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

Posts Tagged ‘silvertown link

Greenwich Council forced to reveal Silvertown Tunnel report

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Bridge The Gap relaunch

Greenwich Council has been made to release a secret report to Labour councillors about its backing for the Silvertown Tunnel under freedom of information legislation, after nearly a year of refusing to publish the information.

The document reveals that Greenwich’s Labour councillors decided to back the Silvertown Tunnel proposals with no evidence that it would do any good – and one year on, there is still no business case to back up the council’s claims that building what is effectively a third Blackwall Tunnel will help regenerate the area.

Greenwich Time, 4 December 2012The report was presented to Labour councillors in November 2012, ahead of the launch of its Bridge The Gap campaign, promoting both a road tunnel from Greenwich Peninsula to Silvertown and a new road bridge between Thamesmead and Beckton.

London mayor Boris Johnson wants to build the Silvertown Tunnel, along with a ferry at Thamesmead.

After a request was submitted under the Environmental Information Regulations Act, the council refused to release the report, claiming it would affect “its ability to develop policy out of the public gaze”.

But the Information Commissioner’s Office ruled in November that the council had been wrong to refuse to release the information – pointing out Greenwich had already made and publicised its decision – and ordered the council to publish it before Christmas.

“There is an inherent argument for transparency and accountability in any spending of public money, and the Commissioner considers that this is relevant for a campaign designed to influence public debate on an important subject,” the ICO said.

“Furthermore, whilst the Royal Borough of Greenwich is not bearing the brunt of the costs for the new river crossing it still has significant influence over how the project evolves, and this has serious ramifications for the people in the borough.”

It added: “There is a strong objection to RBG’s position. Evidence of this can be found on-line, such as a petition with over 400 signatories.

“In the Commissioner’s view this shows there is a legitimate public debate around the subject and also public support for learning how RBG reached its position.”

Greenwich Council Labour group report, 26 November 2012

Three weeks ago, almost a year to the day that I submitted the request, Greenwich finally sent me the report by post. So, the first time, here is the November 2012 Labour group paper on the Silvertown Tunnel and Gallions Reach Bridge.

Councillors voted to endorse the report, which outlines how the council planned to campaign for the Silvertown and Gallions Reach crossings, although some have since said privately they feel they were misled by leader Chris Roberts. What striking is how little there is in the report.

The report does not contain a shred of evidence that either crossing will do any good – merely an assertion that “the potential associated with [developable] land [in the ex-Olympic boroughs] can only be realised by investment in major transport infrastructure in an acceptable timeframe”.

It also failed to anticipate hostility from local residents – merely saying that “environmental groups against an increase in vehicle crossings are rehearsing previous arguments”.

Furthermore, the report said the council would need to develop a business case for the crossings, and a “conference and/or public meeting” – neither of which happened.

So what did happen to the business case? I asked regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland at this month’s council meeting.

Her response? “TfL will be required to present a regeneration business case as part of their proposals. However a study has been undertaken by independent consultants employed by the London Borough of Newham, for which the Royal Borough provided data to inform the study, which is now in the public domain and demonstrates a clear regeneration case for a new crossing [sic].”

In other words, Greenwich didn’t bother. But does Newham Council’s report justify supporting the Silvertown Tunnel? Let’s have a look at its cover…

Newham Council Gallions Reach Bridge business case

That’d be a no, then.

Oddly, among the few times that Silvertown is mentioned, the report’s potential traffic figures claim it would attract no new vehicles at all – which is optimistic, to say the least, and flies in the face of a body of evidence which states that new roads attract new traffic. Indeed, the Newham report even concedes that new developments will lead to more traffic.

It’s even slightly sceptical about Silvertown, saying it is “surprising that TfL report a higher benefit cost ratio for the Silvertown tunnel than the Gallions Reach bridge”.

So, there is no evidence, and no business case for Silvertown. Its own Labour party members won’t back it, and neither will neighbouring Labour councils.

So why is Greenwich Council continuing to support a policy on Silvertown which can only continue to cause it grief? Answers on a pre-paid Bridge The Gap postcard to the usual address.

Want to help the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign? The No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign, of which I’m a part, is going to be running a new pollution study over a wider area early in the new year. If you can spare either a) time to help put up and take down tubes on weekdays in January and February or b) money to help fund them, then drop info[at]silvertowntunnel.co.uk a line.

We’re also interested in hearing from local firms who’d like to get involved – tech firm Scale Factory, based in Catford and Woolwich, is our first business backer. There’s more on the No to Silvertown Tunnel website.

Greenwich Council: ‘We’ll build our own river crossing’

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This truncated road at the end of Barnham Drive would be the approach road to a Gallions Reach crossing. Note the world's worst cycle lane.

This truncated road at the end of Barnham Drive, Thamesmead would form part of the approach to any Gallions Reach crossing. Note the world’s worst cycle lane.

Greenwich Council is demanding the power to build a new road bridge at Thamesmead, according to its response to Transport for London’s consultation into river crossings.

As expected, the council is “strongly supporting” the controversial Silvertown Tunnel, which would branch off the A102 just south of the Blackwall Tunnel, as favoured by mayor Boris Johnson but opposed by local residents and the local Labour party.

There’s also no surprise in the council rejecting the mayor’s other proposal – to build a ferry at Gallions Reach, linking Thamesmead with Beckton, instead – and favouring a bridge instead.

But what is interesting is a demand that Greenwich and Newham councils be given the power to build their own bridge if TfL doesn’t build one.

It says: “The Royal Borough is concerned that a new fixed crossing at Gallions Reach should be constructed at the earliest possible opportunity [and] does not accept that a new fixed crossing at Gallions Reach could not be constructed before 2021.

“If TfL is unable to deliver a fixed crossing sooner than 2021 the Mayor should use the powers provided by the GLA Act 1999 (as amended by the GLA Act 2007) to delegate authority to the Royal Borough of Greenwich and Newham Council so as to facilitate that.”

The chances of Boris Johnson approving a bridge at Gallions Reach, to be built by TfL or anyone else, are remote. His political allies at neighbouring Bexley Council are implacably opposed to the idea, and scrapping a previous proposal – the Thames Gateway Bridge – was one of his pledges prior to his election as mayor in 2008.

That said, though, the mayor clashed with Conservative assembly member and Bexley cabinet member Gareth Bacon on the subject in January, an exchange which is worth reading (“I am not ruling it out. I am ruling out the Thames Gateway Bridge. I have ruled that out.”), while he has also acknowledged that a future mayor may take a different view.

Are the two Labour councils trying to offer Tory Boris a way out by offering to build a bridge themselves? It’s an interesting development.

It also deepens the council’s disagreement with Eltham Labour MP Clive Efford, who fears a Gallions Reach bridge would lead to a revival of long-scrapped plans to drive a motorway through Oxleas Woods. The local ward party in Shooters Hill has rejected the council’s campaign.

Barnham Drive, ThamesmeadWhile a bridge at Gallions Reach may look more attractive compared with the crazy Silvertown proposal, many of the same issues apply. Air pollution is already poor in the area, underneath the London City Airport flightpath, and housing has already been built either side of the proposed approach at Barnham Drive, west Thamesmead.

There’s the additional complication of attracting more traffic to roads which wouldn’t be able to cope with the traffic – notoriously, the main route to the area from Bexleyheath is a side road, Knee Hill.

That said, those issues would also apply to Boris’s ferry proposal – supported by Bexley – which would replace the Woolwich Ferry, mostly used by HGVs.

Another interesting aspect of Greenwich’s response suggests using both crossings to create some kind of circular public transport link between the Royal Docks and the north of the borough, as well as flagging up its pet “DLR on stilts” proposal.

“An analysis of the opportunity to incorporate provision for a DLR extension to the south of the Royal Borough within the Silvertown Tunnel would be welcomed – alongside an analysis of the prospect of creating a circular public transport arrangement that could connect Thamesmead, Beckton, the University of East London campus, City Airport, ExCel, the O2, Ravensbourne College and North Greenwich station, Charlton Riverside, Woolwich Central and the new Crossrail stations utilising new crossing at Silvertown and Gallions Reach,” it says.

No reference to worries about air quality or increased congestion at either Silvertown or Gallions Reach feature in Greenwich’s submission, which records the curiously round figure of 1,200 signatures in support of its three-month long Bridge The Gap campaign, of which 795 were received online, the rest from pre-printed cards supplied to the public. (The No To Silvertown Tunnel petition got 348 in a month.)

It also supports tolling, yet acknowledges that this could send traffic towards Rotherhithe Tunnel and Tower Bridge: “It is essential that any tolling regime introduced is designed such that the World Heritage Site at Greenwich is not detrimentally affected by a potential shift of vehicle movements westwards to the nearest ‘free’ crossings.”

It says there should be “appropriate local traffic mitigation measures to safeguard the World Heritage Site and other residential areas in the proximity of the proposed Silvertown tunnel”, although it does not suggest what these would be.

Read Greenwich Council’s response and report to cabinet member Denise Hyland.

‘Greener Greenwich’ councillor says ‘yes’ to new roads

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One final post* on Silvertown for now – I can’t let this go without highlighting the considered thoughts of Harry Singh, the Greenwich Council cabinet member for something called “Greener Greenwich”.

Harry Singh's written response

(See the full bundle of Silvertown Tunnel “answers”)

Yes, the man with a “green” portfolio actually believes building a new four-lane road will help ease the notorious air pollution which blights east Greenwich. It’s a reply which truly puts the “moronic” in “oxymoronic”.

There’s more from Wednesday night’s council meeting here, and you can listen to the evidence against in Wednesday’s post – delivered by the experts Denise Hyland refused to meet.

Maybe Harry could spend the weekend reading this 1990s study into “induced traffic”, which shows building new roads simply attracts more traffic.

One of Greenwich Council’s greatest mysteries is the “Greener Greenwich” portfolio – apparently created to ward off a possible electoral threat from the Green Party. If you ask a question about roads in the borough, it goes to regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland; if you ask the same question as a cyclist, it goes to Harry. If you ask a question about litter on the pavement, it goes to environment member Maureen O’Mara. If it’s about litter in your wheelie bin, it goes to Harry.

It’s basically cycling and bins. Because that’s all being “greener” is, apparently. The rest of it, it would appear, is doing what what you’re told, and putting your name to answers which are clearly nonsense.

Thank you to everybody who’s signed the petition (it went to TfL yesterday) and to all those who filled in TfL’s hopeless consultation. The river crossings proposals will return later in the year, and the petition will remain open until then. We’ll be thinking about where the campaign goes next – your thoughts would be appreciated.

(* which guarantees the next post will be on Silvertown, of course.)

Written by Darryl

2 February, 2013 at 7:30 am

Greenwich Council dodges public Silvertown Tunnel questions

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Bridge The Gap relaunch

Senior Greenwich councillor Denise Hyland last night ignored worried residents’ worries about the Silvertown Tunnel – and even refused to accept two offers of meetings with independent air quality experts.

The council received 27 written questions on the Silvertown Tunnel from members of the public – most meetings usually only get about 10 or so on anything – yet none of them were answered straight.

As far as spoken questions went, Hyland claimed promoting the Silvertown Tunnel was the responsibility of Transport for London – despite the fact the council has launched an “all out” campaign to promote the tunnel, and a bridge at Gallions Reach, Thamesmead. (She can listen to evidence here, of course.)

She also refused to meet independent air quality experts about the proposals – despite proposals from myself and Conservative councillor Nigel Fletcher, playing devil’s advocate since his party backs the Silvertown proposal. (Note for non-local readers: only two parties are represented in Greenwich borough.)

In reply to the public question from myself, she suggested the experts meet TfL instead.

When Fletcher pressed Hyland on why the council had not carried out any studies to back its Bridge The Gap campaign, she replied: “These are a Conservative mayor’s plans… we are a stakeholder. You would be the first to accuse me of spending public money when actually the duty of doing these studies firmly rests with TfL.”

That’s despite the fact the council launched an “all-out” campaign to back that Conservative mayor’s proposals, as pictured above.

Indeed, the Conservatives pushed Hyland into a series of bizarre answers, which included her comparing the council’s backing of mayor Boris Johnson’s campaign to photocopy hire.

A bundle of 13 questions asking a variety of questions, including why Greenwich Council had not commissioned any studies into the effects Silvertown would have, received this reply:

“The council is responding to the Mayor of London’s high level consultation on river crossings. Once a specific package of crossings is formulated, it will be for the Mayor to undertake the necessary economic, environmental and traffic management assessments. These will need to be undertaken holistically, taking into account all the proposals, not individual transport solutions in isolation and should look at the implications of a one-crossing solution, both fixed link crossings, and the implications of doing nothing.”

Questions about why Greenwich Council’s strategic transport planner had called the plans “conjecture” were dodged, but not denied, as were questions about why the council had used “the full strength of its communications department”, while a written answer from Hyland said it would be “inappropriate to comment” on the possibility of demolition of homes for a possible widening of the A102.

A further question, about whether Greenwich would be happy just to see a Silvertown Tunnel built, was dodged with the answer that the council believes “a package of vehicular crossings [is needed] to complement the non-vehicular crossings”.

I don’t have the written answers available in a format to upload yet, but I do have audio of the public questions and the debate with the Conservatives.

10.20pm update: Here’s the written answers to the 28 (not 27) questions the public asked.

Public questions – 20 minutes long, includes non-Silvertown questions (incl foot tunnel stuff) (download)

Conservative questions from Nigel Fletcher and Spencer Drury – 7 minutes long, well worth a listen (download)

Hyland’s performance was so surreal, I can’t quite take it in. The audio quality’s the best I can get it, but please, take a listen and let me know what you think.

To take part in the TfL consultation which ends on Friday, go to www.tfl.gov.uk/rivercrossings. To sign the No To Silvertown Tunnel petition, visit www.silvertowntunnel.co.uk.

Written by Darryl

31 January, 2013 at 1:55 am

Bridge The Gap: Greenwich Council keeping evidence secret

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Bridge The Gap press launch, 4 January 2013
Greenwich Council has refused to release the evidence it used when deciding to launch its Bridge The Gap campaign for new Thames road crossings at Greenwich and Thamesmead.

Nearly eight weeks after it was submitted, the council has refused to answer a Freedom of Information request submitted by this website asking for the evidence seen by council leader Chris Roberts and shown to the borough’s ruling Labour group at a behind-closed-doors meeting.

The council says:

Internal papers have been provided for the Council’s Executive and Labour
Group. These were essentially briefing and discussion documents. The
purpose of these documents was to begin to develop the Council’s final
response to TFL’s consultation. It is the Council’s view that to release
discussion documents such as these would fetter the Council’s ability to
develop policy out of the public gaze.

However, these discussions led to a policy decision which resulted in a campaign being launched which has so far included an online petition, face-to-face campaigning with members of the public in Woolwich, two press photocalls, an attempt to launch a social media campaign and seven articles in the council’s weekly newspaper, Greenwich Time.

It is believed the council has no hard evidence, while cabinet member Denise Hyland has admitted no studies have been commissioned.

Meanwhile, Mayor Boris Johnson said today at City Hall he was still committed to building a Silvertown Tunnel, despite evidence that it risks making both congestion and pollution worse.

He also ruled out building a Gallions Reach Bridge at Thamesmead during his mayoralty, but in a testy exchange with Conservative assembly member and senior Bexley councillor Gareth Bacon, refused to rule out one ever being built there. TfL currently favours a ferry there, which would replace the one at Woolwich.

To take part in the TfL consultation, go to www.tfl.gov.uk/rivercrossings. To sign the No To Silvertown Tunnel petition, visit www.silvertowntunnel.co.uk.

You can also watch Greenwich councillors take public questions on Silvertown at their next full meeting, TONIGHT at 7pm at Woolwich Town Hall. Here’s some tips on what to expect.

Written by Darryl

30 January, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Silvertown Tunnel: Trouble in the council message centre

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As the end of TfL’s consultation on river crossings looms (please, fill in www.tfl.gov.uk/rivercrossings by Friday), Greenwich Council’s Bridge The Gap publicity push to build a road tunnel between Greenwich and Silvertown, as well as a road bridge between Thamesmead and Beckton, has fallen into even more disarray.

After all, nothing else can explain this response to a letter from an anxious punter in this week’s edition of council propaganda weekly Greenwich Time.

Greenwich Time, 29 January 2013

(I should point out that the council press office did arrange space for a letter after a press release responding to the last load of nonsense was sent to an old email address – strangely, GT now uses a Gmail account. Criticism of GT’s coverage and a call for people to sign the anti-Silvertown petition was edited out of the letter.)

Nothing in this reply addresses the issues with Silvertown – indeed, it doesn’t mention it by name – all it says is “we’ll back it now and worry about the facts later”. I fully expected that attempt to divert the focus downstream.

But let’s see that opening line again. “The Bridge The Gap campaign seeks to ensure that local residents are effectively aware of the proposal to effectively move the Woolwich Ferry to Thamesmead. That reply is the first time in the seven issues of the council’s main publicity organ which have relentlessly plugged Bridge The Gap that the closure of the Woolwich Ferry has actually been mentioned. Is that the sound of grasping at straws coming from Woolwich Town Hall?

It must be, because it has no evidence in the Silvertown Tunnel’s favour.

Moving onto page 13, it’s the inevitable…

Greenwich Time, 29 January 2013

Forget the Woolwich Ferry, it’s back to a picture of a packed A102 and bigging up the lethal Silvertown proposal, as well as the whopper about “community leaders” and the deceitful implication that this campaign is supported by anyone other than Greenwich Council and its developer friends.

And it still has no evidence.

Actually, we know another set of supporters – the Eltham Labour Party, which rejected a motion from its Shooters Hill ward party condemning the campaign last Friday. I’m told council leader Chris Roberts admitted he had no evidence to support the campaign – this is disputed by cabinet member John Fahy, who chaired the meeting, although the councillor in charge of public health hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with any evidence of Silvertown’s benefits himself.

On 7 December, I emailed the council to ask for the evidence submitted to Chris Roberts, and that presented to the ruling Labour group, that influenced their decision to launch the Bridge The Gap campaign. Nearly eight weeks later, I’ve no response.

It’s because they had no evidence in the first place, no doubt.

But we have evidence of how wrong they are. On Monday, 50 people crammed into the Christchurch Forum, Greenwich to hear about research which shows how the Silvertown and Gallions Reach proposals are so dangerous.

I don’t have most the visual presentation, but you can hear traffic expert John Elliott (a former GLC transport chief) and pollution expert Dr Ian Mudway (part of the team behind the London Air website) discuss why new roads generate new traffic, why tolling won’t work, and how traffic pollution kills by clicking the play button below. (Or you can download an MP3 file of the two-hour meeting from this link – the second hour is questions from the audience. The first voice you hear is Jenny Bates of Friends of the Earth.)

(Here’s John Elliott’s slides on the traffic growth at Westway and the second Blackwall Tunnel.)

Among the audience there was the aforementioned John Fahy, once so bullishly in favour of Silvertown, who left with a worried look on his face. Now one of the council’s cabinet, and the man in charge of public health, has heard the evidence, will some sense start to emerge? Here’s hoping.

To take part in the TfL consultation, go to www.tfl.gov.uk/rivercrossings. To sign the No To Silvertown Tunnel petition, visit www.silvertowntunnel.co.uk.

You can also watch Greenwich councillors take public questions on Silvertown at their next full meeting, TONIGHT at 7pm at Woolwich Town Hall. Here’s some tips on what to expect.

Greenwich Labour members reject council’s Silvertown campaign

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Rank-and-file Greenwich Labour members have rebuked their own council for launching its campaign to build a third Blackwall Tunnel.

Greenwich Labour officesGreenwich and Woolwich Labour Party members voted in favour of a motion criticising their councillors’ decision to launch the Bridge The Gap campaign, to press for a tunnel between Greenwich Peninsula and Silvertown and a road bridge between Thamesmead and Beckton. The council claims it will relieve congestion and bring economic benefits.

But air quality and traffic experts believe the Silvertown Tunnel will lead to an increase in pollution and will only exacerbate traffic congestion at the existing Blackwall Tunnel. A 300-strong petition is currently running against the scheme.

Party members are angry they were not consulted about the campaign, with many first reading about it in council newspaper Greenwich Time.

Furthermore, it’s emerged some of those councillors believe they were misled by their leadership into voting for the Bridge The Gap drive at a behind-closed-doors meeting in November.

They say they thought they were approving the idea of backing more river crossings in general, and not the specific proposals unveiled by leader Chris Roberts a week after their vote.

Greenwich Time, 4 December 2012The local ward party in Roberts’ own seat of Glyndon – which suffers from some of the worst air pollution in the borough – is one of three which have rejected his plan, and whose motions were put before the constituency party on Thursday.

Roberts did not attend Thursday’s meeting, but regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland did, according to party members who were there – but she left before the vote, which called for more research into the proposals.

MP Nick Raynsford and London Assembly member Len Duvall spoke in favour of the council’s campaign for a Silvertown Tunnel.

Transport for London is currently consulting on the Silvertown Tunnel and an alternative proposal for a ferry at Gallions Reach, Thamesmead, which would replace the Woolwich Ferry. While the bridge is an option, mayor Boris Johnson has made it clear he is against that proposal.

The Bridge The Gap campaign, launched in association with Newham Council, has been beset by problems since its launch nearly nine weeks ago. An attempt to use social media was abandoned when pranksters hijacked the council’s Twitter feed, while a press launch a month later was derailed by protesters.

The council’s own transport planner has admitted the campaign is based on “conjecture”, while Hyland herself has said the council has not carried out any traffic or pollution studies.

It’s unclear quite where the members’ motion leaves the council’s campaign, but ensures it will be difficult for the council to simply return to it when a new round of consultations start later this year.

The vote could have wider ramifications, though, for the council itself.

The anger against Roberts comes as local members begin to select who will stand for them in the 2014 council elections. If TfL push ahead with their Silvertown proposal, the issue could put councillors in marginal wards under threat if Greenwich continues its backing.

Indeed, with Roberts facing strong criticism from his own ward party, he may have to find a new seat for a second election in a row.

Saturday 9am update: Despite losing the support of her own party members, Denise Hyland defied them to appear on Saturday morning’s LBC radio breakfast show to plug the council’s campaign.

Friends of the Earth is holding a public meeting on Silvertown and the Gallions Reach proposal at the Forum, Trafalgar Road, Greenwich from 6.30pm. You can also watch Greenwich councillors take public questions at their next full meeting, on Wednesday at 7pm at Woolwich Town Hall.

To take part in the TfL consultation, go to www.tfl.gov.uk/rivercrossings. To sign the No To Silvertown Tunnel petition, visit www.silvertowntunnel.co.uk.

Written by Darryl

26 January, 2013 at 7:30 am

Silvertown Tunnel: Greenwich public meeting, Mon 28 Jan

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108 in Blackwall Tunnel

Plenty happening in the battle against Mayor Boris Johnson’s plans – endorsed by Greenwich Council – to build a third Blackwall Tunnel, adding extra traffic to the A102 and A2 through Greenwich, Blackheath, Charlton, Kidbrooke and Eltham.

Firstly, there’s a public meeting this Monday, 28th January, at the Forum on Trafalgar Road, Greenwich; to hear arguments against the crossing. It starts at 6.30pm, even if you can’t make the start, please come along. Speakers will include Dr Ian Mudgrave of King’s College, which runs the London Air Quality network of pollution monitors.

I went to the east London meeting on the Monday just gone, sliding along an icy Poplar High Street to get there. Dr Mudgrave’s been doing some work north of the river with schools in Tower Hamlets and Hackney boroughs, and his evidence of how pollution affects the area around Poplar – where he’s following childrens’ routes to school – is hair-raising. The air on the Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach is so bad, clean white sheets put out to dry at the flats there quickly turn grey.

The Guardian’s environment editor, John Vidal, was also there.

Dr Mudgrave has been researching the effects of air pollution on hundreds of children in three schools in the Tower Hamlets area for several years and has found that their lung capacity is reduced significantly by the age of eight or nine. He himself walks the streets of the borough to measure the pollution and says there is nowhere in Tower Hamlets within the legal limit set by the EU, largely because no one is less than 500m from a busy road.

“Did you know that if you live in a polluted area you will have smaller lungs? They will not reach capacity and will be stunted. When, or if, people move to a cleaner environment they still do not recover the function they lost. We have good evidence that every child born in Tower Hamlets will have a reduction in the volume of their lungs by the age of eight. The point is, people die of lung disease later on. You store up a problem that will affect you later.”

Between the A2, A206, A207 (Shooters Hill Road) and A102, much the same will apply through Greenwich, Blackheath and Charlton. Dr Mudgrave will be able to say more about this on Monday. Hopefully Greenwich cabinet member for public health John Fahy will be able to make it, after his views earlier this month…

As for the transport side of things, ex-GLC transport engineer John Elliott also spoke in Poplar, and he’ll be speaking in Greenwich too.

Far from clearing congestion, his calculations suggested this proposed new tunnel would worsen traffic jams and pollution, increase journey lengths, and encourage more trips from outside London.

“TfL says it will be able to design tolls to manage the traffic [through the tunnel]. Well, they could toll everything out which would make it pointless building the tunnel. Or they could have no tolls which would probably increase traffic by 100%, and lead to widespread congestion throughout east London and beyond. Or they could go for something in the middle which would result in, possibly an extra 2,000 vehicles per hour which would significantly worsen congestion throughout east London and beyond.”

Again, hopefully Greenwich councillors will be able to make it along – the evidence from these two experts is much more compelling than the demands from the council leader’s friends to be able to make more money.

I asked John Elliott at the meeting why sensible people – like these councillors – would back an insane plan like the Silvertown Tunnel. His theory’s somewhat complicated to explain, but rests on the fact that the private transport route through the Blackwall Tunnel has been improved throughout the years, but the public transport has not been.

Which rings true – the Blackwall Tunnel was doubled and gained the motorway through to Homerton in the late 60s, which was widened in the 1990s as well as being extended to meet the M11. But public transport through the tunnel has remained the same – the 108 bus, almost a century old, has been the only route through the tunnel since 1970, and doesn’t offer the same kind of choice. So in their minds, the idea of public transport is a non-runner because it has been degraded so much, even though it’s actually their responsibility to push for improvements.

Monday’s meeting is orgaised by Friends of the Earth, which is against both Silvertown and Gallions Reach crossings, but the Poplar meeting concentrated on Silvertown and there’s no reason to expect the Greenwich one won’t do the same (especially if lots of people against Silvertown turn up).

Secondly, I’m hearing all kinds of reports of local Labour parties rebelling against the council leadership’s backing of Silvertown; and there’s even more evidence of Newham Council backing away. In a head-to-head piece with environmental campaigner Alan Haughton in the Newham Recorder, Newham’s executive member for regeneration Conor McAuley says: “A new road crossing at Gallions Reach would… relieve pressure on a new Silvertown Tunnel, helping the local road network so traffic flows more freely.”

We already know Newham Council thinks a Silvertown Tunnel on its own is a bad idea, and McAuley makes no other reference to it in his piece. Yet a Silvertown Tunnel on its own is just what Greenwich and Newham are likely to get, considering Boris’s opposition to a road crossing a Gallions Reach. Conor McAuley’s comments highlight what a disaster Greenwich Council risks blundering into.

Finally, the consultation ends a week today, so please take part at www.tfl.gov.uk/rivercrossings and sign the petition at www.silvertowntunnel.co.uk. Your lungs might thank you for it.

Written by Darryl

25 January, 2013 at 8:59 am

The leader’s friends: Greenwich Council relaunches Silvertown push

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After the media launch of its Bridge The Gap campaign was hijacked two weeks ago, I’d been wondering how Greenwich Council would try to breathe new life into its campaign to see a third Blackwall Tunnel built.

Here’s how it did it – it called up its mates.

Bridge The Gap relaunch

You know when the council’s in trouble – when it issues a press release in time for the local papers to use it. So this image and the following release was issued on Wednesday afternoon, rather than on Friday evening, after deadline time at the Mercury and News Shopper. Nevertheless, you’ll surely see it in next week’s propaganda weekly Greenwich Time. GT’s been sent a comment from the No To Silvertown Tunnel campaign – I’m looking forward to seeing whether it’ll use it.

Among this crowd are some of the people who have the greatest influence over how Greenwich Council works. They include figures from O2 owner AEG, property developer Berkeley Homes and West Properties, which promised to build a cruise liner terminal for the Olympics but has so far failed to deliver.

Below is the press release, with some comments on those who took part. Wednesday’s photocall ties together heap of stories proving just how dependent Greenwich Council has become on a handful of large firms – shutting out even members of its ruling Labour party from decision-making. But both MPs and rank-and-file Labour members are revolting against the council’s stance. The fight against the Silvertown Tunnel has a long way to run yet, but another battle is erupting over who actually controls the council.

softheadsConsidering the handsome salary dished out to Greenwich’s head of press, the council could probably have done without the legend “Softheads” above regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland’s bonce, mind. Whoops.



16 JANUARY 2013


Community leaders, local businesses and entrepreneurs have thrown their weight behind a campaign for more river crossings in East London. The Royal Borough of Greenwich and Newham Council are jointly campaigning for a new bridge at Thamesmead and a new tunnel at Silvertown to ease congestion and to promote economic growth. Businesses have now staged a public show of support, saying that the lack of routes across the river in East London is a barrier to economic growth in the area and that new crossings are badly needed to secure future the prosperity of the region.

Actually, no “community leaders” have spoken out in favour – does anyone know any “community leaders”? – and none are in the photo. There’s a few politicians, though. As for Newham Council’s support of Silvertown, it’s lukewarm at best. It told told last year’s TfL consultation on the issue:

“Newham’s support for Silvertown Tunnel is conditional on traffic management and a commitment to a fixed link at Gallions Reach.”

Bear in mind that Boris Johnson is implacably opposed to a fixed link at Gallions, which means Greenwich Council’s campaign would be more likely to achieve only a Silvertown Tunnel, a situation Labour London Assembly member John Biggs told TfL last year would be “unsustainable”. Last week, Biggs told an Assembly seminar into road crossings it would just “funnel more problems into the area”, adding there was a “very deep anxiety in Newham” that it would be lumbered with just the Silvertown Tunnel.

Local politicians, business leaders and community representatives gathered to discuss the issue on a morning which saw severe transport problems in the local area with the Woolwich Ferry closed because of fog, interrupted DLR services south of the river and incidents in the Blackwall Tunnel and on the A2.

Again, no “community representatives” in sight there. Of course, an incident on the A2 would still hold up access to the Silvertown Tunnel.

Councillor Chris Roberts, Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich said:

“It’s no surprise that there’s such strong support amongst businesses for our Bridge the Gap campaign. Providing new river crossings is absolutely essential to solve the serious congestion in this part of London and to unlock the development potential of some 40 sites both north and south of the Thames. The value of land and property is determined by access to it and it’s essential for both our businesses and our residents that we are no longer pegged back by the river being such a barrier here. While we obviously work hard to promote walking, cycling and using public transport, new river crossings are needed to solve the existing congestion issues and to bring better jobs and prospects for our local residents and businesses”

Do businesses and residents benefit from high property values? Or do existing landowners and property developers benefit? There’s also no proof that new road-building solves congestion issues – in fact, researchers from the London School of Economics and the University of Toronto have found otherwise.

Nick Raynsford, MP for Greenwich and Woolwich said:

“For too long, Greenwich and Woolwich have suffered from inadequate provision for river crossings. Severe congestion at Blackwall, and also queues of lorries waiting for the Woolwich Ferry, are not just inhibiting economic development; they are also causing serious pollution. That is why we need new river crossings at Silvertown and Gallions Reach, imposed traffic management through the introduction of smart tolling, and improvements in transport access, together with enhanced environment safeguards particularly along the A102”.

Nick Raynsford’s connections with the construction industry are well-documented. Of course, he infamously backed the universally unpopular redevelopment of Greenwich Market, since scrapped. He even backs the ‘Boris Island’ scheme to build an airport in the Thames Estuary.

Also among those gathered this morning, Rebecca Kane, General Manager of The O2 said:

“At The O2, AEG has created the world’s most popular music and entertainment venue, attracting more than 40 million visitors since it opened in June 2007. Throughout this time congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel has been an inherent problem for our customers, tenants and partners. AEG strongly supports the proposal for a tunnel crossing at Silvertown and a bridge at Gallions Reach. This will provide much needed relief to the area, support AEG’s next development phases on the Greenwich Peninsula and indeed stimulate similar growth on both sides of the river”.

Most O2 visitors arrive by public transport – the bigger threat to the O2 was the botched Jubilee Line resignalling project. Since 2007, AEG has done nothing to help ease the traffic congestion caused by the O2 arena outside North Greenwich station. Perhaps it might look after its own backyard first? AEG’s development plans include a controversial hotel scheme which has had council approval since 2010, when the planning board split on party lines, with Labour councillors voting for it. Which it’s believed locally that it’s behind the mysterious appearance of an open-air stadium in the council’s Greenwich Peninsula development masterplan. AEG representatives are regularly invited to the council’s functions, while the council rents a hospitality box in the O2 arena.

John Anderson, Chairman of Berkeley Homes said:

“Berkeley is very supportive of the two new River crossings at Silvertown and Gallions Reach Thamesmead which are essential for the continued growth and regeneration of this strategically important part of South East London.

We strongly believe that in order to gain the maximum sustainable benefits the Gallions Reach Crossing must be a bridge link and not a ferry.”

Land Registry entriesThe links between Greenwich Council and Berkeley Homes are well-known. Council leader Chris Roberts even bought a flat in the Royal Arsenal from Berkeley for £270,000 in December 2009. Meanwhile, Berkeley has been doing its bit for the local housing crisis by, um, hawking homes in Kidbrooke Village – the old Ferrier Estate, handed to it by Greenwich Council – to Malaysian investors. It’s also been trying to wriggle out of paying for the fit-out of Woolwich’s Crossrail station, which sits inside the Arsenal development – the deadline for which is weeks away.

Berkeley Group chairman (and Conservative Party donor) Tony Pidgley was knighted in the New Year honours list. He’s called for homebuilders to be given spare government land cheaply. Berkeley are also regularly invited to council functions.

Donal Mulryan, CEO of West Properties said:

“This area has such huge economic potential which is already being realised to some extent, but it’s essential to future prosperity that we get a new river crossing in this part of London. It would be of great benefit to properly connect north and south here and will undoubtedly bring new jobs and investment to this area”.

West Properties promised to build a cruise liner terminal in east Greenwich in time for the Olympics. There’s been no sign of it yet, and so far has brought no new jobs or investment to the area. The company, which also hit problems with developments in Manchester after being caught up in the Irish property collapse, is also regularly invited to council booze-ups.

Roger Arnold, of Arnold Martin Associates said:

“East London has suffered historically, both economically and socially, due to the lack of connectivity between the two sides of the river. With the success of the regeneration of the Olympic site in Stratford and the commitment to Crossrail, this is an opportune moment to secure the future of East London and the campaign must be supported by local residents, communities and businesses to enhance the further potential of East London and the Thames Gateway.”

Martin Arnold Associates – yep, the council got the firm’s name wrong – are chartered surveyors and construction consultants involved in the redevelopment of the Olympic Park. It’s also supported the council’s Greenwich Starting Blocks charity for young athletes.

As for the other outfits featured, they include council building contractor Lakehouse; London Stone Properties, which flogs properties on the Arsenal; construction logistics firm CSB; Plumstead minicab firm Abbey Cars; printers SMP; Woolwich-based printers Scorpion Press; Woolwich diner Favourite Inn; solicitors Grant Saw; Murphys Waste, whose trucks regularly thunder through Greenwich; and, bafflingly, the Woolwich Grand Theatre. I wonder how many of the smaller firms without a direct interest in construction or property actually realise what they’ve signed up to? I’ve asked the Woolwich Grand Theatre and am waiting for a reply.

Why only one MP? While Nick Raynsford was happy to be at the launch, where was Eltham’s Clive Efford? Clive seems to be pushing his own scheme – a Silvertown Tunnel and DLR extension (which TfL isn’t consulting on). That’s the infamous “DLR on stilts” scheme, which Greenwich Council is spending £70,000 on a report investigating. Nothing about Gallions Reach – it’s believed Efford is vehemently against a bridge there, fearing it’ll eventually end in a return to the axed East London River Crossing scheme, which would have driven a motorway through Oxleas Wood. Sadly for him, his constituency now includes Kidbrooke, which would be badly affected by extra traffic on the A2. He’s in a no-win situation. Meanwhile, Erith & Thamesmead’s Teresa Pearce doesn’t seem too keen on Silvertown, judging by this tweet.

TfL says Silvertown WILL increase A102 traffic: TfL’s head of borough co-ordination Colin Mann admitted to a panel of Greenwich councillors last November that Silvertown was “likely to attract a lot of traffic” to the A102, and that no environmental impact assessment had been carried out.

Local Labour parties revolting over Bridge The Gap: Labour parties are tight-knit organisations which wouldn’t even tell you which brand of biscuits (Co-op, of course) they serve at their meetings. But Blackheath Westcombe Labour Party passed a motion condemning the Silvertown Tunnel scheme last week, and I’m told the Peninsula ward party tore a strip off Denise Hyland when she turned up there last night. Understandably so – there’s an election coming up next year, and marginal seats are under threat as residents discover what the council wants to do. More resolutions are planned in other local parties, including one for the whole Greenwich & Woolwich party, which is guaranteed to result in fireworks. Its chair, David Gardner, has already signed the petition against Silvertown, as have other members. Who runs Labour in this area – property developers, or local members? We may find out in the coming months.

Councillors admit air quality an issue: At last week’s planning meeting into opening a new Sainsbury’s in Charlton, three councillors – Clive Mardner, Hayley Fletcher and, unbelievably, Denise Hyland, brought up air quality along the Woolwich Road as an issue. Fletcher even voted against the scheme after calling the data “frightening”. Yet all three councillors are part of a Labour group which voted behind closed doors for a scheme which would make air quality much, much worse. Strange.

Council’s case ‘conjecture’, admits transport planner: At the London Assembly seminar on river crossings last week, Greenwich Council’s transport planner admitted that without evidence of the benefits of more crossings, the debate was mostly “conjecture”. Interestingly, the RAC Foundation’s David Quarmby observed that TfL wasn’t promising Silvertown was about regeneration – but according to Greenwich, it is. You can watch it here – including the ex-GLC transport chief who said Silvertown would cause “critical” congestion as it “put all the eggs in one basket” – but unfortunately you have to sit through all 150+ minutes of the meeting.

Council silent on A102 widening: A token letter against Silvertown made its way into Greenwich Time this week. No answer to the question, though, just like we’ve had no answers throughout this bizarre, and shaming episode.

Greenwich Time, 15 January 2013

City Hall has now placed some more data about crossing plans online, and there’s a detailed discussion at Greenwich.co.uk, although it’s the questions that have been detailed, not the answers. There are also meetings in Poplar and Greenwich to be held by Friends of the Earth, which is against both crossings. No public meetings from Greenwich Council, sheltering behind its developer friends and propaganda newspaper.

To sign the No To Silvertown Tunnel petition, visit: www.silvertowntunnel.co.uk
To take part in TfL’s consultation, go to www.tfl.gov.uk/rivercrossings

(Post updated Friday 12.05pm, to include TfL quote on Silvertown and petition quotes below.)

PS. Here’s some quotes from the petition so far:

“We should not add to traffic and pollution on A102 until all other possibilities have been properly investigated and implemented” – Richard Dinkeldein

“Emissions in the area are bad enough already this will make things far worse. Shame on you Greenwich Council.” – Tessa O’Connor

“I live close to the A102 and a family member’s asthma will only get worse with more traffic on the route.” – Stephen Craven

“More ways to cross the river in the East are needed. This however, is not the solution in an already congested area.” – Matt Drewry

“I live in the shadow of the Woolwich Road flyover and experience the fumes from the amount of traffic passing 24 hours a day and the sooty fallout on the windowsills etc. I suffer with asthma.” – Linda Brittin

Greenwich Council’s Bridge The Gap campaign runs aground

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So, you’re the PR boss of a London borough, earning £125,000 a year. You’ve cooked up a campaign to get a new road tunnel built which is going to lead to even more traffic piling into your already-saturated borough. It’s a controversial one.

Your social media launch had to be pulled, so now you’re now launching it to the mainstream media. You pick a nice riverside location. After all, your borough has London’s longest riverfront.

But you forget to check the tide tables. So when you arrive, it’s low tide…

Bridge The Gap press launch, 4 January 2013

Perhaps doing it in view of the much-loved Woolwich Ferry, which you’re campaigning to get rid of, probably wasn’t wise either. Oh dear, oh dear…

Greenwich Council Bridge The Gap launch, 4 January 2013

Next, all you’ll need is your senior councillor admitting not having done any research – but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Sadly, I couldn’t be there, but Greenwich and Newham councils’ launch of their Bridge The Gap campaign on Friday ended up being shared with a protest on the North Woolwich foreshore from Friends of the Earth, Roads To Nowhere and Stop City Airport. If only they’d done it at high tide, eh?

These campaigners are flat out against any new roads, while it must be emphasised the No Silvertown Tunnel petition doesn’t have a view on other crossings, but it’s good to see Greenwich and Newham’s attempt to hijack TfL’s river crossings consultation itself hijacked once again.

Will Greenwich Council now get the message that campaigning for an additional tunnel branching off the A102, attracting more traffic, more jams and more pollution, is suicidal? We’ll have to wait and see, but you can help by signing the petition.

For some strange reason, neither Greenwich’s Dear Leader Chris Roberts nor Newham’s elected mayor Sir Robin Wales bothered to show up, so the gig was left to regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland and her Newham counterpart, Conor McAuley. Neither were particularly convincing, as this video from London 24 shows…

Ah, Denise Hyland – cabinet member for minicab firms. To be fair, she could have told Adam from Kidbrooke Kite to bugger off, but she did talk to him. What she said showed just how little thought Greenwich Council put into this campaign.

Had Greenwich considered the impact on traffic and pollution before campaigning for a Silvertown Tunnel? No, she said.

“This is TfL’s job to do this not the Royal Borough of Greenwich. We are a stakeholder and we will hold TfL to account around traffic modelling, environmental impact and the like.”

Holding TfL to account by backing its mad scheme? Eh? But never mind, it’s okay, because the Romans did it…

“What we know, and I take you back into history, is that the Romans discovered that when you put a bridge across a river you get prosperity either side of that bridge and that is really important to us.”

Funny that, because it wasn’t the construction of the second Blackwall Tunnel in 1967 that brought development to the Greenwich peninsula (the old gasworks were entering a 20-year decline) – but the opening of the Jubilee Line in 1999. There’s no sign building a third will do any better.

Indeed, it seems Greenwich has launched the campaign on nothing more than a hunch and a desire to “show leadership” (going back to its basic “do as you’re told” instinct again) – and we’re into a bizarre world when a Labour council is relying on a Tory mayor to come up with the figures to justify what they want.

Curiously, Newham doesn’t seem as on board with the campaign as Greenwich is – a planned campaign page at www.newham.gov.uk/bridgethegap has failed to materialise. Wonder why that is?

Unfortunately, despite the fact that parts of the Greenwich Labour party are revolting against the scheme – local party chairman David Gardner is among the petition’s signatories – it seems that councillors are digging in. And covering their ears. Here’s cabinet member John Fahy, who, incredibly, is in charge of public health issues, so you might think would be worried about something which would cause more pollution.

A veteran of local politics should know and act better than this.

Even more bizarrely, he later used the greenwich.co.uk forum to imply that more congestion in Kidbrooke wasn’t an issue because “these issues exist already”.

That’s what we’re up against – but we can still force the council to listen. Please, if you haven’t already, sign the petition and fill in TfL’s consultation. And if you live in the borough of Greenwich, please, ask your local councillors what the hell they think they’re playing at.

Might be worth reminding them they’re up for election next year.

Finally, the London Assembly, which scrutinises the work of the mayor, is holding a seminar on Wednesday about river crossings. If you can’t make it – it’s in the daytime, after all – they’d be delighted to take a written submission. Mine’s on its way, so why not send one too?

11.30pm update: This week’s edition of council pravda Greenwich Time ignores the protests, but wrongly claims TV crews showed up.

Written by Darryl

7 January, 2013 at 7:30 am


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