So, you’re the PR boss of a London borough, earning £125,000 a year. You’ve cooked up a campaign to get a new road tunnel built which is going to lead to even more traffic piling into your already-saturated borough. It’s a controversial one.
Your social media launch had to be pulled, so now you’re now launching it to the mainstream media. You pick a nice riverside location. After all, your borough has London’s longest riverfront.
But you forget to check the tide tables. So when you arrive, it’s low tide…
Perhaps doing it in view of the much-loved Woolwich Ferry, which you’re campaigning to get rid of, probably wasn’t wise either. Oh dear, oh dear…
Next, all you’ll need is your senior councillor admitting not having done any research – but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Sadly, I couldn’t be there, but Greenwich and Newham councils’ launch of their Bridge The Gap campaign on Friday ended up being shared with a protest on the North Woolwich foreshore from Friends of the Earth, Roads To Nowhere and Stop City Airport. If only they’d done it at high tide, eh?
These campaigners are flat out against any new roads, while it must be emphasised the No Silvertown Tunnel petition doesn’t have a view on other crossings, but it’s good to see Greenwich and Newham’s attempt to hijack TfL’s river crossings consultation itself hijacked once again.
Will Greenwich Council now get the message that campaigning for an additional tunnel branching off the A102, attracting more traffic, more jams and more pollution, is suicidal? We’ll have to wait and see, but you can help by signing the petition.
For some strange reason, neither Greenwich’s Dear Leader Chris Roberts nor Newham’s elected mayor Sir Robin Wales bothered to show up, so the gig was left to regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland and her Newham counterpart, Conor McAuley. Neither were particularly convincing, as this video from London 24 shows…
Ah, Denise Hyland – cabinet member for minicab firms. To be fair, she could have told Adam from Kidbrooke Kite to bugger off, but she did talk to him. What she said showed just how little thought Greenwich Council put into this campaign.
Had Greenwich considered the impact on traffic and pollution before campaigning for a Silvertown Tunnel? No, she said.
“This is TfL’s job to do this not the Royal Borough of Greenwich. We are a stakeholder and we will hold TfL to account around traffic modelling, environmental impact and the like.”
Holding TfL to account by backing its mad scheme? Eh? But never mind, it’s okay, because the Romans did it…
“What we know, and I take you back into history, is that the Romans discovered that when you put a bridge across a river you get prosperity either side of that bridge and that is really important to us.”
Funny that, because it wasn’t the construction of the second Blackwall Tunnel in 1967 that brought development to the Greenwich peninsula (the old gasworks were entering a 20-year decline) – but the opening of the Jubilee Line in 1999. There’s no sign building a third will do any better.
Indeed, it seems Greenwich has launched the campaign on nothing more than a hunch and a desire to “show leadership” (going back to its basic “do as you’re told” instinct again) – and we’re into a bizarre world when a Labour council is relying on a Tory mayor to come up with the figures to justify what they want.
Curiously, Newham doesn’t seem as on board with the campaign as Greenwich is – a planned campaign page at www.newham.gov.uk/bridgethegap has failed to materialise. Wonder why that is?
Unfortunately, despite the fact that parts of the Greenwich Labour party are revolting against the scheme – local party chairman David Gardner is among the petition’s signatories – it seems that councillors are digging in. And covering their ears. Here’s cabinet member John Fahy, who, incredibly, is in charge of public health issues, so you might think would be worried about something which would cause more pollution.
A veteran of local politics should know and act better than this.
Even more bizarrely, he later used the greenwich.co.uk forum to imply that more congestion in Kidbrooke wasn’t an issue because “these issues exist already”.
That’s what we’re up against – but we can still force the council to listen. Please, if you haven’t already, sign the petition and fill in TfL’s consultation. And if you live in the borough of Greenwich, please, ask your local councillors what the hell they think they’re playing at.
Might be worth reminding them they’re up for election next year.
Finally, the London Assembly, which scrutinises the work of the mayor, is holding a seminar on Wednesday about river crossings. If you can’t make it – it’s in the daytime, after all – they’d be delighted to take a written submission. Mine’s on its way, so why not send one too?
11.30pm update: This week’s edition of council pravda Greenwich Time ignores the protests, but wrongly claims TV crews showed up.