discouraging public transport use, and increases pollution. What’s preferable?

    And with the route Cutty Sark-Market-Uni cleared of vehicles, we have the opportunity to turn the streets into peaceful tree-lined footpaths/shared streets.

    Again I ask, where are the opposition’s suggestions?

  5. To be fair to the Council, they have sought the public’s views and held an exhibition. Meetings like this are far from democratic, they tend to be dominated by those angrily against whatever is being proposed and those in favour will tend not to turn up, and if they do it can be a very intimidating atmosphere. Therefore you get a highly skewed response, and often the officials who turn up in good faith are bullied by the mob. I should say that I do not work for LBG!
    On this scheme specifically I fear it will channel too much traffic into Norman Road but I am glad that something is being considered to improve matters. People have the chance to have their say and at the end of the day if people prefer to keep the status quo rather than accept the downsides to this, they should respond accordingly.

  6. Steve – I was told at the consultation event that the speed limit would remain at 30mph. The two lanes of traffic along Greenwich High Road will not be pleasant for pedestrians. A contraflow bus//cycle lane along this stretch would probably allay some complaints.

  7. ”’The 199 bus route can be altered, the gyratory’s route via Norman/Creek is only 200m longer than via Greenwich High Road (= whole extra 15secs by bike!) and an enforced 20mph limit will ensure gridlock is not replaced by manic driving.”

    Steve, that depends on where you’re cycling from and where you’re going. I live on the Crossfields estate, just outside the gyratory – get me from here to, say, the Co-op (ex-Somerfields) without having significantly further to cycle And if you can do it without losing more than 15 seconds you should be riding in the Tour de France.

    The only cycling route that hasn’t been lengthened for those commuting to Docklands from the south (Lewisham, for example) is the route via Greenwich Park, which in turn, forces commuting cyclists to climb (unnecessarily) onto the heath. The longer journeys apply to people cycling from Brockley to Docklands as well.

    Cycling, I know, is only one form of transport and as such it can’t be the solution. But as long as the prevailing consensus is to fit alternative forms of transport where they’ll go once Greenwich have pedestrianised 0.16 of a mile, then we’re never going to address the cause of the problem.

  8. Steve, not quite sure where you get the idea that ‘the gyratory’s route via Norman/Creek is only 200m longer than via Greenwich High Road (= whole extra 15secs by bike!).’

    If you’re coming from Trafalgar Road/Nelson Road, I reckon it’s almost three times the distance (about 1250m rather than 450m).

    Rather than the extra distance or time though, I’m more concerned about just how out of step Greenwich seems to be with the rest of London in terms of proposing a gyratory here, while all across the capital they’re being removed (Aldgate, St Pauls, New Cross …) because they encourage streams of motor traffic, intimidating pedestrians and cutting off one side of the street from the other.

    Me, I’d just pedestrianise College Approach and King William Walk – seems to work OK on car-free day – and see what happens, but I’m not a traffic planner …

  9. When organising a public meeting at which you wish the Council (or any public body)to be represented, it is important to address your invitations to persons with the authority to authorise officers (or consultants) to attend. Namely Cabinet Members and/or Chief Officers.
    If you failed to do this, it is little wonder nobody within the Council knew about this meeting, or if they did, felt that they were not authorised to be present.
    Nobody “snubbed you” – you simply failed to organise the meeting through the proper channels. Please try again and do it right this time.

  10. The proposal from the meeting was for L.B. Greenwich to agree a 10% through traffic reduction with L.B. Lewisham and L.B. Bromley.

    This could be done cheaply in Greenwich.
    Either (1) with two electronic toll-gates, one on Romney Road (by the University of Greenwich) and the second on the A2 (near the General Wolfe Road intersection). These would allow local vehicles to pass without charge, and charge only those whose vehicles are registered outside L.B. Greenwich.
    Or (2) by through vehicles being required to display London Travel Cards.
    Fuller proposals for cycle paths in Greenwich Town Centre & improvements for pedestrians will be posted by tomorrow on http://www.transitionwestcombe.blogspot.com

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