Archive for the ‘greenwich council’ Category
853 exclusive: Greenwich Council suppressed a report which criticised Tory mayor Boris Johnson’s plans for a new road tunnel between the Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks – while the council’s Labour leadership was launching a campaign to push for the tunnel to be built.
Published in May 2012, the Hyder Consulting report into a possible DLR extension to Eltham warns of “exacerbated congestion on the local road network” if the Silvertown Tunnel is built. But this didn’t stop cabinet member Denise Hyland, outgoing council leader Chris Roberts and his deputy Peter Brooks, together with MP Nick Raynsford, launching the Bridge The Gap campaign six months later to campaign for the tunnel, attempting to hijack a public consultation into the scheme.
The document was hidden for nearly two years. Labour councillors were not shown it when they were asked to endorse the Bridge The Gap campaign in December 2012. When a Freedom of Information request to see the report was submitted in April 2013, it was refused as the council was “drafting a report into the matter” and so it was “unfinished”. In the end, it was never presented to Greenwich Council’s cabinet.
It still hasn’t been published on the council website, but this website is now publishing the report for the first time, after it emerged following an enquiry from former Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Webbewood at a council meeting earlier this year.
Greenwich Council has supported the Silvertown Tunnel on the grounds it would provide congestion relief, as expressed in this answer from “Greener Greenwich” cabinet member Harry Singh in January 2013:
But seven months earlier, the Hyder document had repeatedly warned that the Silvertown Tunnel would not be able to cope with increased traffic levels, and would actually draw new traffic to the area.
This reflects established thinking among traffic planners that road building actually generates new traffic rather than relieves it.
But what of those plans for new public transport to take traffic off the roads? Long-term readers of this website will remember the original “DLR on stilts” report from 2011, proposing a DLR extension via the Silvertown Tunnel through east Greenwich, Blackheath, Kidbrooke and Eltham to Falconwood, largely built above the A102 and A2.
At the time, Chris Roberts said it was about “changing the mentality” of Transport for London, justifying the £75,000 cost of the two reports. The first report wasn’t publicly available until this website submitted a Freedom of Information request.
Well, the second, suppressed report reveals that there’s two hopes for Eltham’s DLR extension – after the town’s most famous son, there’s Bob Hope and no hope.
Quite simply, the plan’s been shelved – with the council urged to back an extension only going as far as Kidbrooke on cost/benefit grounds.
But what’s more, TfL doesn’t seem interested. An email from project manager Tony Wilson is included in the report. It states: “If the desire is to bring more passengers to North Greenwich to access the westbound Jubilee line, it is not clear whether this is desirable from a crowding perspective or attractive from a customer perspective.
“At the moment it is unclear what the proposed line is trying to achieve and what alternatives means of achieving this have been considered. That’s not to say that I can’t see any merits in it, but they appear to be fairly minor given the available capacity on the existing DLR options via Lewisham and Greenwich, while it would carry a very high price tag, and would be competing for funding against a great many other capital projects which have established cases.”
Further notes from meetings with TfL staff suggest they still weren’t impressed with the plans – with overcrowding at North Greenwich one of the key worries.
So the report was suppressed. It wasn’t presented to the council’s cabinet as promised, and wasn’t sent to Transport for London as planned – much to the anger of Greenwich’s Conservative leader Spencer Drury, an Eltham councillor.
But perhaps Spencer should have asked just why the report wasn’t submitted to Greenwich Council’s cabinet, never mind TfL. Perhaps the answer’s in another part of Tony Wilson’s email.
Was the Kidbrooke/Eltham DLR extension killed off so Greenwich could pursue the Silvertown Tunnel that’s criticised in the report?
Indeed, cabinet member Denise Hyland and outgoing leader Chris Roberts have some questions to answer over this issue – particularly as to why Greenwich Labour councillors were cajoled into supporting a road scheme that a council report had said would just exacerbate congestion. Rank and file members in the Greenwich and Woolwich party rejected the scheme in January 2013, rebuking their own councillors.
It remains to be seen what line the post-Chris Roberts council will take on the Silvertown Tunnel – the Greenwich Labour party has yet to publish any kind of manifesto for 22 May’s election, although some Labour candidates are privately promising voters they’ll fight to reverse the council’s position.
In the meantime, while the “DLR on stilts” lies dead in the Quaggy, here’s some amazing mock-ups of what it could have looked like – including building the line over homes in east Greenwich.
From yesterday: Air pollution and SE London – the No to Silvertown Tunnel study.
It’s been a little bit quiet on this website over the past few weeks, and one of the reasons why is that I’ve been busy with the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign.
The results of our latest air pollution study were released last Thursday, and they’re horrifying – with nearly all of the 150 sites we monitored across south-east and east London recording nitrogen dioxide pollution above European Union legal limits.
Most personally shocking for me was the result at Bramshot Avenue, Charlton – by a subway under the A102 used by schoolchildren to get to and from schools in both Blackheath and Charlton. I used it myself 30 years ago. We recorded a level of 104 microgrammes per cubic metre – well over two and half times the EU limit of 40 ug/m3. People’s homes back onto the A102 at this stretch.
Worse results were recorded at the New Cross one-way system (110 ug/m3) and Lee High Road, Lewisham (109 ug/m3) – again, right in front of people’s homes.
There were also dreadful results right along the A2 through Deptford and New Cross, and along the A206 through Charlton and Greenwich – the latter just as it was when we did a similar study last year.
This year, we decided to expand our study to sites across Greenwich borough – but we expanded out to get coverage of SE London’s wider road network, which meant covering areas in parts of Lewisham borough (Hither Green Lane shown on the right), as well as stretching up to the Rotherhithe Tunnel and down the A2 to Bexleyheath.
We also covered areas north of the river, such as the proposed northern exit of the Silvertown Tunnel.
We joined forces with the campaigners at Don’t Dump on Deptford’s Heart, who are objecting to Thames Water’s plans to build a construction site for a sewer tunnel at Crossfields Green, Deptford Church Street, which allowed us both to expand our coverage and set our results in a wider context.
Indeed, it allows us to show that Greenwich Council’s uncritical backing for the Silvertown Tunnel will have dangerous consequences for its neighbouring boroughs.
With London facing EU fines for its dangerous air quality, other London boroughs fear they may have to pick up some of the tab – does this not worry anyone at Greenwich?
You can see a map of all the results at the No to Silvertown Tunnel website. It’s worth remembering that the study was carried out in the wettest January since records began – it’s likely the results would have been higher if the rain had held off.
We plan to update these results when we get local authority data, to give an even fuller picture of air pollution across the area.
Of course, you may be thinking that a new tunnel would ease all this pollution by clearing traffic jams. It won’t – it’ll merely bring new traffic to the area, encourage people away from other crossings, and exacerbate bottlenecks such as the southbound queue from the A2 at the Kidbrooke interchange.
Indeed, it’ll put more pressure on the already fragile A102/A2 corridor – the delusion that Silvertown will fix this was exposed in spectacular fashion last Thursday when a fire next to the planned Silvertown Tunnel slip road closed the A102, bring traffic to a standstill across south-east London. The tunnel will be bad news for drivers too – and that’s before you consider TfL’s plans to toll both it and Blackwall.
Of course, the air pollution isn’t just about the Silvertown Tunnel or a huge construction site in Deptford – our results highlight poor air quality around east Greenwich’s proposed Ikea store, as well as in areas of Plumstead and Welling that will be affected by any bridge at Gallions Reach, Thamesmead.
But while our results will be open for anyone to use, we’ll be sticking with the battle against the Silvertown Tunnel.
(By the same token, it’s not just about Greenwich Council and Transport for London. Lewisham Council’s record in monitoring air quality is patchy, while Newham’s monitoring also misses out whole areas of its borough.)
We’ll be spending the summer talking to people about the results, spreading the word and refining our arguments – both on pollution and traffic levels. We’ve been reliant on a fantastic team of volunteers, we don’t have a weekly council newspaper and we’re not rich property developers, so any offers of help or donations would be gratefully accepted.
But the simplest thing you can do is to spread the word – tell your friends and neighbours. And if someone pops up on your doorstep over the next couple of weeks looking for your vote, why not ask them what their view is on the Silvertown Tunnel, and what they’ve done to oppose it?
After all, I’ve been spending my past few weeks doing what some of them should have done long ago – opposing this crazy plan. In Greenwich, it’s time councillors and party activists faced some awkward questions.
Tomorrow: How senior Greenwich councillors were warned about the risks of mayor Boris Johnson’s plans for the Silvertown Tunnel – but chose to ignore the advice.
So, we’re just over three weeks away from the elections to Greenwich Council (and all other London boroughs) on 22 May. Had you noticed the carnival of democracy filling the streets?
Nah, me neither. Here’s who’s standing…
|Labour||Conservatives||Liberal Democrats||Green Party||UKIP||Others|
|Abbey Wood||Denise Hyland
|Gerard Briody||Michael Glenister||-|
| Paul Morrissey
Laela Pakpour Tabrizi
|Jack Wheeler||Gary Port||-|
& New Eltham
|Dave Sharman||Peter Whittle||Cliff Adams (BNP)|
|Eltham North|| Linda Bird
|Rob Stead||Paul Butler||Roberta Woods (BNP)|
|Eltham South||Simon Christie
|David Turner||John Evans||Eileen Glover (Ind)
Thelma Peete (BNP)
|Eltham West||Bill Freeman
|Mark Stevenson||Ryan Acty||Paul Ramsey (BNP)|
|Janine Wilson||-||Lynne Chamberlain (TUSC)
Sian Stringer (TUSC)
Sara Kasab (TUSC)
|Greenwich West||Maureen O’Mara
| Gold Chudi Emmanuel
|Frances Hunter||Arthur Hayles||Barbara Ray||-|
|Roger Brand||Raymond Adams||Nick Scanlon (BNP)|
|Gillian Radcliffe||Terry Wheeler (Ind)|
|Sylvia Derrick-Reeve||Jo Lawbuary||Ronie Johnson||-|
|Shooters Hill||Chris Kirby
|Michael Westcombe||Les Price||-|
|Thamesmead Moorings||Olu Babatola
|Paul West||Susan Haroutunian||-||Freda McEwen (Ind)
Femi Solola (Ind)
|Peter Gwizdala||Purnendu Roy||David Warwicker||-|
|Elizabeth Angas||John Gill||Hamsa Yusuf (Ind)|
Ind – Indepdendent, TUSC – Trade Union & Socialist Coalition
Not got a polling card yet? Visit aboutmyvote.co.uk to get yourself registered.
Real life’s meant things have been rather busy at 853 Towers lately, but the only sign of an election so far has been an underwhelming leaflet from the Labour party’s Charlton branch with a little survey to fill in and back. Nobody else has bothered so far.
(If you have any, it’s worth sticking them up on electionleaflets.org to share with the wider world.)
Of course, the electioneering continues unofficially in the pages of council propaganda weekly Greenwich Time, still being published during the purdah period, and this week leading on crime figures. All remains doubleplusgood in the self-styled royal borough.
If outgoing leader Chris Roberts can’t appear in his paper right now, he can still edit it (while also even hiding behind the council’s press office to slag off a Tory.) Heaven knows what’s going to happen in the council bunker when he finally goes – or if Eric Pickles finally shuts Greenwich Time down.
As for the politicians, and would-be politicians, the candidates list confirms that Chris Roberts’s deputy Peter Brooks was shoehorned into the outgoing Dear Leader’s Glyndon ward at the last minute, while there’s a fair number of UKIP candidates for the first time – the European elections could have a strange effect on the local ones. Lib Dem candidates drop to 40, the Greens are standing 19 candidates, while People Before Profit appears to have abandoned its push into Greenwich in favour of campaign hijacking in Lewisham.
The only party to have bothered publicly releasing a manifesto is the Liberal Democrats.
So far, so uninteresting. But things might be different around your way. There are some little stories in there that I’ll try to tease out at a later date, but how has the election been for you so far? Are you drowning in leaflets or being ignored by your candidates? And will you be voting?
Recognise the green space above? It’s the little eco-garden behind Sainsbury’s in Greenwich, which is due for demolition along with the supermarket if Ikea’s plans to build a store here go ahead.
It’s also going to be where the No Ikea Greenwich Peninsula campaign will be launching with a picnic a week on Saturday (12 noon, 26 April), to fight against the arrival of a store which it’s feared will generate huge weekend traffic jams.
Greenwich Council gave the scheme outline planning permission last month, with planning board members Denise Hyland, Steve Offord, Clive Mardner, chief whip Ray Walker and council leader Chris Roberts ignoring over an hour of public criticism to endorse the proposal, after it was rushed through the planning process.
Campaigners have already sent a blistering open letter to outgoing leader Roberts, branding the site “clearly unsuitable for a standard Ikea store”, adding: “This is not responsible planning; this is planned chaos.”
This would be the first Ikea store in a congested residential area and the only Ikea in a Royal Borough. When Greenwich was granted Royal Borough status in 2012, you visited local primary schools to celebrate, handing out commemorative coins. Only two years later, you cave in to the pressure of an out-of-town furniture retail giant, wilfully disregarding the health of its residents and the impact this development would have on both the Unesco heritage site and the Greenwich Millennium Village.
We will not rest in our efforts to make the public aware of your actions and to use every means possible to put a stop to this outline planning consent going ahead.
Roberts announced his intention to not seek re-election as a councillor last Friday, and the council has now gone into purdah ahead of 22 May’s election – essentially, the council must avoid controversial issues and leave those to the political parties fighting he election.
But there’s clearly a rush to get something through planning ahead of Roberts’ departure – a previously-unscheduled planning board meeting has been called for 6 May, just 16 days before the poll.
In 2010, the last planning board meeting was six weeks before the poll, and the gap was five weeks in 2006. With future council policy somewhat uncertain following Roberts’ departure, and a whole load of big schemes being rubber-stamped over recent weeks, it’ll be interesting to see just what’s being rushed through on 6 May.
8.45am update: Boris Johnson’s office has told the protesters he will not intervene to overturn Greenwich Council’s decision to support the planned Ikea store.
Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts is to quit the authority altogether at next month’s council election, he’s announced in an email to councillors.
Roberts, who was first elected to the council in the 1990s and became leader in 2000, had previously announced he would stand down as leader but seek re-election in Glyndon ward.
This website understands that Roberts resigned as a director of council company Meridian Home Start after clashing with Labour councillors about the firm’s role.
Roberts’ resignation email in full:
I wrote in February last year to advise that it was not my intention to seek re-election as Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich following this year’s local elections in May.
The administration held its final Council meeting at the end of March and on Monday the formal period of election ‘purdah’ commences.
I am therefore writing to you now to advise that it is not in fact my intention to seek election to the Council at all. I believe the presence of a previous leader in the new administration, especially one who has held the post as long as I have, is unfair on any successor.
When I wrote last year, I expressed the hope that we would be able to complete the work necessary to secure the Crossrail station at Woolwich. This we were able to announce last July.
Our work on Crossrail was itself a crucial element of our growth agenda which has also seen the development of four new development master plans backed by targeted intervention by the Council to stimulate economic activity and generate employment.
These include commitments over the next four years to build a new leisure centre in the heart of Woolwich, a new cinema in Eltham High Street, a performing arts centre in the Borough Halls at Greenwich and the expansion of pier capacity at Greenwich, Woolwich, Charlton and Thamesmead.
In addition the Council is primed to finance up to £30m of investment in the expansion of school places to meet the growing demand of our population as well as securing more than 450 genuinely affordable homes to be built on the Greenwich Peninsula for those in greatest need.
Of course the final year of this administration has been overshadowed by the awful murder of Lee Rigby and marks the lowest point of my entire period as Leader. I am relieved at least that his killers were so swiftly brought to justice. I hope this, alongside the outpouring of support and thanks for Lee’s service to his country, provides some small measure of condolence to his family.
During this last year, I am particularly proud of the progress we have made in moving people off benefits and into work. A coherent and coordinated approach has enabled hundreds of families locally move into employment.
Our programmes for growth and anti-poverty have been recognised nationally, as indeed is our continuing strong record of financial management. None of the projects I have referred to above require additional support from the Council Tax payer.
We have frozen Council Tax seven years in a row and the Council’s finances have been left in a robust state which will enable this to be maintained during the four year life of the next Council.
I remain enormously grateful for having had the honour to serve as Leader of this Borough. As I write last year, I have been blessed with an extraordinary collection of Council officers who have embraced the agenda I have set, even when that agenda keeps expanding.
The same is true of the remarkable women who have worked in my personal office and given so much by way of support and help to me.
I was grateful for the huge number of kind messages I received to my message last year and while some have kindly canvassed my candidature for London or Westminster, it has always been my wish to ‘do’ something rather than ‘be’ something.
I have greatly valued the support and commitment of our wide and expanding array of partners to working with, for or alongside Greenwich during my time as Leader.
I trust this will continue and that my successor when she is elected in June will be equally blessed and that the work we have each committed to on behalf of the people of Royal Greenwich will continue into the future.
Leader, Royal Borough of Greenwich
Roberts’ resignation now opens the way for one of his close associates, such as current deputy leader Peter Brooks, to be parachuted into the Glyndon seat ahead of Monday’s close of nominations for the elections. It could be an interesting weekend in the Greenwich Labour Party.
A new council leader will be chosen by councillors in June. Roberts’ use of the word “she” would appear to confirm suggestions that cabinet members Denise Hyland and Jackie Smith are front-runners.
London mayor Boris Johnson has admitted his proposals for the Silvertown Tunnel will cause “much more pressure and much more traffic” on local roads – despite his allies at Greenwich Council claiming the opposite.
Johnson’s admission also gives campaigners against a new Ikea in Greenwich a new line of argument while the mayor considers whether or not to ratify Greenwich Council’s decision to back the new store.
All this comes in a week London’s been enveloped in a smog which is actually visible thanks to it including some Saharan dust particles – with the capital’s politicians paralysed by inaction.
Johnson’s comments about Silvertown were made in a phone-in on LBC with breakfast host Nick Ferrari on Tuesday morning. Thanks to Boriswatch’s Tom Barry for the heads-up and transcript of this conversation with a caller called Mark from Dagenham, 25 minutes into the programme:
“What we’ve got to do, Mark, actually, is build not just one bridge but a series of river crossings, we’re starting with the Blackwall 2 tunnel… that will be going by 2020, or 2020-2021 – not so far away! Erm, only six years or seven years to go, we’re going for the Blackwall 2 tunnel at Silvertown, but we will also need a series of crossings to the, to the east and actually there’s a there’s a there’s loads of sites that er, are we are looking at and, um, I think the important thing for people of um both on both sides is that you shouldn’t just do one, because if you do one then you’re going to get much more pressure, much more traffic on, on that area and if you if you you can dilute the traffic if you have if you have several crossings.”
Yet the current proposals from Transport for London, which Johnson chairs, are just for the one crossing – at Silvertown. And Johnson has been happy to push the merits of this one crossing in the past – calling it “a major new crossing east of Tower Bridge”.
(Update Friday 8.30am: A spokesperson for Johnson has also told the Mercury that Silvertown will DOUBLE capacity at Blackwall. Past TfL statements have put the planned increase in traffic at 20%.)
So not only has Boris Johnson torpedoed his own argument, his friendly fire has also shot down some of the nonsense spouted by his partners-in-roadbuilding at Greenwich Council, such as this classic from “Greener Greenwich” cabinet member Harry Singh.
It’s increasingly looking like the mayor is starting to soften up for a U-turn on the Gallions Reach crossing – which would flood Woolwich, Plumstead and Abbey Wood with new traffic, as well as for more roadbuilding in general. But where else along SE London’s riverfront would Johnson swing his wrecking-ball to build yet more road crossings?
Meanwhile, while voicing doubts on putting too much pressure on the road network on the Greenwich Peninsula, the mayor is currently deciding whether or not to approve Greenwich Council’s decision to allow Ikea to build a new superstore there.
Of course, an Ikea will bring the same problem – an increase in traffic, something that was ignored when it was bulldozed through planning last month.
So it’s possible to use Johnson’s words to argue the case against Greenwich’s decision, as well as the GLA’s 2004 objection to a store in Sidcup. If you want to write to City Hall to object, use reference number D&P/3283/PR and write to planning[at]london.gov.uk before 9 April.