Category: local stuff

Lewisham Council opposes the Silvertown Tunnel – but will Greenwich fall for TfL’s tricks?


Lewisham Council voted unanimously last night to oppose TfL £1bn Silvertown Tunnel scheme, on the grounds that it risks increasing both congestion and air pollution in the area.

The Labour-run council endorsed a motion proposed by Blackheath councillor Kevin Bonavia, who mocked TfL’s claims on air pollution as “simply not good enough”.

Lewisham’s opposition follows that of Hackney, which passed a motion against the tunnel in July.

The current consultation – which closes this Sunday – is intended to rubber-stamp the controversial scheme before it goes through a special streamlined planning process.

The tunnel is by no means a done deal – while the process is being rushed through so it can be ticked off before Boris Johnson leaves office, his successor as mayor can bin the project as soon as they take over.

All but one of Lewisham councillors will be hoping their motion helps to persuade Labour’s mayoral candidate, Sadiq Khan, to dump the scheme. The remaining councillor, the Green Party’s one-man opposition, John Coughlin, also spoke up for the motion. Green candidate Sian Berry is already against the tunnel.

To object to TfL’s proposal, visit before 11.59pm on Sunday. For tips on what to say, visit No to Silvertown Tunnel.

Lewisham’s motion says the planned tunnel between Greenwich and the Royal Docks “risks exacerbating rather than dispersing” traffic congestion in the area, including on the A2 and the South Circular Road in the borough.

The resulting increase in congestion also risks “a deterioration of air quality in the London Borough of Lewisham”, affecting the health of residents, it added.

Particular worries for Lewisham councillors include the dreadful air quality around New Cross and Deptford – which even TfL admits will get worse under the Silvertown scheme – and the congestion blackspot of the Catford one-way system, which needs no help from the Blackwall Tunnel to become gridlocked.

“What TfL don’t say is how they’ll deal with the approach roads,” Cllr Bonavia, the council’s cabinet member for resources, said. “All they’ll have is a widening of the A102 near the tunnel – nothing about the approach roads further up.

“What does that mean for us in Lewisham, on the A2 and South Circular? More congestion.

“This proposal is poorly planned, poorly placed, and can only harm the poor congestion and poor air quality our residents face.”

Seconding the motion, fellow cabinet member Rachel Onikosi accused TfL of “over-egging” claims that the tunnel would be a “congestion killer”.

So Lewisham’s councillors have made it clear they won’t be taken in by TfL. So have Hackney’s. But what about Greenwich?

A2 traffic jam in Eltham

This website has written before about the dire perils of trying to appease TfL on the Silvertown Tunnel.

The No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign began from a petition on this website three years ago.

It’s since gained a life of its own, conducting three air quality studies, submitting evidence to parliamentary and City Hall inquiries, meeting politicians and doing its damnedest to get this thing stopped. (So I should point out that this post does not represent the views of the campaign, whose members have views of their own.)

Some of the Greenwich political figures who have been asking why this website hasn’t been properly updated for weeks will hopefully have been spending their time reading up on the scheme.

There are thousands of pages of consultation documents to sift through – full of contradictions and dodgy assumptions – but it remains clear that this is a botched scheme that needs to be opposed.

Whether or not you believe new road-building somewhere is what’s needed (generally it’s only a short-term fix at best), the tunnel is looking like a costly, under-scrutinised disaster. It’s all very well crying “something must be done” – this ain’t it, and TfL has played many people for mugs. There’s no one, satisfying big bang solution to getting rid of those jams.

Despite the glossy propaganda which has somehow turned up in scores of community venues across Greenwich borough, TfL has consistently admitted some areas will see increased pollution and congestion because of the scheme.

Tolling is likely to end up being the worst of all worlds, with fees too low to deter HGVs and Kent commuters, but enough to send increasing amounts of more local traffic to Rotherhithe. There are no plans to toll at weekends, despite heavy congestion on Saturdays and Sundays.

Meanwhile, the cost has crept up to £1bn, up from £600m three years ago. Desperate talk about boosting cross-river bus services is at odds with the current reality where TfL neglects the 108, and canned the Rotherhithe Tunnel’s service nine years ago.

And there’s the obvious, fatal flaw that hobbles the scheme from the start – while it’s aimed at relieving northbound Blackwall Tunnel queues, it will only exacerbate each evening’s southbound queues.

Many evenings see traffic at a crawl back through Eltham, Kidbrooke and back into Greenwich – imagine that with the 20% extra traffic even TfL predicts will use the A102/A2. There are also similar problems north of the river.

There are many different reasons why the Silvertown Tunnel must be stopped – whether you’re a driver, a bus user, a pedestrian, a cyclist, someone who has to breathe this area’s foul air, or a combination of all or some of these.

A2 jam at Kidbrooke

So far, Greenwich’s Labour councillors have stayed notably silent on a Conservative scheme that will have serious implications for the borough. There are murmurings that they’ve been told to keep schtum.

Regeneration cabinet member Danny Thorpe and deputy leader John Fahy attended No to Silvertown Tunnel’s public meeting two weeks ago, but did not contribute any of their thoughts. Nor did the assembled Tories.

What is clear, however, is that the demands put forward in Greenwich’s response to the last Silvertown Tunnel consultation haven’t been met. Demands to run the DLR through the tunnel to Kidbrooke and Eltham have been rejected, and TfL hasn’t been forthcoming with proposals to extend the London Overground from Barking to Abbey Wood.

A third demand, to run the DLR to Thamesmead and Abbey Wood, could appear in a new consultation on a crossing at Gallions Reach to appear on Monday, but taken in isolation, appears to have little relevance to the Silvertown scheme.

Further demands – for independently-scrutinised modelling that shows congestion and pollution would be cut – also have not been met, as the current consultation only carries “preliminary” modelling.

But this website understands from a variety of sources that TfL has been trying to secure Greenwich backing by tying a number of improvements – many desperately needed anyway – to implementation of the Silvertown Tunnel scheme.

These include a bus route from Kidbrooke Village to North Greenwich, which has been on the drawing board for at least 12 years, since the days when the Ferrier Estate was still standing.

More cynically, this website understands that TfL is tying installing a noise barrier along the A102 in Blackheath to implementation of the Silvertown Tunnel scheme, and that Greenwich councillors are happy to go along with this.

Essentially, this means that if residents on Westcombe Hill and Siebert Road (on the left in the picture below) don’t want to be deafened by traffic noise, they have to agree to be choked by even more traffic.

Charlton Road/A102 bridge, 2 April 2014

When it comes down to it, the Silvertown Tunnel question comes down to whether you wish to challenge Transport for London’s modelling and the assumptions that lie behind it.

One group which is set not to challenge TfL is the Greenwich Society. This website has seen its draft response, which swallows the TfL line almost completely – backing the tunnel despite admitting it will cause “small increases in traffic on local roads”.

The society left writing its response to Sir Alan Bailey, a former permanent secretary in the Department for Transport in the 1980s – his words reflect the thinking common in those times. Greenwich Society members might like to wonder what they are getting for their subscription fees.

This website understands the Westcombe Society and East Greenwich Residents Association are rejecting the scheme.

Many Greenwich Labour councillors like to pretend they have no influence over the process – even though their mayoral candidate could, if elected, cancel the scheme in May.

Of course, in other political spheres, we’ve seen Labour politicians face down dangerous proposals from Conservative opponents – such as George Osborne’s tax credit cuts.

With Londoners dying from air pollution-related causes, and town centres choked by traffic congestion, it would be refreshing to see Greenwich follow in Lewisham’s lead and stand up for residents. Will they? We’ll have to wait and see.

To object to TfL’s proposal, visit before 11.59pm on Sunday. For tips on what to say, visit No to Silvertown Tunnel or see its full response.

Electoral roll changes: More than 1 in 20 Lewisham people could lose their right to vote

Lewisham Council is trying to get people to sign up to the register

Last month, this website revealed that one in 50 Greenwich borough residents could lose their right to vote under changes to the electoral register being introduced in December.

Now it’s emerged that the situation is worse in neighbouring Lewisham – with more than one in 20 voters set to fall off the register if they don’t act before 1 December.

Previously, the electoral roll was compiled by one member of each household filling in a survey form. Now, everybody who wants a vote has to apply individually.

Figures released by Lewisham Council under the Freedom of Information Act show that out of 195,863 voters in the borough, 10,730 face falling off the roll when councils switch to the new system on 1 December.

As in Greenwich, it is less well-off areas of Lewisham borough that face losing the most voters. Evelyn ward, which covers most of Deptford, risks losing 8% of its voters; while New Cross ward is set to lose 7.5%.

Lewisham kindly supplied a breakdown of how many voters are registered in each of these 19 wards, so these figures are more detailed than those offered by Greenwich.

Ward Missing voters
Evelyn (11,308 voters) 910 (8%)
New Cross (11,260) 852 (7.5%)
Lewisham Central (13,028) 842 (6.4%)
Rushey Green (9,766) 614 (6.3%)
Telegraph Hill (11,610) 697 (6%)
Brockley (12,518) 738 (5.9%)
Forest Hill (10,764) 631 (5.8%)
Perry Vale (11,264) 627 (5.5%)
Sydenham (11,129) 616 (5.5%)
Ladywell (10,060) 515 (5.1%)
Bellingham (10,308) 529 (5.1%)
Catford South (10,788) 549 (5.1%)
Whitefoot (9,913) 492 (4.9%)
Crofton Park (10,879) 494 (4.5%)
Downham (10,315) 450 (4.3%)
Grove Park (10,517) 442 (4.2%)
Blackheath (10,091) 393 (3.9%)
Lee Green (10,345) 339 (3.3%)

Total “red matches” – those due to come off electoral register in 1 December 2015, as at 11 November 2015. Ward electorates as at 1 September. Source: Lewisham Council

Lewisham staff have been working to make sure people stay on the roll, and these efforts are highlighted in the council’s figures – 1,410 people have been put on the roll since 1 September.

While it’s true the change may also weed out names that shouldn’t be on the register – because they are dead, or are registered in two different places – the Labour Party has launched a “missing million” campaign to get people back on the electoral roll.

This isn’t just out of public service – proposals to cut the number of parliamentary constituencies from 650 to 600, which are set to particularly affect Labour’s urban heartlands, are likely to use 1 December 2015 as a reference date.

Seats in Greenwich and Lewisham are particularly under threat from the changes, which are likely to see many more seats span borough boundaries.

Lewisham Deptford, currently held by Vicky Foxcroft, is set to lose 6.2% of voters. Past plans to redraw constituencies first saw the Deptford area merged with Greenwich, before it was then joined with Rotherhithe.

Think you’re not on the electoral roll? Check with electoral offices in Lewisham, Greenwich, or anywhere else. Know you’re not on the roll? Register now.

PS. The Freedom of Information Act, which uncovered these figures in both Greenwich and Lewisham, is under threat. See four simple ways you can take action.

Are you on the new-look electoral roll? 1 in 50 Greenwich people could lose their right to vote

More than 1 in 50 Greenwich borough residents could lose their right to vote due to Government changes to the way electoral registers are compiled.

Greenwich Council says 4,293 electors are at risk of falling off the roll when it is forced to switch to individual electoral registration in December.

Broken down by ward, the difference is enough to unseat two of Greenwich’s current councillors, judging by 2014’s election results.

Previously, the electoral roll was compiled by one member of each household filling in a survey form. Now, everybody who wants a vote will has to apply individually.

Even if you had a vote in May’s general election, you may still be at risk of falling off the register as voters who’d registered under the old method were still included then.

If you’re unsure you’re on the register, you can check with Greenwich Council’s electoral registration office (or Lewisham’s, or anywhere else). You can get yourself on the roll by visiting

186,340 people were registered to vote in Greenwich in May 2015, up from 174,522 at the time of 2014’s council poll.

The Labour Party launched a “missing million” campaign last weekend focused on driving up electoral registration – it fears that it will lose votes in poorer areas.

That analysis is borne out in Greenwich borough – a ward-by-ward breakdown of where the missing voters are shows more in Thamesmead Moorings and the two wards covering Woolwich. While Labour has little to fear in those three seats, it will need every vote it can get in next year’s mayoral election if Sadiq Khan is to beat Zac Goldsmith to City Hall.

Ward Missing voters
Abbey Wood 295
Blackheath Westcombe 165
Charlton 197
Coldharbour & New Eltham 147
Eltham North 108
Eltham South 121
Eltham West 164
Glyndon 338
Greenwich West 350
Kidbrooke with Hornfair 232
Middle Park and Sutcliffe 158
Peninsula 205
Plumstead 297
Shooters Hill 215
Thamesmead Moorings 510
Woolwich Common 385
Woolwich Riverside 406

Total “red matches” – those due to come off electoral register in 1 December 2015. Source: Greenwich Council

In marginal seats, the effects of missing votes could go both ways. Judging by 2014’s results, two more Labour councillors could have been elected in Blackheath Westcombe and Eltham South if all the “red matches” were Tory voters and had already been removed.

The figures were obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request to Greenwich Council. A similar request was made to Lewisham.

PS. Leader of the House of Commons Chris Grayling today accused journalists of “misusing” Freedom of Information laws to “generate” news stories. The government is currently reviewing FOI laws.

‘Green Trafalgar Road’ scheme wins City Hall cash for Greenwich

A visualisation from EGRA of what Woodland Walk could look like

A visualisation from EGRA of what Woodland Walk could look like

Congratulations to the East Greenwich Residents Association, whose scheme to “green” Trafalgar Road has won an £18,000 grant from City Hall.

The neighbourhood group recently raised over £6,000 in a crowdfunding exercise to promote the plan to improve the environment along the main route through the area.

EGRA wants to see street barriers covered with plants, a green canopy and seating in the neglected Woodland Walk alleyway (pictured above), and the return of market stalls to Tyler Street and Colomb Street.

The City Hall cash, part of the Mayor’s High Street Fund, now brings the kitty to over £24,000, but the cash can only be a start – it also wants Greenwich Council to do its bit by removing street clutter and maintaining the area properly.

It’s a big victory for a group that’s not been afraid to take on the council – it recently called on leader Denise Hyland to stand down from its main planning committee, where she is the only borough leader to have a full-time role in planning decisions.

The council’s notoriously tribal leadership will now have to swallow its anger about EGRA’s criticisms to work with the group on its plan for Trafalgar Road. Council officers have already helped with the plan, including securing the future of the market pitches, which have not been regularly used since the 1990s.

Residents would like to see the neighbourhood get a fair amount of the cash the council is getting for the huge developments in the area.

Getting hold of this Section 106 money could be tricky – this cash tends to disappear into borough-wide pots, as the fate of the £1.5m given for the Charlton Sainsbury’s development shows.

But one source could be the cash generated by selling the “pocket park” on Blackwall Lane to a developer, where 20% of the £1m+ receipts have been earmarked for projects in Peninsula ward, which covers Trafalgar Road.

Local councillor Denise Scott-McDonald argued in favour of the sale in July, telling her fellow cabinet members: “I think it’s a great opportunity. The fact that we’re getting 20% of the money is an opportunity for our ward to really put money into areas that we need to be developed.”

There’s also a message here for local groups – moaning about the council simply isn’t enough; you have to get off your backside and do things yourself. Those in Charlton murmuring about whether that area needs a regeneration scheme might like to take note.

If you’re interested in finding out more about EGRA, it’s holding one of its regular open meetings in the Star and Garter pub in Greenwich Park Street at 7.30pm this evening (Tuesday 15th).

Other south-east London schemes to win cash includes the ambitious Peckham Coal Line project – a New York High Line-style scheme to turn disused rail sidings into green space – as well as a social enterprise grocery store in Catford and a plan to turn a disused water tank in Lewisham into an art space.

Refugee crisis: Blackheath’s Age Exchange taking donations

Champion Hill, 5 September 2015
If you’ve been moved in recent days by reports of refugees fleeing Syria and want to donate clothes, sleeping bags or other items to the camp in Calais, then the Age Exchange centre in Blackheath Village is accepting donations from 9am-6pm on weekdays and 10am-5pm on Saturdays.

If you’re unsure about what to bring, take a look at the Lewisham for Refugees Facebook group, set up by Lewisham Central councillor Joani Reid. The priority seems to be men’s warm clothes and camping gear, but take a look at the latest lists there.

I’ve not seen any similar initiative in Greenwich borough, and nothing’s been publicised in this week’s Pravda – council leader Denise Hyland tweeted at the weekend that she expected the Government to meet any “unavoidable costs” of housing refugees.

Lewisham mayor Steve Bullock says the council is already “making preparations” to house its share of refugees. If you do know of anything, please let everyone know in the comments below (thoughts about the wider situation can go elsewhere, thank you).

Pictured above is just some of Saturday’s huge collection at non-league football club Dulwich Hamlet, which included sleeping bags, two guitars, clothes and toys.

Tuesday update: There is now an equivalent Facebook group for Greenwich borough.

Video: Meet the captain of the Woolwich Ferry

“Everybody’s interested in the job I’m doing, what I’m up to. Yeah, I love it. I’m very proud. You get to see all the vessels that go by, get to see some beautiful vessels.”

Here’s a short film of the Woolwich Ferry’s captain, David Watkins – produced as part of the great 1,000 Londoners series.

Greenwich Peninsula: 22.7% of new homes set to be ‘affordable’

Greenwich Peninsula developers' pavillion

Less than a quarter of homes on the new phase of Greenwich Peninsula development will be “affordable”, according to planning documents released by Greenwich Council last night.

Greenwich planners are recommending councillors approve the scheme at a meeting on Tuesday 8 September. Just 22.7% of homes of the 12,678 won’t be sold at full rate, the 320-page planning report reveals.

The original masterplan for the peninsula, agreed in 2004, envisaged 40% of homes being “affordable”.

But that stalled, and Hong Kong-based developer Knight Dragon – controlled by billionaire Dr Henry Cheng – which is now in charge of the scheme, has taken a much more aggressive approach to developing the huge site.

It controversially persuaded councillors to allow it no “affordable” properties at all on the plots nearest Canary Wharf, Peninsula Quays, leading to a legal row which resulted in Greenwich being forced to reveal the viability assessments it used to make the decision.

2004: Council newspaper Greenwich Time trumpets 40% "affordable" accommodation on the Peninsula. How things have changed...

2004: Council newspaper Greenwich Time trumpets 40% “affordable” accommodation on the Peninsula. How things have changed…

Greenwich has published the viability assessment for the new scheme, where consultants Christopher Marsh and Company pinpoint withdrawals of grants by the last government as a factor in the low figure.

“Some agency, or several, will receive significant sums via the original land agreement, and currently, none, it would appear, are prepared to re-cycle any share of those receipts back into affordable housing in Greenwich. That is a key driver in this case. Before February 2014, when Government largely abandoned grant aid to affordable housing, we would have expected most schemes to have exceeded 30% affordable housing. Without grant, that expectation has now been reduced by about one third.”

A further document from BNP Paribas compares the Peninsula scheme with property values at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich – an improvement on the Peninsula Quays scheme where values across the whole borough were used, despite the unique nature of the site.

The document indicates that the headline figure for new homes remains 12,678, with towers of up to 40 storeys.

A quick skim through the papers would appear to indicate Greenwich planners have largely accepted Knight Dragon’s transport proposals, despite fears from a raft of local groups and even Transport for London that they will pile additional pressure onto North Greenwich station. An early reference to the “Silvertown Tunnel Rail Link” suggests that planners may not totally be on the ball here.

TfL says: “Jubilee Line crowding is already an issue and is forecast to continue in 2031. The additional crowding on Jubilee Line services is considered an issue. TfL cannot agree that the London Underground (LU) and National Rail networks would be largely unaffected by the proposed development.”

Indeed, council planners shrugged off calls for a pedestrian and cycle connection to Canary Wharf to relieve the Jubilee Line in just a sentence – “the feasibility of a pedestrian link between the Peninsula and Canary Wharf has been investigated previously but it is not considered feasible” – presumably a reference to an 2010 assessment by TfL produced to justify the construction of the Thames Cable Car, which said a bridge would not bring in any income.

The only explicit mass public transport improvement appears to be funding for a bus from Kidbrooke Village to North Greenwich – which is likely to pile even more pressure on the Jubilee Line.

There’s a lot to wade through, but it’s hard to see quite where Greenwich has tried to strike any worthwhile bargain with Knight Dragon. The big question remains – will the council’s planning board swallow Dr Cheng’s prescription?