Election aftermath: What next for politics in Greenwich?

A selection of the leaflets to drop through the door at 853 Towers during the campaign.

A selection of the leaflets to drop through the door at 853 Towers during the campaign.

As the dust settles after the general election, Matt Hartley has landed his prize for boosting the Tory vote in Greenwich & Woolwich – he’s been named the new Conservative leader on Greenwich Council.

The 29-year-old succeeds Spencer Drury, whose dry barbs at the council’s Labour leadership have become a feature of life at Woolwich Town Hall. Drury remains a councillor and will no doubt be looking to shore up the Tories’ position in his home ward of Eltham North, where the party’s vote was shredded by a Ukip surge last year, handing two seats to Labour.

Being Tory leader in a London Labour borough when Iain Duncan Smith has just been reappointed social security secretary isn’t the easiest of jobs, but it’s a fair old progression from just missing out in a council election in Warwick in 2007.

Hartley’s comments suggest he’ll continue with Drury’s task of holding the council to account rather than simply making party political jabs.

“With the threat of a Lewisham-style one party state always hanging over us, being Leader of the Opposition in Greenwich means more than leading the Conservative council group – but rather giving all residents with a differing view the voice and the say that they are so often denied by this Labour council. That’s exactly what I plan to do.”

It’s worth noting one skill that Hartley can use to help the Tories punch above their weight – his day job is in communications for a personal finance charity, giving him an ability to spot stories that perhaps the local party has missed in the past.

Expect more campaigns along the lines of Sort It, Southeastern – I wonder if he’ll risk looking a big meanie and start a public drive against the costly tall ships festival?

Fair and balanced: Greenwich Time celebrates Labour's success

Fair and balanced: Greenwich Time celebrates Labour’s success

Labour’s big Ukip question

Labour’s satisfaction at seeing Matt Pennycook elected alongside Clive Efford and Teresa Pearce will have been tempered by the party’s failures nationally. It’ll be interesting to see where the battle over Greenwich Time goes now Greg Clark has replaced Eric Pickles as communities secretary. This week’s Greenwich Time might as well carry the headline “Up yours, Pickles”.

Humility in victory has never been the local party’s strong point – Clive Efford’s response to success was to criticise Conservative Spencer Drury for campaigning on the state of the borough’s war memorials. But there’s pause for thought if you look into the polling figures.

The strong votes for Ukip (8% in Greenwich & Woolwich, 15% in Eltham) should ring alarm bells – with the Tory votes up in both seats, it looks as if the hard right party has started to eat into the potential Labour vote.

Just as in the rest of England, how Labour communicates with white voters who feel left behind will be a question that needs addressing sooner rather than later. Engaging with campaigns such as the one for a memorial to Lee Rigby rather than simply ignoring them is key, I suspect.

(A few miles down the A2, it’s startling to discover from Alex Grant that Dartford, which tends to swing with the incoming government, was abandoned by the national party, which threw resources at ousting Lib Dems – potential coalition partners – instead. Madness.)

The Greenwich West ward by-election provides the strongest indication to the local party’s future – former Kirklees council leader Mehboob Khan topped the poll, and is strongly tipped as a future leader in Greenwich, too. Smart enough to steal the Greens’ clothes on the Divest Greenwich campaign, he was also generous enough to publicly commiserate with losing candidates – like I said, humilty’s rare in these parts. One to watch.

Abbey Akinoshun's deleted tweet and James Parker's election doubts

Abbey Akinoshun’s deleted tweet and James Parker’s election doubts

Green gaffes, but did anyone notice?

The Greens can feel pleased with themselves after getting well over double their 2010 vote in Greenwich & Woolwich. Could their candidates have done better? It’s hard to say, but they certainly were weak links in a strong local party operation. I dealt with Greenwich & Woolwich’s Abbey Akinoshun’s no-shows at hustings, but his worst moment was tweeting a photo of himself carrying a “vote Green” slogan next to an appeal for the victims of the Nepal earthquake. It was quickly deleted. While some Labour councillors’ messages about Nepal certainly had the whiff of opportunism, this was just crassly stupid.

Worse was to come on polling day itself, when Eltham candidate James Parker, a magician from Folkestone, told the Guardian voters should pick Labour instead – a warning sign that perhaps could have been picked up after a tweet a couple of days beforehand saying he was suffering from a “crisis of conscience”. (The party says he was misquoted.)

Warning bells rang for others much earlier – I met Parker in the bar of Mycenae House, Blackheath after he was selected in January – the No to Silvertown Tunnel AGM coincided with a Green meeting upstairs.

I mentioned how pleased we were at our turnout, but he became very dismissive and suggested we should be addressing a meeting of thousands and the campaign should be linked to corporate greed, etc, etc. He later seemed to understand, but things got more awkward later when he was involved in an angry confrontation with former Green party member Trevor Allman.

But these incidents were only seen by a handful of obsessives who know the party too well, like me. Most people would have entered the polling booth blissfully unaware. Hopefully the recent surge in local Green membership will mean the Greenwich party will be able to grow and nurture its own candidates for future polls. Getting more actively involved in local grassroots campaigns will serve the party well as it looks to next year’s mayoral poll and beyond.

Is the worst over for the Lib Dems?

As for the Lib Dems, the national party didn’t even bother supplying the Greenwich & Woolwich candidate with a freepost leaflet to send out. That said, though, if you compare their result in the constituency (5.6%) with last year’s average council election score (6%), it’s arguable that they’ve bottomed out already, although whether they’ve the capability, capacity or desire to bounce back is another question. A period of national soul-searching will surely come first.

So, that’s the 2015 election done with. We’re next at the polls on 5 May 2016 to decide on Boris Johnson’s successor as mayor and London’s assembly members. I suspect it’ll be a tough year ahead…

Will Matt Pennycook be the last MP for Greenwich and Woolwich?

pollingstation640

It’s just like 1992 all over again, with a Tory victory nationally and a shiny new Labour MP locally in Greenwich & Woolwich.

So it’s congratulations to Matt Pennycook, who scored 24,384 votes – 52.2% of all cast, a little up on predecessor Nick Raynsford five years back. Pennycook was by far the most impressive candidate, neatly placing distance between the records of both Raynsford and the council of which he was a part. Good luck to him, and I’m looking forward to following his progress.

Congratulations too to Matt Hartley, who scored a very impressive 12,438 – at 26.6%, a record for the Tories since the seat was created in 1997. He also campaigned smartly – raising the state of Southeastern trains, for one. I suspect he’ll be feeling the happiest out of all the candidates today…

Ukip’s success will have raised eyebrows – Ryan Acty came third with 3,888 (8.3%), a similar result to other seats in south-east London.

If the Greens are downhearted at coming fourth, they really shouldn’t be. Abbey Akinoshun more than doubled their vote as they notched up 2,991 votes, a deposit-saving 6.4% – pretty good by London standards.

The Lib Dems performed in line with their council election results last year, with Tom Holder picking up 2,645 votes (5.7%) – just enough to hang onto his deposit.

TUSC’s Lynne Chamberlain rounded off the poll with just 370 votes – but will no doubt be pleased with having given her anti-austerity message a wide airing.

cons_map___640

Sitting up all night watching the results doesn’t lead to wise and sharp analysis the following afternoon, but one very local issue deserves an airing.

One of the big jibes aimed at Matt Pennycook is that by being selected he was effectively getting himself a safe seat for life. Now the Conservatives have an overally majority, they’re in prime position to implement a bit of unfinished business from coalition days – boundary changes.

The Tories wanted to cut parliament down to 600 seats – in a proposal that would have given their chances a boost – and that meant London’s constitency map would have to be redrawn. This website featured the first proposals back in 2011.

There was an inquiry after that, but the final recommendations received little attention at the time, because by then the Liberal Democrats and Labour had joined forces to shoot down the proposals.

Now there’s nothing stopping the Tories taking those revised plans out of the drawer – and they’re an odd bunch to say the least.

Pennycook’s hard-fought prize of Greenwich & Woolwich would vanish – leaving him to challenge Lewisham East’s Heidi Alexander (and maybe Lewisham Deptford’s Vicky Foxcroft) for a new seat of Greenwich & Lewisham Central, which would stretch from Greenwich to Catford.

Or he could have to lock horns with Clive Efford for the oddly-shaped Eltham & Charlton seat, which curves round from New Eltham, through most of Charlton to Woolwich town centre.

Don’t be surprised if this issue comes up in the coming months – especially with electoral reform a hot topic once again. See a full map of the proposed constituencies for more.

Greenwich Council meetings to be webcast: Will you watch?

Woolwich Town Hall, 25 February 2015
It’s been a long time coming, but Greenwich Council is all set to begin streaming video of its full council meetings online.

Councillors are being asked to formally back a year’s trial of the scheme at their annual general meeting on Wednesday.

It means anyone will be able to watch meetings live – or watch back recordings at a later date.

The move will “increase transparency and participation” and “ensure that the full and unedited version of events is available on the web”, a council report says.

It follows a change in the law last year which forced the council to allow members of the public to record or photograph meetings.

Past leader Chris Roberts had been hostile to opening up meetings – first insisting nobody would watch, then claiming it was for councillors to decide but without ever giving them the opportunity to do so. But successor Denise Hyland, who’ll mark a year in the job next month, is more keen on the idea.

A recent refurbishment of Woolwich Town Hall means the main council chamber is now kitted out to enable video recording.

This website has been recording audio from council meetings for some years, but has recently begun recording video of key moments – see a debate on the Tall Ships Festival from February and on Greenwich Time from March.

However, the old attitude still persisted as recently as January, when council critic Stewart Christie was told by a security guard to stop filming with his laptop in an incident which caused some embarrassment at Woolwich Town Hall.

Lewisham trialled webcasting in 2010, although hasn’t done so in recent years. Bexley started webcasting last year, using a low-cost system where cameras automatically focus in on whichever participant has their microphone switched on. Camden uses the same system, and its old-style chamber will give you an indication of what to expect from Greenwich.

Will anyone watch? Tweets from council meetings have generated some interest over the years, so there’s a number of people who’ll certainly dip in and take a look. But the clips I’ve put up – generally of questions from Conservative councillors to the ruling Labour cabinet – have mostly not got beyond two-figure audiences.

That said, it’ll be a godsend to journalists, who won’t need to schlep to the town hall to cover meetings. And I suspect councillors and officers will find it handiest of all, as they can watch footage back and see what was really said at meetings, as verbatim transcripts aren’t routinely taken.

One regrettable aspect of this move is that it only covers full council meetings, which tend to generate more heat than light – although in itself that can be interesting.

The real meat of the council’s business – particularly cabinet meetings and the planning board – take place in committee rooms at the front of the town hall and will still go uncovered by the new service.

Safe seats and social media – Greenwich’s election car crash

Tweet from Cllr Stephen Brain
I had some thoughts about how some Labour councillors are doing their best to torpedo Matt Pennycook’s otherwise highly-impressive election campaign by acting like idiots on social media. I was going to save those thoughts – and plenty of others about the election – until tomorrow night, once the polls had closed.

Then one of them had a go at me. All I’d done was grumble about the bins.

Because this website shouldn’t be about me and who I’m voting for, you can find out why safe seats and social media lead to an election car crash over on Medium.

Greens rally round ‘no-show’ Greenwich & Woolwich candidate

Where's Abbey?: Phil Connolly (left) stands in for the Green candidate on Wednesday in Greenwich

Where’s Abbey?: Phil Connolly (left) stands in for the Green candidate on Wednesday in Greenwich

Greenwich’s Green Party has defended its Greenwich & Woolwich candidate Abbey Akinoshun after he missed a series of election hustings in the constituency.

Akinoshun was absent for the final four hustings of the campaign, with the party supplying substitute speakers or not represented.

The 50-year-old’s absence had sparked rumours the party was unhappy with its candidate’s performance.

But local party press officer Simon Edge dismissed the claims, saying Akinoshun – who runs a Woolwich-based business which helps people going through employment tribunals – had been too busy with work to attend all the hustings.

Selection dispute

Akinoshun’s selection has been the subject of a campaign from former party member Trevor Allman, who walked out of the Greens earlier this year branding the candidate an “opportunist”.

“We had never heard of him, as he had never attended a branch meeting or participated in any Green Party activity, thus what credentials did he have to represent the Green Party as a parliamentary candidate?”, Allman said.

Allman – now in Left Unity – has seized on Akinoshun’s absence, criticising him in a series of tweets, calling him “not exactly committed”.

A former Labour member who lives in Abbey Wood, Akinoshun sought selection for that party in Erith & Thamesmead in 2009, losing out to Teresa Pearce. He then ran as an independent candidate in that constituency, winning 1% of votes – beating the Green candidate Marek Powley.

He told me on Twitter that he ran against the Greens before he “[knew] they stand as a party that wants to build a society that works for the common good”.

Allman – who has stood for the Greens in council elections, attracting over 1,000 votes in Blackheath Westcombe in the past two polls – tried to run as a rival candidate. But he was blocked because it was discovered he was not actually a member of the main Green Party of England & Wales.

Here he is: Abbey Akinoshun at this spring's Green Party conference

Here he is: Abbey Akinoshun at this spring’s Green Party conference

Absence from hustings

Akinoshun’s absence was first noted on Saturday, when he dropped out of a hustings in Charlton at short notice. The event attracted 120 voters.

“He was very stressed, largely because of this work commitment, and we agreed it was better to let it go and give him a chance to recharge his batteries,” Edge says.

Charlton Society organisers Andrew Donkin and Helen Jakeways declined the Greens’ offer to send a substitute, as they felt it would be unfair on the other candidates.

Akinoshun also did not appear at a hustings held by another residents group in Charlton on Monday, the National Union of Teachers on Tuesday, and the Greenwich Association of Disabled People on Wednesday. Substitutes represented the Greens at the other two, while Edge said the party wasn’t aware of the Charlton Central Residents Association hustings.

“He has a busy day job where he has to commit to his clients, and his work diary has to come first because it’s his own business and he has a family to support,” Edge added.

“We’re a party that has always had a collegiate leadership structure, so we hope it’s not inappropriate to have other people step forward to help.”

All six candidates appeared at the Blackheath & Greenwich United Nations Associations hustings at Mycenae House earlier this month

All six candidates appeared at the Blackheath & Greenwich United Nations Associations hustings at Mycenae House earlier this month

‘Charisma and passion’

He dismissed suggestions party members were unhappy with their candidate, praising his “charisma” when speaking to individual members of the public and “his passion, particularly in reaching out to the parts of the electorate who are often taken for granted by the Labour Party”.

Greenwich & Woolwich is certainly unusual in hosting nine hustings – just one has been held in neighbouring Eltham – and Edge conceded that volunteers had been overwhelmed by the level of interest.

In common with the Greens nationwide, the local party membership has exploded in the past year, and is now at about 250 members. But elections will remain hard work for a small band of volunteers, especially without the well-funded party machines that their larger rivals enjoy.

Edge added: “Great as it is that hustings seems to have become really fashionable, they can be all-consuming. I do think candidates need room to go out on the knocker as well as addressing meetings.”

Seeing double: Clive Efford and Matt Pennycook (right) represent Labour against Phil Connolly (Green), Tom Holder (Lib Dem) and Matt Hartley (Conservative).

Seeing double: Clive Efford and Matt Pennycook (right) represent Labour against Phil Connolly (Green), Tom Holder (Lib Dem) and Matt Hartley (Conservative).

Labour advantage at disability hustings

Meanwhile, the Labour party enjoyed an advantage at the Greenwich Association of Disabled People’s hustings last night – having two candidates to address the audience while rivals only had one.

Both Greenwich & Woolwich’s Matt Pennycook and Eltham’s Clive Efford spoke and answered questions at east Greenwich’s Forum for the early part of the evening, while the Tories, Lib Dems and Greens only had one representative each.

I’m told GAD invited all candidates standing in Greenwich borough – although if all 18 had turned up to an event attended by about 30 people, it could have resembled more of a speed-dating night than a hustings.

I didn’t stay for the whole hustings, but it wasn’t an edifying event, with the chair trying to block follow-up questions from the audience because of “election rules” (this isn’t the case). After Efford had left for his own local hustings, Pennycook tried to inject a bit of life into it himself by quizzing Green substitute Phil Connolly on the party’s citizen income policy.

At one point, Connolly found himself howled down by the chair for talking through a process of being assessed for benefits – “they know, they’re disabled!,” she shouted.

Meanwhile, a member of the public was allowed to get away with the dog-whistle question of asking candidates where they were born. He huffed loudly when Conservative Matt Hartley, who was raised in Macclesfield, explained where he came from.

Greenwich & Woolwich candidates: Ryan Acty (Ukip), Abbey Akinoshun (Green), Lynne Chamberlain (Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition), Matt Pennycook (Labour), Tom Holder (Liberal Democrats), Matt Hartley (Conservative).

Tower Hamlets mayoral scandal: Consequences south of the river?

Tower Hamlets Council hoarding
It’s an east London matter, but last week’s news that Tower Hamlets’ elected mayor Lutfur Rahman had been booted out of office by an election court after being found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices during an election could have consequences south of the river too.

The particular circumstances of Tower Hamlets are unusual. Elsewhere, the system of having an elected mayor has worked well, with Sir Steve Bullock a popular and respected figure in Lewisham. But Lutfur Rahman turned his office into a personality cult, even sticking his face on humdrum signs in the borough.

A fresh election will be held next month. Labour’s John Biggs, the current London Assembly member for City & East and a former Tower Hamlets council leader, will be hoping to take charge of the authority once again.

Tower Hamlets returning to Labour would have significant consequences for Greenwich and Lewisham, as Biggs – like Greenwich’s Denise Hyland and Newham’s Robin Wales – is one of that generation of London Labour politicians that still believes building new roads can bring prosperity.

He’s been a fervent advocate for the Silvertown Tunnel – believing it would relieve congestion in the borough (although as it’s aimed at Canary Wharf and the City, it’d do nothing to relieve the southbound snarl-ups on the A12).

By contrast, under Rahman, Tower Hamlets has been inconsistent on the issue – opposing it in 2012, cautiously welcoming it in 2014. Just as yesterday’s Supreme Court verdict on air pollution will make it easier for campaigners to challenge the tunnel, a Biggs victory in Tower Hamlets could increase certain local politicians’ resolve to continue with this dubious venture.

Indeed, it’s possible we’ll see a more united front between the riverside boroughs on the huge redevelopments and other infrastructure projects across the area – relations between Tower Hamlets and Greenwich on planning issues haven’t been healthy in recent years, most recently with Isle of Dogs residents feeling left out on discussions over plans to expand the long-delayed cruise liner terminal (more on this to come). The winner out of all this could well be Newham’s muscular mayor, Sir Robin Wales, who recently hosted a meeting of east London boroughs (and Greenwich) to discuss devolving responsibilities from central government.

Of course, this is speculation – intra-borough jealousies don’t depend on them being run by rival parties, as anyone who’s dealt with Greenwich and Lewisham will know. But heads could well be banged together soon, especially with Labour currently poised to take the London mayoralty next year.

East End Life, 27 April 2015

The other consequence to the Tower Hamlets ruling concerns Greenwich Time. Tower Hamlets is England’s only other council to publish a weekly newspaper – one which the local Labour party has consistently criticised for bias.

The two government commissioners recently sent into Tower Hamlets (yesterday joined by two more) have kept East End Life going – something which hasn’t gone unnoticed by Denise Hyland – using Press Association copy to report on the election court case. I wonder how Greenwich Time would have dealt with a similar case here.

Whether the next government will implement Eric Pickles’ laws banning “town hall Pravdas” is something we’ll find out in weeks to come – the election has thrown Pickles’ fight with Greenwich into the long grass.

But a new administration in Tower Hamlets may well scrap East End Life as a symbol of reform – or it may well try to find some new solution. All of which could impact on Greenwich’s battle to keep its own weekly paper going.

Again, this is all speculation – two elections mean things are very much up in the air, and after all, this is Tower Hamlets politics.

But it’s worth keeping an eye on events across the water in the next few weeks – the excellent Trial By Jeory and Love Wapping will keep you up to date on what’s happening.

Stuck at North Greenwich: Can the peninsula cope with its new masterplan?

A luxury hotel is among the developments under construction on the peninsula

A luxury hotel is among the developments under construction on the peninsula

Update, Friday 17 April: The consultation period has now been extended to Tuesday 28 April.

The general election’s well under way. But an arguably bigger decision for this part of south east London is also open for your thoughts – although you’ve only got until Friday to make your views known.

Last month, Greenwich Council quietly started consulting on changes to the 11-year-old Greenwich Peninsula masterplan. Considering the size and location of the site, this is one of the most important pieces of planning in the 50-year history of the borough (with only Thamesmead and the Royal Arsenal as competition).

Yet, as ever, engagement with the public seems to be the last thing on anyone’s mind. You know how the council claimed Greenwich Time was essential for engaging with local people? Well, not a word of editorial copy has appeared in its weekly paper about this in the three weeks the consultation has been open.

By contrast, the issue has been covered in both the News Shopper and the Mercury.

If there’s a development that demands proper discussion and debate – especially at general election time – it’s this one. It touches on the two most vital issues addressing our capital city – housing and infrastructure. Yet there simply isn’t one – it’s being swept under the carpet.

To his credit, Labour candidate Matt Pennycook mused on the issues after a consultation event in January (followed up by the Guardian’s Dave Hill), but that’s been about it. The local Peninsula ward councillors aren’t even mentioning it on their new blog.

If you want to find out more, head to Greenwich Council’s planning search and look for application 15/0716/O.

There are 191 documents to read. One person is not realistically going to manage to take on board this information all alone – even in the summary planning statement – so if you read the documents and something strikes you that’s not mentioned here, please feel free to stick it in the comments.

The plans include 12,678 homes (up from 10,100 in 2004); towers of up to 40 storeys high; 220 serviced apartments; a 500-room hotel; education and healthcare facilities; a film studio and visitor attraction; a new bus station/ transport hub; and a 5k running track around the peninsula.

Update, 21 April. Philip Binns has emailed to say the planning statement points out “up to 15,700 units could be delivered in total on the Peninsula as a whole”, explaining that this is made up of the 12,678 units referred to in the application notice plus a further 200 serviced apartments and 2,822 units which are currently being constructed or are to be implemented (approvals already having been granted). This would represent a 57% increase on what was permitted in 2004.

Like I said, there’s a lot to take in. But here’s two very broad themes that I reckon should be addressed. You may have different views.

Housing – who’s going to live there?

One vital question is unanswered – how many of these homes will people be able to afford to live in? No figures are given for social or “affordable” housing.

We already know that neither you nor I will be able to afford to live in part of the Peninsula, as Greenwich Council allowed the pre-emptive social cleansing of Peninsula Quays back in 2013, reducing the amount of social/affordable housing to 0%.

This decision was based on a viability assessment – can the developer afford to build social housing? – which was kept secret by Greenwich Council. Earlier this year, local resident Shane Brownie won a Freedom of Information battle to get this information out there.

It’s a complex issue that affects other areas of London and elsewhere – the most notorious case affects Southwark Council and the Heygate estate – and one that’s barely being heard in the election campaign. The BBC’s Sunday Politics London spoke to Shane when it dealt with the issue a few weeks back. (Thanks to Alex Ingram for the recording.)

It’s entirely possible Knight Dragon has been spooked by Greenwich being forced to disclose this document, and is playing its cards even closer to its chest.

Indeed, this planning application going out to formal consultation during an election may even stifle debate – although the decision to run it now would have been the council’s call, rather than Knight Dragon’s.

But where else in London would a development of 12,000 new homes emerge without any discussion about who they are for?

The transport infrastructure – can North Greenwich cope?

Day and night: The huge queue for the single-decker 108 at Stratheden Road, Blackheath; and the struggle to get home when there's an event on. Thanks to Ruth Townson for the pictures.

Day and night: The huge queue for the single-decker 108 at Stratheden Road, Blackheath; and the struggle to get home when there’s an event on. Thanks to Ruth Townson for the pictures.

The plans also include rebuilding and moving North Greenwich bus station. It’s approaching capacity and struggles to cope with demand as it is. But the increase is small – space for 17 bus stands rather than 15, and 11 bus stops rather than seven.

There’s pressure for North Greenwich to handle even more buses. Very few other tube stations in London are expected to handle demand from such an absurdly large area (Finsbury Park – which has to serve areas such as Crouch End and Muswell Hill – is probably the nearest equivalent).

Politicians keep demanding extra services from Kidbrooke and Eltham (as opposed to demanding improvements to rail services there), while existing routes from areas much closer to North Greenwich still struggle to cope. Route 108, in particular, is still overwhelmed each morning despite demands for a boost to services, which were met with the miserly addition of a single extra bus.

And this is before the next phase of homes open on the peninsula – adding more “one-stop” passengers on the buses and more demand for the tube station itself.

Yet TfL’s only significant transport boost in the area has ben to create a cable car which is aimed at tourists and charges premium fares. If it was a bus route, it’d be London’s 407th busiest.

It’s a crude measure – especially as these figures cover all passengers, not just ones heading to North Greenwich – but a cursory glance at passenger numbers on the eight services would suggest they’ve pretty much hit their rush-hour capacity.

Bus usage on the routes serving North Greenwich station since 1999. Route 486's figure includes predecessor service M1.

Bus usage on the routes serving North Greenwich station since 1999. Route 486’s figure includes predecessor service M1. Thanks to Clare Griffiths for her Datawrapper work.

Add to this the continuing huge developments planned for Canary Wharf and the Royal Docks, together with predictions that Crossrail will hit capacity within months of opening, and you’ve got a big problem in depending so heavily on the Jubilee Line. The queues for Stratford-bound trains at Canary Wharf show just how big demand is here.

Move the peninsula closer to Canary Wharf

There are already big queues to get on eastbound Jubilee Line trains at Canary Wharf

There are already big queues to get on eastbound Jubilee Line trains at Canary Wharf in the evening rush hour

One answer would be to give Canary Wharf workers an alternative to the Jubilee Line. At this point, up will pop Transport for London, claiming the Silvertown Tunnel would provide that for buses.

But it’s very likely that before long, any buses routed this way would get stuck in the same snarl-ups as the 108 through Blackwall, or new ones north of the Thames.

Building new roads won’t bring the high-density regeneration Greenwich Peninsula needs – this isn’t a suburban business park or a collection of warehouses. You get better results when you build workplaces within walking distance of shops, restaurants, other workplaces and railway stations.

The mostly-empty office block at 6 Mitre Passage, whose lights have stayed dim on winter evenings, shows how the Greenwich Peninsula has failed to attract businesses – one stop from Canary Wharf might as well be the other side of London.

So why not a pedestrian and cycle link to Canary Wharf? Proposals for a bridge from Rotherhithe to the Wharf have recently been dusted off – but one to the east would bring the Greenwich Peninsula within walking distance of shops, offices and the new Crossrail station.

It’d transform the area, tying it into Canary Wharf and freeing up space on both Tube and buses, and making it more attractive for businesses to set up shop.

In 2009, the cost of a bridge was put at £90m, not including maintenance and operating costs, and a TfL assessment as part of the cable car business case said it would be an “iconic” scheme, “likely to attract investment” in the area.

It added that “the walking routes on both sides of the Thames would need substantial improvement associated with developments for the environment to be of a high quality”. Well, those improvements are coming now. And without a fixed connection to Canary Wharf, those improvements on the Greenwich Peninsula may never fully reach their potential.

It’s election time – why isn’t this an issue?

London's new hire bikes feature the Dome - even though there are no terminals near North Greenwich

London’s new hire bikes feature the Dome – even though there are no terminals near North Greenwich

London is growing at a bewildering rate. Property developers are ruling over local people like feudal landlords, while local councils are treated like mug punters who fall for three card tricks.

Yet this simply isn’t an issue in a general election where it’s become fashionable to bash London. Planning desperately needs reform to give councils more clout – but this isn’t being addressed in manifestos.

The lack of serious discussion about how to manage London’s growth reflects poorly on our city’s politicians and media. And we’ve one of the worst examples of it here in Greenwich, a borough run by councillors that have too often lacked curiosity in what’s presented to them.

In the same way that Greenwich councillors fell for poor road-building schemes because the area lacks river crossings, they may well fall for an unsustainable plan for the peninsula simply because they’re desperate to see all that brownfield land built on with the first thing that comes along.

That said, the recent ousting of Chris Roberts acolyte Ray Walker from his role as planning board chair can give us hope – his replacement, Mark James, has a background in transport, so actually has an understanding of the issues at stake. With Matt Pennycook taking a more sceptical view of big developments than his predecessor, some of the mood music around Greenwich and regeneration could be about to see a welcome change.

If you’ve a couple of hours free this week, give the plans a read and send your views (try the planning statement and design and access statements for summaries) to the council. At least then, they can’t say they weren’t warned.