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news, views and issues around Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath and Woolwich, south-east London – what you won't read in Greenwich Time

Posts Tagged ‘greenwich town centre pedestrianisation

Greenwich Council urged 286 bus cut to fund gyratory

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Greenwich Council suggested cutting the frequency of one of the borough’s few north-south bus links to help pay for its plans to pedestrianise Greenwich town centre, according to documents released by Transport for London.

The scheme was shelved after objections from Transport for London, and the documents outline TfL’s worries – including its estimate that the scheme could have cost up to £1.5m in maintaining bus services through the town centre area.

In response, council consultant Brian Hanson suggested in a briefing on 4 February 2011 that it could cut the frequency of route 286, which runs from Greenwich through Blackheath and Kidbrooke to Eltham and Sidcup – despite the fact that the council has long said north-south public transport links in the borough need to be improved.

At its most frequent, the 286 runs every 12 minutes, with single-deck buses between Greenwich and Blackheath often packed to capacity at rush hour. It also provides a link to shops at Eltham and the University of Greenwich campus at Avery Hill, as well as Queen Mary’s Hospital at Sidcup, outside of the borough.

Hanson also suggested cutting the frequency of the 129, which runs from the town centre, through east Greenwich and on to North Greenwich station.

Route 199, which runs from Bellingham to Canada Water station, would not be able to serve Greenwich town centre at all heading northbound, which TfL estimated would cost it up to £713,000 in lost revenue alone.

The plans would have seen College Approach and part of King William Walk pedestrianised, and a gyratory system installed running clockwise from Greenwich High Road, Norman Road, Creek Road to Greenwich Church Street. It was proposed to extend routes 129 and 286 to a new terminus at the Norman Road/ Creek Road junction, which TfL said would involve running extra buses.

TfL said this alone would cost it £392,000 a year. But Greenwich disputed the cost, with Hyder Consulting‘s Hanson – who is contracted to the council to work on transport schemes – stating “there is sufficient capacity on these routes to reschedule both services to run at a reduced frequency”. “This should be investigated in more detail,” he added.

Passengers would have to “accept extra waiting times”, Hanson said in a table outlining how the costs of rerouting routes 129 and 286 could be reduced to nil.

The documents also show that Greenwich Council had not yet produced a final business case for the project by the time it was shelved in March, despite initial plans to have a trial scheme up and running by then, with an eye to getting it completed by the Olympics.

An e-mail from Transport for London’s senior borough programme officer Tim Williams to Brian Hanson dated 9 March warned the council’s assumptions that trips to Greenwich town centre would double following pedestrianisation would need to be justified, and said claims that it would lead to a cut in accidents ignored areas where traffic would increase if the scheme was put in place.

He added: “The cost of extending bus routes 129 and 286 plus the lost revenue to buses generally in Greenwich Town Centre resulting from increased journey times are actual costs (as opposed to notional values of time etc…) which someone will need to meet.

“This is obviously an issue which will need to be discussed further.”

The scheme was shelved less than three weeks later, delighting residents who had campaigned against the scheme.

Hyder has been employed by Greenwich Council to work with it on transport projects including the ill-fated Greenwich scheme.

It was also asked by the council’s Eltham Regeneration Agency to conduct a feasibility study into a DLR extension to Eltham, launched in January 2010 and due to report back in May that year.

However, the study has yet to appear, and an Eltham route did not appear on a map of proposed DLR extensions unveiled by TfL earlier this month.

Greenwich Council has refused to answer how much Hyder is being paid for its work. However, figures published under new transparency regulations state that Hyder Consulting (UK) Ltd was paid £657,147 between December 2010 and March 2011, the most recent figures available.

Woolwich gains from Greenwich gyratory loss

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Some of the cash which was due to fund doomed plans to create a gyratory system in west Greenwich has been reallocated to Woolwich town centre, according to mayor Boris Johnson.

London Assembly member Darren Johnson asked the mayor about the scheme’s funding, as it appeared delays to the project would mean Greenwich Council losing a grant from Transport for London to fund the scheme, which was due to create a pedestrianised area at College Approach and King William Walk. The Green Party member posed the question before the scheme was shelved last week.

In a written response, the mayor said the council had planned to use part of two years of funding under TfL’s Local Investment Plan – money distributed to boroughs every year for their own schemes.

With the current financial year about to run out, it had been agreed that the money could be used to fund reconstruction of General Gordon Square in Woolwich, instead.

The full answer reads:

The London Borough of Greenwich proposed to use 2010/11 and 2011/12 Local Implementation Plan (LIP) funding from TfL for the design and implementation of its Greenwich Town Centre (GTC) improvement scheme. Greenwich is currently working with TfL and other stakeholders, which include local residents, to develop a scheme that is acceptable to all parties. Whilst these discussions continue, it has been agreed between Greenwich and TfL to reallocate the 2010/11 GTC LIP funding to the Woolwich Town Centre public realm improvements – this ensures the funding is not lost and enables Woolwich Town Centre to be completed ahead of schedule.

So, at first sight, it looks as if the money may not be lost after all. The gyratory scheme was shelved after TfL objected to it because of “significant concerns about its impact on bus passengers and operations”.

Council ‘suspends’ Greenwich gyratory scheme

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There’ll be cheers in west Greenwich this weekend as the hated plans to create a huge gyratory system have been “suspended” by Greenwich Council – you can read the full story over at greenwich.co.uk, along with an exchange of e-mails between the three local councillors and leader Chris Roberts.

It’s good news, if not entirely unexpected – the plan was effectively dead the moment a senior TfL official wrote to Greenwich indicating it could not support the scheme, intended to create a pedestrian area along King William Walk and College Approach. The scheme was due to be funded with TfL money – and affected its “strategic routes” – so needed its approval.

In fact, the fatal blow came when it moved from “pedestrianisation” to “gyratory”, as the council and its contractor, Hyder Consulting, inexplicably chose an option which involved creating a one-way system around Greenwich High Road, Norman Road, Creek Road and Greenwich Church Street.

Transport for London has been steadily ripping out gyratories over the past decade, starting in Shoreditch in 2001 and continuing last year with the scrapping of the New Cross one-way system. It was very unlikely to approve going back on this policy for Greenwich, particularly with a scheme which still hadn’t taken into consideration the effects on the bus network.

The whole affair raises more questions than answers, though. Here’s a few I’d like to see answered.

- What happens to the £2.5m in TfL money earmarked for this scheme? Does it get reallocated to other schemes within Greenwich borough? Or does it find its way to another London borough instead?

- Will any of the other schemes be looked at? The gyratory wasn’t the only idea kicking around to improve Greenwich town centre’s environment.

- How much has Hyder Consulting been paid for its work on a scheme which has delivered precisely nothing? Hyder is working with Greenwich on other schemes in the borough, but this will have been by far the most high-profile. Last year, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to discover how much Hyder’s contract was worth. The council refused to answer, citing commercial confidentiality. There’s a bigger question here – on a day when Labour leader Ed Miliband is addressing hundreds of thousands of people opposed to cuts in public services, how much did one of his party’s councils blow on this failed scheme when the money could have gone elsewhere?

- Why does Chris Roberts dismiss TfL’s head of borough projects David Rowe as “junior staff”? Is it because he put the mockers on the gyratory proposal?

- However, Roberts does refer to a meeting with Boris Johnson’s deputy Richard Barnes and “senior TfL officials”. There’s a vague reference to traffic proposals which will “affect areas of the borough to the east of the town centre“. It’s unclear what this means. (A wild guess – something to do with the run of traffic lights around Maze Hill?) Some clarity from Greenwich Council or TfL would be handy.

Greenwich will no doubt return to the pedestrianisation idea in coming years – which is a good thing. But I suspect the gyratory is dead. By the time the council gets to look at it again, Norman Road will be home to big developments, and won’t be a street where you can hide a racetrack.

But the questions surrounding the council’s doomed scheme, and the costs, will echo for a long while to come yet.

(UPDATE 1.35PM MONDAY: A council statement fails to mention the gyratory proposal, further suggesting the scheme is almost certainly dead.)

Written by Darryl

26 March, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Revealed: Why TfL doesn’t want a gyratory in Greenwich

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Last month this blog reported on Transport for London’s objections to Greenwich Council’s plans to create a massive one-way system in west Greenwich to enable it to pedestrianise a small part of the town centre, following revelations from a local residents’ group, West Greenwich CARA.

Now the full objections can be revealed, with the release of TfL documents detailing those objections. Without TfL backing, the scheme fails – and puts at risk nearly £2.5m of funding which will simply be allocated to traffic improvement schemes in other London boroughs.

To refresh your memory, this is what is planned. College Approach and the northern part of King William Walk would be pedestrianised, with Nelson Road becoming a two-way street. As part of this, a gyratory system is planned running clockwise around Greenwich High Road, Norman Road, Creek Road and Greenwich Church Street. The upside is gaining a car-free zone between the market and the river. The downsides, though, are numerous – TfL is ripping out gyratories all over London, there’s nowhere for buses to terminate and some routes would be severely delayed, and gyratories are considered dangerous for cyclists.

Here’s the documents – a letter from TfL to Greenwich Council outlining its objections, and partially-redacted minutes from a meeting of TfL’s Network Management Group from November 2010.

The minutes refer to concerns about the “ambitious timescale” of the scheme – particularly a plan to have a trial scheme up and running by March. This should be well under way by now.

But nothing has happened, and so far nothing looks like happening. Enquiries from locals are being met with silence from Greenwich Council. The Greenwich Society has proposed an alternative scheme, involving improving pavements. There’s another idea kicking around about covering over the railway cutting between Stockwell Street and King William Walk to free up some pedestrian space. But still, nothing from the council. There’s also been no formal contact with Lewisham Council, whose roads will also be affected by this scheme.

So, with 16 months to go until the Olympics, will this, or any other scheme to improve Greenwich’s streets actually happen?

UPDATE 3.35PM: London Assembly member Darren Johnson has also tabled a formal question to Boris Johnson about the issue.

Greenwich gyratory – Transport for London’s not happy

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News from West Greenwich CARA, the residents’ group fighting plans to pedestrianise Greenwich town centre by creating a gyratory to the west of it via Greenwich High Road, Norman Road and Creek Road. The scheme is dependent on £2.4m of money from Transport for London – “local implementation plan” funds which each of the capital’s 32 boroughs bid for each year. This money has survived City Hall’s cost cutting, and has contributed to schemes like the redevelopment of Woolwich’s General Gordon Square (£1.4m from TfL), and the installation of electric car charging points (£20,000).

However, these schemes need TfL’s backing to get its money – and what’s not in favour at City Hall is gyratories. Last year, the New Cross one-way system was the latest to be taken apart, returning New Cross Road and Queen’s Road to two way traffic.

So this was TfL’s response to Greenwich’s plans to create a new gyratory, according to CARA

TfL cannot approve the scheme as currently proposed, as we have significant concerns about its impact on bus passengers and operations, as well as other matters such as the performance of the network, safety, severance and urban realm.

The point about buses should have been obvious to Greenwich Council and its contractor, Hyder Consulting. Buses on routes 180, 199 and 386 will face long diversions heading north – with the 199 unable to serve Greenwich town centre – while routes 129 and 286 will have nowhere to terminate. It’s not clear whether “the network” is the bus network or the road network, but it’s pretty clear that TfL thinks the scheme, as it stands, is a crock.

Even more worryingly, if Greenwich Council/ Hyder Consulting can’t come up with a scheme TfL approves of by June, that £2.4m will simply be allocated elsewhere in London. (At a time when Greenwich is trying to boost cycling, just think of what £2.4m could have done there…)

Indeed, contrary to local Labour councillor Matt Pennycook’s promises that the council will listen to local concerns, CARA members claim they have been deliberately obstructed, with chief exective Mary Ney deciding that pedestrianising the borough’s best-known town centre is not a “key decision”, making it harder for residents to scrutinise decision-making. This is a story I’ve neglected in recent months, but I hope to return to it soon, because it’s a sorry example of how poorly Greenwich Council interacts with those who pay for it.

West Greenwich: Calm down, calm down

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What did I know about the traffic calming consultation? Nothing until I saw that sign outside the Greenwich Union yesterday. But I do know about it now – some ideas to ease the anger of the residents of some of Greenwich’s nicer back streets after the council unveiled its flawed plans to turn most of west Greenwich into one big gyratory system so part of the town centre can be pedestrianised.

The West Greenwich Conservation Area Residents Association has shared its thoughts on the proposals, and they’re not particularly impressed. You can see an exhibition at Devonport House between now and Tuesday, and the CARA group are holding a meeting at the Prince of Greenwich pub on Monday (that’ll be a busy night in there with the Greenwich Union shut for a day…)

Written by Darryl

22 January, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Greenwich consultations end this weekend

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A quick heads-up to let you know Greenwich Council’s consultations on its plans to part-pedestrianise the town centre – and create a flaming great gyratory through west Greenwich – and to do up Cutty Sark Gardens end this weekend.

I’ve already voiced my feelings about the pedestrianisation scheme – and you can have your say here. However, there’s a small problem with the Cutty Sark questionnaire…

Incidentally, if you went to see the Enderby Wharf exhibition on Thursday or Friday – how was it? I managed to miss it like an idiot, thinking it would stretch into the weekend. Frustratingly, there’s nothing on the web to look at.

On a London-wide basis, the consultation on the western extension of the congestion chargewhich was meant to fund the new central London bike hire scheme – also ends this weekend.

Written by Darryl

31 July, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Greenwich pedestrianisation – council consultant drops clanger

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Last Wednesday I popped along for the first hour of a public meeting about plans to pedestrianise Greenwich town centre, a project about which I have mixed feelings – good idea, looks like it’s being implemented badly. I went along to see what others thought, and wrote some of it up for this blog. I thought the lack of attendance from Greenwich council officers or councillors was rather telling, so led with it. Job done, a bit of a debate in the comments section, a story to watch for the future.

Until this lunchtime, when this comment appeared from a Brian Hanson…

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.

Huh? What? I’m not sure why he mistook me for an organiser of the meeting, or why I deserved this kind of sniffy treatment – and then I checked his e-mail address.

Brian Hanson is a technical director for Hyder Consulting, which is rather close to Greenwich Council. Hyder is working for Greenwich Council on the pedestrianisation scheme, and has also been commissioned to look at “public realm improvements” in Eltham town centre. A recent commenter on this site, the Greenwich Phantom and on greenwich.co.uk, “ME” of Deptford, reported he’d been using the title of “‘L B Greenwich Commission Director”.

So it appears one of the people in charge of the Greenwich pedestrianisation scheme – and taking our council tax money to do this – has taken to the keyboard to publicly abuse and patronise those who are scrutinising his work. He’s not even doing it accurately if he thinks I’m one of the organisers of the scheme.

But why is he doing it? Is he worried the scheme may fail because of public opposition? Or has he just been given permission to abuse people who are seen as somehow “anti-” whatever Greenwich Council wants to achieve here? Aren’t we all meant to be in this together, wanting the best for a battered town centre?

And why is a man from a private company lecturing me on how the council works?

Unfortunately, Brian Hanson’s intervention raises yet more questions about a scheme which is causing great worry among many people. If this is his attitude to people who are commenting on the process, then why is Greenwich Council paying him and Hyder money to work on our behalf?

UPDATE 3:25PM – Brian Hanson has responded to an e-mail in which I pointed out I was not connected with the meeting organisers.

I don’t blame you for organising the meeting, but the misleading headline implying that the Council deliberately “snubbed” the event does feature prominently on your blog and could be construed as lazy journalism. Before rushing to print such disparaging assertions in the future, it would be gratifying if you could make more effort to ascertain all the facts concerning the event and the nature of the actual invitations extended.

For the record, as lead consultant to the Council I would have been delighted to have attended this meeting had I been authorised to do so through proper channels (despite its premature timing with regard to addressing the concerns that have been voiced).

We are currently processing the feedback of consultation with some 8,500 premises in Central Greenwich, including other comments received on the Council’s website. This follows a public exhibition of the plans (with micro-simulation traffic models) in late June, that was attended by some 500 persons. Members will be briefed on the outcome of this consultation shortly and, unless they resolve to scrap the plans, one imagines, they will advise on what forums they wish to establish to promote further local debate.

Assuming the plans are taken forward, we are already committed to addressing the specific problems of ‘rat-running’ raised by the Crooms Hill and Hyde Vale Residents Associations (amongst others) and are close to resolving many of the concerns of local bus users with extended services agreed with TfL / LT Buses. We would also be happy to engage with local cycle groups to address their outstanding concerns as and when instructed to do so.

For the record, it was clearly stated at the start of the meeting that council officials had been invited to the event, which had been announced two weeks in advance. It’s inconcievable that the three Greenwich West councillors were unaware of the meeting, especially considering the appearance of a neighbouring councillor (in a non-official capacity) and two representatives of the local Conservatives.

UPDATE: 10:30AM TUESDAY Here is a statement from Transition Greenwich, which organised the meeting, explaining that apologies were recieved from council officers, and that neither local councillors nor local MP Nick Raynsford responded to their invitations.

Greenwich Council snubs pedestrianisation meeting

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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.

Another Greenwich pedestrianisation exhibition

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All of a sudden, Greenwich Council has announced another exhibition of plans to part-pedestrianise Greenwich town centre, this time starting on Saturday and running through to Tuesday at Devonport House. It’s classic Greenwich “consultation” once again – announced five days in advance, on a Monday night when local newspapers are going to press, but handed straight to propaganda rag Greenwich Time instead.

An earlier display in December showcased a number of different schemes, which looked interesting but lacked an overall vision – what kind of place do we want Greenwich to be? There wasn’t much of a clue as to what the council wanted to do with the space, or what would happen to any displaced traffic or the bus services which terminate in Greenwich. Indeed, the council kept the results of the consultation close to its chest, only revealing it when a Conservative candidate for the area in the local elections, Ryan Acty, put in a Freedom of Information Act request, which he put he published as a comment at the foot of this Andrew Gilligan column on greenwich.co.uk in March.

The initial consultation process has confirmed that almost 90% of those who replied support the principle of improving the town centre environment.

Further, nearly 80 % agree that pedestrianisation of College Approach, King William Walk (part) and Greenwich Church Street (part) is an appropriate way forward.

Of those who support pedestrianisation around 70% prefer the gyratory concept to the idea of a T junction at Nelson Road/Greenwich Church Street.

Following these returns officers are developing more detailed plans about how best to design a gyratory scheme incorporating the views and opinions expressed, it is anticipated that a further consultation will take place on this more detailed proposal in the summer of this year.

The council’s website outlines that “gyratory concept”.

We have now produced a more detailed set of plans, which aim to reflect the concerns and suggestions made by local people.

The key features of the Council’s ‘preferred scheme’ are:

* One-way clockwise gyratory on Creek Road, Greenwich Church Street, Greenwich High Road (east of Greenwich South Street) and Norman Road.
* Greenwich High Road west of Greenwich South Street will remain two-way.

We believe the scheme will address the needs of local residents and visitors whether on foot, on bicycle, or on public transport. At the same time, the scheme should ensure a good traffic flow and reduce congestion.

That’s quite a haul if you’re heading to/from Greenwich South Street – and bad news for some bus passengers. It’ll be interesting to see if the effects on public transport have been considered, as well as the effects on cyclists. The maps used in the last consultation were out of date as well – missing off the decade-old Ha’penny Hatch footbridge linking Norman Road with Creekside in Deptford, also used by many cyclists. Norman Road itself is likely to see its industrial units replaced by new developments over the next few years – have these been factored into the proposals?

I think pedestrianisation could be a good thing – but only if done properly and with a real vision for what the area would be like when it’s done. At the moment, that vision is lacking. Maybe we’ll find out more at the weekend. I hope so – because this is too important a scheme to rush and botch up.

Written by Darryl

23 June, 2010 at 8:00 am

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