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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 ‘silvertown tunnel

Silvertown Tunnel will cause ‘pressure’, Boris Johnson admits

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Charlton Road/A102 bridge, 2 April 2014
London mayor Boris Johnson has admitted his proposals for the Silvertown Tunnel will cause “much more pressure and much more traffic” on local roads – despite his allies at Greenwich Council claiming the opposite.

Johnson’s admission also gives campaigners against a new Ikea in Greenwich a new line of argument while the mayor considers whether or not to ratify Greenwich Council’s decision to back the new store.

All this comes in a week London’s been enveloped in a smog which is actually visible thanks to it including some Saharan dust particles – with the capital’s politicians paralysed by inaction.

Johnson’s comments about Silvertown were made in a phone-in on LBC with breakfast host Nick Ferrari on Tuesday morning. Thanks to Boriswatch’s Tom Barry for the heads-up and transcript of this conversation with a caller called Mark from Dagenham, 25 minutes into the programme:

“What we’ve got to do, Mark, actually, is build not just one bridge but a series of river crossings, we’re starting with the Blackwall 2 tunnel… that will be going by 2020, or 2020-2021 – not so far away! Erm, only six years or seven years to go, we’re going for the Blackwall 2 tunnel at Silvertown, but we will also need a series of crossings to the, to the east and actually there’s a there’s a there’s loads of sites that er, are we are looking at and, um, I think the important thing for people of um both on both sides is that you shouldn’t just do one, because if you do one then you’re going to get much more pressure, much more traffic on, on that area and if you if you you can dilute the traffic if you have if you have several crossings.”

Yet the current proposals from Transport for London, which Johnson chairs, are just for the one crossing – at Silvertown. And Johnson has been happy to push the merits of this one crossing in the past – calling it “a major new crossing east of Tower Bridge”.

(Update Friday 8.30am: A spokesperson for Johnson has also told the Mercury that Silvertown will DOUBLE capacity at Blackwall. Past TfL statements have put the planned increase in traffic at 20%.)

So not only has Boris Johnson torpedoed his own argument, his friendly fire has also shot down some of the nonsense spouted by his partners-in-roadbuilding at Greenwich Council, such as this classic from “Greener Greenwich” cabinet member Harry Singh.

Harry Singh's written response, Greenwich Council meeting January 2013

It’s increasingly looking like the mayor is starting to soften up for a U-turn on the Gallions Reach crossing – which would flood Woolwich, Plumstead and Abbey Wood with new traffic, as well as for more roadbuilding in general. But where else along SE London’s riverfront would Johnson swing his wrecking-ball to build yet more road crossings?

Meanwhile, while voicing doubts on putting too much pressure on the road network on the Greenwich Peninsula, the mayor is currently deciding whether or not to approve Greenwich Council’s decision to allow Ikea to build a new superstore there.

GLA letter on Ikea

Of course, an Ikea will bring the same problem – an increase in traffic, something that was ignored when it was bulldozed through planning last month.

So it’s possible to use Johnson’s words to argue the case against Greenwich’s decision, as well as the GLA’s 2004 objection to a store in Sidcup. If you want to write to City Hall to object, use reference number D&P/3283/PR and write to planning[at]london.gov.uk before 9 April.

Beyond the Silvertown Tunnel: TfL eyes Ringway road revival

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With smog levels high in London this week, you might think that anyone proposing major new road schemes for the capital would be laughed out of town.

But Transport for London is considering reviving long-dead proposals for new orbital roads around the capital – raising the spectre of decades-old plans which threatened Blackheath Village and other parts of SE London.

The transport authority is already planning a new road tunnel under the Thames to feed into the A102 at the Greenwich Peninsula. But the plans don’t stop with the Silvertown Tunnel or possible plans for a bridge at Gallions Reach, near Thamesmead.

City Hall is currently consulting on proposals to change the capital’s planning guidance, The London Plan. These include taking on board the recommendations of the Roads Task Force as planning policy.

London Plan alterations

The Roads Task Force was set up in 2012, after Boris Johnson’s second election win “to tackle the challenges facing London’s streets and roads”. Dubbed an independent body, it includes representatives of haulage, transport and motoring groups as well as the London Cycling Campaign and Living Streets. Its first report was published last summer, and recommended a “feasibility study of tunnelling to remove ‘strategic’ traffic from surface and free-up space for other uses”.

This month, a progress report has appeared, where this has become…

RTF March 2014 report

TfL’s enthusiasm for digging tunnels hasn’t just been sparked by Silvertown – Boris Johnson is backing proposals by Hammersmith & Fulham Council to build a Hammersmith Flyunder, which would replace the existing flyover.

While the plan’s being sold on revitalising Hammersmith town centre, options being pushed by the council involve effectively creating a buried urban motorway from Chiswick to Kensington.

So what’s meant by the “orbital tunnel”?

As both the Silvertown Tunnel and Gallions Reach/ Thames Gateway Bridge are, essentially, revived versions of long-dead transport plans, this could well mean the resurrection of Ringway 1.

Ringway 1

Here’s the leaflet which sold the Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach to locals when construction started in 1967. (Thanks to The Greenwich Phantom for the scans.) The BTSA was originally planned to be part of Ringway 1, which would have featured an interchange at Kidbrooke, roughly where the current A2 junction is now.

A new road, the South Cross Route, would have continued at Kidbrooke, following the railway line and ploughing through the Blackheath Cator Estate and tunnelling under Blackheath Village, through Lewisham town centre and featuring an interchange roughly where St John’s station is for a slip road to New Cross. It would then have follow the railway line through Brockley, Nunhead and Peckham and on a flyover through Brixton, where the famous “Barrier Block” of flats was built in anticipation of a motorway which, thankfully, never came.

The Ringways project would have been Britain’s biggest ever construction project. They were proposed by Conservative politicians on the Greater London Council and tacitly backed by Labour opponents – sound familiar? The GLC also planned Ringway 2 – which threatened Oxleas Woods, and still does today in the form of the Gallions Reach Bridge proposal.

But the Ringways caused such public outrage that they never happened. It led to an upsurge in local activism, such as this community group in Grove Park, channelled through the Homes Before Roads group. The Tory GLC considered burying the roads to pacify locals. But when Labour won the 1973 GLC election, it scrapped the Ringways – public protest and oil price hikes were too much.

But now the plans are back. In January, Transport for London’s managing director of planning, Michele Dix, gave a presentation to the Institution of Engineering and Technology. She discussed TfL’s plans to extend tolling on London’s roads, and how this may be applied to the Blackwall Tunnel and Silvertown Tunnel (if built).

Whereas the proceeds from Ken Livingstone’s congestion charge went into public transport, these new TfL tolls would pay for… more roads. Which could include, she said, orbital tunnels.

Michele Dix TfL presentation

Looks familiar, doesn’t it?

Ringways compared with orbital tunnel

Essentially, TfL is looking at using the A102 through Greenwich, Charlton and Blackheath – and a Silvertown Tunnel – as part of a resurrected Ringway. And areas such as Blackheath, Lee, Lewisham, Brockley and Catford would be in the firing line for a tunnel.

Even if we bury the damn thing, the traffic has to come off the roads somewhere – and London simply can’t cope with the number of vehicles as it is. Any more would be a disaster. Why a road? Why not an orbital rail line?

New roads fill up as soon as they’re built. The last major road to be built in London, the A12 through Leytonstone, is the UK’s ninth most congested road, 15 years after it opened.

This is why opposing the Silvertown Tunnel is so important. It’s the thin end of a very dirty wedge. And it’s why Greenwich Council’s decision to endorse an Ikea next to the Blackwall Tunnel approach is so dangerous – because the last thing we need is extra traffic, even on grounds of congestion alone.

But it’s on health grounds where this also counts. Paris is also suffering from high pollution at the moment, so is making public transport free to all this weekend. London’s politicians, led by its mayor along with its footsoldiers like Greenwich’s councillors, just seem to want to encourage even more people to get in their cars. Choked, congested and polluted – is this really the sort of city we want to live in?

(I’m indebted to Steve Chambers, who’s researching Homes Before Roads and the Ringways plan, and Tom Barry, who’s been posting about the Hammersmith plans at Boriswatch.)

Written by Darryl

14 March, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Congested Greenwich: Too many cars, or Trafalgar Road’s fault?

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Lord Adonis's Twitter feed, 19 February 2014Labour peer and former transport secretary Lord Adonis is travelling around London by bus this week.

It’s widely thought he fancies a crack at the mayoralty in 2016, so hopping on the bus is smart politics when the current mayor has hiked up fares while declining to invest in new services.

He’s been tweeting his travels at @Andrew_Adonis all week, and it’s been quite a ride.

On Wednesday, he showed off pictures of him travelling around with Greenwich & Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford. They had a look at the Old Royal Naval College, looked at some bus timetables in Greenwich, took a 386 through Kidbrooke (they clearly weren’t in hurry), and pointed at Tesco in Woolwich.

To get to Greenwich, they took a 188 along Trafalgar Road. And Adonis made this very odd comment…

Lord Adonis's Twitter feed, 19 February 2014

“Nick Raynsford tells me typical narrow Victorian High St leads to congestion” – really? Nothing to do with too many vehicles trying to use it, then? Or even the Maze Hill traffic lights, for that matter? It’s not even that narrow, for heaven’s sake.

If this was Upper Street in Islington, I very much doubt the local MP would observe that a normal-sized main road “leads to congestion”. But as it’s Trafalgar Road in Greenwich, the shops are clearly getting in the way of increased traffic flows. What would they rather have, a dual carriageway?

Among the baffled responses was one from the Evening Standard’s property writer Mira Bar-Hillel:

Mira Bar-Hillel on Twitter

Adonis also backs the Silvertown Tunnel, so perhaps this sort of thing’s not such a surprise after all. But it’s depressing that both Conservative and Labour politicians seem to see Greenwich as a place to slap down tarmac and build the new roads they could never get away with anywhere else in inner London.

In just over 15 months, of course, Nick Raynsford will be an ex-MP. Here’s hoping his successor takes a more enlightened view and defends us against demands to accommodate more traffic – and from mayors who who want to further clog up our streets.

10.40am update: Lord Adonis responded on Twitter this morning.

Sadly, that’s exactly what the Silvertown Tunnel will do, particularly for Greenwich.

For comparison, here are some pictures of Trafalgar Road in May 1968.

10pm update: “Time for a bus bottleneck buster”Lord Adonis on his trip through Greenwich.

Written by Darryl

20 February, 2014 at 7:30 am

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.

Lewisham tells Greenwich: Cough up for Blackheath fireworks

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Lewisham Council is asking Greenwich Council to start paying towards the annual Blackheath fireworks display again, after revealing fundraising for this year’s event fell nearly £30,000 short of covering its costs.

Greenwich withdrew its £37,000 share of funding for what was a jointly-run display in 2010, with council deputy leader Peter Brooks claiming it would be “inappropriate in this financial climate” to fund the event, which takes place right on the border between the two boroughs.

But Lewisham has continued to hold the event, which attracts up to 100,000 people and boosts trade to local businesses in Greenwich, Blackheath and Lewisham.

Lewisham has continued to set aside £36,000 each year for the display, which this year cost £108,673, and has relied on public donations and private sponsorship to make up the rest.

Lewisham Council meeting response

But a cut in private sponsorship money this year has meant the shortfall has widened from £7,919 to £29,656 this year, according to an answer from Lewisham’s culture and community services cabinet member Chris Best given at a council meeting last Wednesday.

Responding to Blackheath councillor Kevin Bonavia, she said in a written reply: “Officers continually look for different ways to attract funding for the event. We will continue to request financial and other support from the Royal Borough of Greenwich.”

At the time Greenwich Council’s Peter Brooks was claiming the borough was too hard-up to pay for Blackheath fireworks, Greenwich was paying £30,000 each year on a private party to inaugurate the borough’s ceremonial mayor.

While that cost has come down to £10,000 – thanks to the Royal Naval College no longer charging – this summer the council contributed £20,000 to fireworks displays to support Sail Royal Greenwich, a private company working out of the council’s Mitre Passage offices in North Greenwich.

In 2011, it effectively bailed out Greenwich and Docklands Festival with a £100,000 payout, and spent £110,000 on events to mark becoming a royal borough in 2012.

And while supporters of leader Chris Roberts point to Lewisham’s controversial decision to cut library funding in response to a government funding squeeze, Greenwich has been cutting under-fives’ play centres, outsourcing youth and library services and trying to cut funding from Charlton’s Maryon Wilson animal park.

Relations between the two Labour groups have got worse recently, with Lewisham councillors looking on in alarm at the bullying accusations levelled at Greenwich leader Chris Roberts, with the bad smell drifting across the border.

Greenwich councillors complained to their Lewisham counterparts after Bonavia referred to the accusations in his unsuccessful campaign to be the parliamentary candidate for Greenwich & Woolwich, demanding he be disciplined for disloyalty. They were flatly turned down.

Lewisham council also reaffirmed its reservations about the proposed Silvertown Tunnel – which is backed by Greenwich – at the same meeting.

Deputy mayor Alan Smith said: “The proposed Silvertown Tunnel relies on the same southern approaches as the existing Blackwall Tunnel. These routes, including the A2 area and the South Circular, already suffer from daily congestion. As the only primary alternative to the Dartford crossings, these routes come under extreme pressure when the M25 is not operating smoothly. The council therefore has reservations about the impact of an additional 6,000 vehicles per hour on these routes.”

Other London boroughs, including Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Barking & Dagenham and Redbridge, have also voiced opposition or reservations about mayor Boris Johnson’s plan. In the affected area, only Greenwich and Tory Bexley are wholly for it.

Greenwich Council bullying: A night in denial at the town hall

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Greenwich Council meeting, 30 October

Fans of dark comedy would have been richly rewarded by Wednesday night’s torturous meeting of Greenwich Council. In fact, it’s hard to know where to start.

But running through the meeting were themes common to anyone who’s read this website over the past couple of years – the lack of transparency and an unwillingness to listen.

Labour mayor Angela Cornforth, who is on the longlist to be Greenwich & Woolwich’s next Labour candidate, announced she had refused permission for the meeting to be filmed. It’s understood the BBC wanted to bring a camera into the meeting, but the doors were closed to the corporation and so Greenwich residents won’t be able to see their councillors’ inaction.

Pavement tax demonstratorsCouncil leader Chris Roberts’ bullying voicemail hung over the meeting like a cloud, but it wasn’t just the local Labour outpost having problems.

The Tories’ attempts to capitalise on the issue were hampered by deselected councillor Eileen Glover consistently making digs at her former colleagues. When the Tories complained about another attempt by the Labour leadership to make changes to the way the council does business, Glover, sporting the biggest poppy in the room, turned on her own colleagues, saying they should have “tracked the changes” themselves.

“It’s past their bedtime,” she spat at youthful ex-colleagues Nigel Fletcher and Adam Thomas. Hell hath no fury like a Tory scorned.

The Tories plan to get Roberts hung on a clutch of motions designed to smoke any dissent on the Labour benches. One was about the way the council runs its scrutiny panels (no Tory ever gets to run one), hung on the back of a tweet from another wannabe MP, Matt Pennycook, declaring “the decades-old culture of machine politics must change”.

Challenged by Tory leader Spencer Drury to explain what he meant, Pennycook kept quiet. The situation was a lose/lose one for the Greenwich West councillor. Speak out and get disciplined, or keep schtum and look silly? Short-term embarrassment was the easier option rather than face the long-term difficulties of being ostracised by Roberts and his helpers.

With his own councillors staying quiet, Roberts made one of the oddest contributions himself – presumably to try to protect Pennycook. Talking about his early days in Greenwich Labour, during the days of rate-capping rows, he recalled how he and other young upstarts vowed to change matters.

“The most embarrassing political question you can be asked is ‘what’s the average age of your councillors?’ I’d be really worried if we didn’t have a group of talented twenty- and thirtysomethings saying ‘this is our time’. And believe me, after [the elections] in May, you will see some of those in this chamber.”

Nobody thought to ask why twentysomething councillor Hayley Fletcher is stepping down because of bullying.


Pennycook’s Greenwich West colleague, David Grant, wasn’t going to keep quiet – intervening several times to defend the embattled leader. When Drury made a passing reference to Roberts referring himself to the council’s standards panel, Grant blurted out “cheap!”. Greater love hath no man than this, that a Greenwich Labour councillor lay down his dignity for his Dear Leader.

Roberts did try to fight back, though – inserting motions into the evening which had barely even been discussed beforehand by his own councillors. The Tories made sport of this, inserting a sarcastic amendment into one attacking David Cameron and Boris Johnson.

Sarcastic Greenwich Conservative amendment

Eileen Glover, who’d earlier treated the council to a lengthy complaint about councillors’ IT woes, branded her former colleagues’ effort “a waste of time”.

But the Tories did leave a ticking timebomb. Another “get Roberts” motion, from Nigel Fletcher, suggested the council investigate the possibility of electing its leader by a secret ballot – it’s currently done by a show of hands.

But Labour mayor Cornforth, heavily guided by council chief executive Mary Ney showing her various bits of the council rulebook, withdrew it “for further advice” on the legality of electing a leader by secret ballot – despite it appearing in the agenda. Fletcher recorded the discussion himself – it’s very technical, but it’s illuminating nonetheless, especially towards the end. No wonder why they didn’t want it filmed.


Fletcher has now launched a formal complaint over the issue.

All of which overshadowed two significant bits of news. Firstly, the council voted to review its new “pavement tax” on shops’ outdoor displays, introduced earlier this year with no discussion or debate. Indeed, an unusually sheepish Chris Roberts even apologised for the way things had been handled.


Yet the bungled introduction of the charge goes to the heart of the political culture in Greenwich. One answer from Roberts suggests key decisions are being taken at weekly informal cabinet meetings, rather than in the monthly public meetings.


If the council leadership wasn’t so scared of debate, it might have got the charge right in the first place.

And the council is finally meeting Andrew Gilligan to talk about belatedly signing up to City Hall’s big cycling plans – indeed, I understand regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland is due to meet him today. It’s another U-turn from the council’s troubled leader, who had refused to allow officers or councillors to talk to the journalist-turned-cycling advocate. Three months ago, Roberts and mayor Cornforth seemed desperate to stop his name even being mentioned.

Thankfully, sense has prevailed. What about that “irresolvable conflict of interest”? “Well, that was the situation at the time,” Hyland responded.


So, in the world of Greenwich Council, what was an outrageous suggestion in July becomes normality three months later. Maybe that’ll be the case with the Silvertown Tunnel. But clearly not yet, for the council is still in its denial phase. (Full disclosure: I’m involved in the No to Silvertown campaign.)

A question asking who knew what about the council’s pollution figures was “lost” by the council and wasn’t asked. Written answers about the tunnel told a questioner he was “misinformed” about the council not publishing air quality stats from its 42 monitoring sites. Yet it doesn’t – go looking on its website, and you won’t find a thing.

Greenwich Counciil response on Silvertown/ News Shopper story

Even madder, another questioner was told he had “failed to properly convey the response given” from the council to the News Shopper about its support for Silvertown on economic grounds – appearing to deny telling reporter Mark Chandler that the tunnel would bring economic benefits, even though that’s the whole basis of its Bridge The Gap campaign.

When asked by Nigel Fletcher if the council would reconsider its policy given independent evidence of the damage the tunnel would have, Denise Hyland commented “a group that calls itself ‘No to Silvertown’ is hardly independent, is it?” What counts as “independent”, though, was not explained.


There are big problems at Greenwich Council. The council leadership’s bullying is out in the open, and it’s clear how it’s not just ruining the lives of those who entered local politics to do good, it’s also resulting in bad policy. Or it’s resulting in incoherent policy, like the current mess on air pollution and the Silvertown Tunnel. Treating people with legitimate questions like enemies to be vanquished isn’t healthy.

Those with the most power to do something are still sitting on their hands, though, content either to let others do the dirty work of trying to decapitate the leadership or to wait until May’s elections and see what happens. Yet while this happens, the bullying row is infecting the more high-profile battle to be the next Labour candidate for Greenwich & Woolwich, and causing problems outside the borough too. But that’s another story…

PS. You can hear/download audio of the public questions and councillors’ questions, if you want to. Thanks to Clare for cleaning up the audio and hosting it.

Eltham MP Clive Efford brands Boris Johnson’s family ‘imbeciles’

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Clive Efford

A curious outburst of unparliamentary language after the pubs closed last night from Eltham MP Clive Efford, who branded London mayor Boris Johnson’s family as imbeciles.

Efford is a vocal backer of Johnson’s plans to build a third road crossing feeding into the A102 and the A2, so long as a Silvertown Tunnel includes a Docklands Light Railway link to his constituency. Indeed, he’s even left Eltham to pose next to a traffic jam in Greenwich to claim a Silvertown Tunnel would reduce congestion.

This is despite established studies which suggest building new roads attracts new traffic – which would have a big impact on Eltham, where the A2 leading to and from the proposed tunnel is reduced to two lanes, creating a polluting bottleneck at the heart of Efford’s constituency. Labour’s former mayor Ken Livingstone has disowned the scheme.

TfL has no plans to extend the DLR to Eltham – despite Greenwich Council helping Efford out by commissioning a £70,000 study into his idea. The current Silvertown Tunnel proposals only include space for road traffic, and nothing for pedestrians, cyclists or trains.

Just after midnight, Efford, who’s also the shadow minister for sport, tweeted these remarks about the mayor’s father after seeing him on BBC1′s political talk show, This Week.

clive_efford_imbecile

Nothing wrong with a bit of robust argument, and we’ve all been rude about politicians, but if you’re backing something proposed by your political opponent, and want to negotiate for the best outcome, it’s probably best not to brand their family imbeciles.

Although, that said, the Silvertown Tunnel is an imbecilic idea.

But while we’re on Clive Efford, he’s a former Greenwich councillor, and still carries great sway within the local Labour establishment. Yet he’s remained silent on accusations of bullying by leader Chris Roberts.

This is despite the emergence of a voicemail where Roberts threatens cabinet member John Fahy, telling him he has a “fucking thick skull”. In case Efford hasn’t heard it, here it is…


There’s also been the decision by one of the Eltham ward party councillors, Hayley Fletcher, to stand down, complaining that the “bullying culture is rife and I see little prospect of that changing anytime soon”.

What has the shadow sports minister done about bullying in his own local party? I asked him myself last week, but got no reply.

Before Clive Efford flings insults at his opponents, perhaps he might like to sort his own party’s problems out first. And maybe, just maybe, he might like to set a better example…

PS. There was practically too much to report on from Wednesday’s Greenwich Council meeting, although the News Shopper’s Mark Chandler has had a good stab at the bizarre atmosphere where the bullying accusations against Chris Roberts hung over proceedings. More on the meeting will follow here, hopefully.

Written by Darryl

1 November, 2013 at 7:30 am

Silvertown Tunnel and pollution: Greenwich Council’s dirty secret

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Some of Greenwich’s most high-profile development sites suffer from air pollution far in excess of European limits, research carried out for No to Silvertown Tunnel has revealed.

Volunteers, including myself, used tubes to record the pollution in the air at over 50 locations close to the A102, A2 and A206 for four weeks during June, using similar methods used by Greenwich Council for its own pollution records. Over half the tubes came back with readings over 40 μg/m3, the EU limit.

The Woolwich Road/ Blackwall Lane junction in Greenwich, outside where new homes are now being built by developer Galliford Try, recorded 70 micrograms per cubic metre. The site is opposite the flagship Greenwich Square development, which will include homes, shops and and a leisure centre.

Meanwhile, readings of 50 μg/m3 were recorded at two locations at Greenwich Millennium Village – at the centre, by West Parkside; and at the junction of Bugsby’s Way and Southern Way.

The highest figure recorded, unsurprisingly, was 70.55 μg/m3 at the Woolwich Road flyover, with a reading of 69 μg/ at Farmdale Road, where houses face an A102 slip road.

A pollution tube outside Kidbrooke Park School

High readings were also recorded along the Woolwich Road (64 μg/m3 outside the Rose of Denmark pub in Charlton) and at Blackheath Royal Standard (52 μg/m3 at Westcombe Hill).

With Greenwich Council and London mayor Boris Johnson backing a Silvertown Tunnel, which will attract more traffic to the area, the figures can only get worse.

The figures will be discussed at a public meeting at the Forum at Greenwich, Trafalgar Road, SE10 9EQ on Wednesday (tomorrow) at 7pm.

Further south, high readings were recorded in Eltham at Westhorne Avenue, Eltham station and Westmount Road, where the A2 forms a two-lane bottleneck. Local MP Clive Efford supports the Silvertown proposal, despite compelling evidence that it will make traffic in his constituency worse. So do local Conservatives – even though we recorded a big fat 50 μg/m3 outside their local HQ.

Sssh - it's one of Greenwich Council's pollution tubes

Sssh – it’s one of Greenwich Council’s pollution tubes. Readings haven’t been published since 2010.

What’s more, when we contacted Greenwich Council to tell it we intended to place pollution tubes on its lamp posts, we discovered it had been collecting its own statistics since 2005.

But mystifyingly, no figures were published since 2010 – until now. We obtained the results through a Freedom of Information Act request, and have published a full archive on the No to Silvertown Tunnel website.

These borough-wide stats bear out our own research, revealing that the borough’s worst location is outside Plumstead station – possibly due to the bus garage being nearby, but also a regular scene for heavy tailbacks.

Despite the council also pressing for a road bridge at Gallions Reach, it appears to have made little serious attempt to record pollution levels in the Thamesmead and Abbey Wood areas, which would be affected by such a scheme as well as emissions from London City Airport.

The whole borough has been an air quality management zone for 12 years, which makes Greenwich Council’s position on road-building even more mystifying. Its decision to stop publishing air quality reports smacks of carelessness at the very least. Pollution has become the council’s dirty secret.

If you drill down into the statistics, you’ll actually find air quality gradually improving in some areas. But in places where traffic remains heavy, it’s stubbornly awful.

Incidentally, the tubes are very easy to install and relatively cheap – if local groups find Greenwich Council’s response to pollution wanting, it’s simple for them to carry out their own studies, just as we did. Indeed, we were inspired by a study done by the Putney Society – so it should be easy for groups in Greenwich, Blackheath, Eltham and Charlton, or elsewhere, to follow suit.

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Greenwich Council’s pollution readings from May 2013 – you won’t find this on the council’s own website, but you’ll find it all on the No to Silvertown Tunnel site.

Greenwich Council continues to back new road schemes on the grounds that they will take traffic off existing roads – despite a heap of evidence that proves the opposite. Indeed, studies show new roads simply increase traffic by making road travel more attractive.

It also claims economic benefits for new schemes – but it hasn’t been able to produce a shred of evidence that this is the case. And will it take the health costs from the extra pollution caused by yet more traffic on local roads into account?

Even more perplexing is that neighbouring boroughs don’t want Silvertown – leaving Greenwich’s Labour council in a position where it’s just a figleaf for a Conservative mayor’s scheme. If Greenwich opposed it, would Boris really go ahead?

So how can we persuade local decision-makers to wake up and realise they’re backing a scheme would could be disastrous? Well, we thought we’d invite them to our meeting, where they can hear from experts and see what results we got.

Here’s the response from Don Austen, Labour councillor for Glyndon ward.

Don Austen email

Incidentally, Don’s ward not only contains the borough’s filthiest air, his own home is very close to Charlton Village – where air quality also breaks EU rules. We had a few other responses that were nicer, but it’s hard to dispel the feeling that Greenwich’s councillors simply aren’t taking this seriously.

That said, some of the nominees to be Labour’s candidate for for Greenwich & Woolwich are alert to the dangers of blindly following a Conservative mayor’s policy. Lewisham councillor Kevin Bonavia (whose own council opposes Silvertown) voices his concern in his manifesto: “According to a recent GLA report, 150 deaths per year across the borough are caused by air pollution. We shouldn’t be encouraging more traffic in already concentrated areas.”

And yesterday, outsider Kathy Peach took aim not just at the proposal, but the way Greenwich Council has handled it:

I’m not convinced Boris Johnson’s Silvertown Tunnel is the answer. Nor do I believe there’s been an informed democratic debate about it.

I have heard from several quarters that Labour councillors who oppose the scheme have been banned from voicing their opposition in public… the fact that such stories gain traction points to something insular and complacent about our local political culture. We need a breath of fresh air. Let’s get rid of stale tactics and encourage a vigorous inclusive open debate. We need to bring the community along with us – otherwise other parties will jump into the gap.

Hopefully we’ll see Kathy, and Kevin, and others, and hopefully you, down at the Forum tomorrow night. If you’re sceptical, feel free to come along and lob some tough questions.

But if Greenwich councillors won’t listen, and Boris Johnson won’t listen, then we need to find our own way forward – because this is a battle that can be won.

And we might even have some fun on the way. If you want to help, come along tomorrow night.

No to Silvertown Tunnel public meeting: Wednesday 16 October, 7-9pm, Forum at Greenwich, Trafalgar Road, London SE10 9EQ. Speakers are transport consultant John Elliott, the Campaign for Better Transport’s Sian Berry, King’s College London air quality expert Dr Ian Mudway and Clean Air London’s Simon Birkett.

PS. If you have the time, it’s worth reading the 1994 Government report Trunk Roads and the Generation of Traffic. These studies are backed up by another report, published in 2006 for the Countryside Agency and Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Tell Boris he’s wrong: Silvertown Tunnel public meeting

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Silvertown Tunnel public meeting, 16 October

What are you doing a fortnight tonight? Nothing? Well, I’ve sorted that for you.

Greenwich Mercury, 29 SeptemberOver the past few months, I’ve been working with others on an air quality monitoring project. You might have seen us in the Mercury last week. During the summer, we attached small tubes to lamp posts which measured nitrogen dioxide levels in the air. We’ve got the results, and they’re frightening. We’ve also been able to get hold of other figures, previously unreleased to the public, which make clear the terrible state of the air in our part of south-east London.

So we’ll be revealing them at a public meeting at the Forum, Trafalgar Road, Greenwich, on 16 October at 7pm. We’ve got some top-notch speakers who know their stuff about transport and pollution. They’ll be able to explain why building a new Silvertown Tunnel is likely to increase congestion, and why that means worse air and poorer health for us all.

We’ll also be putting the results online (the website’s now live) so you can see for yourself what the air is like where you live.

We’ll also be explaining how you and your neighbours can carry out your own study into air pollution – because it’s not worth waiting for Transport for London or Greenwich Council to do it for you. If you’re involved in a group like the Greenwich Society, or a residents’ group, please come along.

If you live in Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath, Kidbrooke or Eltham – this affects you and your neighbours, particularly if you have children. We’ll also have disturbing results from the rest of the borough which could have an impact on other schemes, such as the Gallions Reach bridge/ferry proposals. So, if you can come along, please do. It’d be great to see you.

TfL recently reaffirmed its desire to build the Silvertown Tunnel – despite objections and reservations from Lewisham, Southwark, Hackney, Redbridge and Barking & Dagenham councils. If our own council opposed this, TfL wouldn’t be able to get away with it.

But Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts remains committed to this scheme, and has used his propaganda weekly Greenwich Time to promote it. We don’t have a council-funded newspaper at our disposal, so please help us by printing off our flyer/poster.

We can’t let Chris Roberts bully us into this. Join us on 16 October, and find out more. Thank you.

Written by Darryl

2 October, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Will Greenwich Labour pick right-wing party founder for council?

with 68 comments

Mark Adams at the Eastleigh by-election

Yesterday, this website reported on the shenanigans as Greenwich borough’s political parties select their candidates for next year’s council elections – and how leading Labour figures have suffered for their loyalty to outgoing leader Chris Roberts.

Keepers of the Roberts flame are still battling away, though. But one of those ultra-loyalists – who has been outspoken in his support of the Silvertown Tunnel – has a past helping found a right-wing party which advocates the abolition of the welfare state, as well as consorting with a leading climate change denier.

Mark Adams, the chair of Charlton Triangle Homes, is a friend of the outgoing leader. Regular readers of this website will know him for his distinctive contributions to comment threads on posts on Greenwich Council’s foot tunnel fiasco (“You only blame Greenwich Council as you only have a vendetta against them”) and the Silvertown Tunnel (“This is the second time I have pointed out your tendency for incorrect exaggeration and hyperbole”).

Mark Adams as an "ecowarrier"Adams has thrown his hat in the ring for a number of seats – this week getting rebuffed by members in the Charlton ward where his housing association is based. But while other candidates can point to worthy pasts of envelope-stuffing and leaflet delivery, Adams’ past, as documented in newspaper reports over the past 13 years, is a lot more exotic.

He worked in Downing Street for six years as private secretary to John Major and Tony Blair. In 2000, he was accused of leaking Blair’s cabinet discussions about the Milennium Dome to the Mail on Sunday, something he refused to confirm or deny in an interview with the Guardian at the time.

He cashed in on his political knowledge by reinventing himself as a lobbyist, pushing clients’ interests in the corridors of power. He’s even been lobbying for lobbyists, with the StandUp4Lobbying group.

But what he’s left off his various CVs is his work setting up a party seen briefly as a right-wing threat to the Tories.

In 2002, Adams teamed up with Scottish quarry owner Robert Durward to found the New Party. At the time, the New Party’s views were seen as so right-wing that Scottish Conservative leader David McLetchie branded it “fascist and undemocratic”.

But later, senior figures included then-Tory leader Iain Duncan-Smith’s former chief of staff. Indeed, Adams talked up the chances of Tories defecting, telling the Daily Mail in December 2002: “You would not expect me to say a member of the shadow cabinet is ready to jump. They are not at that stage yet.”

The following April, its party’s website declined to identify its backers, but declared:

They have become increasingly frustrated at the refusal, or inability, of New Labour to recognise the high level of damage being caused to the business community by the incessant flood of additional taxation and regulation.

According to The Scotsman newspaper, Durward was prompted into action by the “aggregates tax” – a levy imposed by the Blair government which affected his quarrying business in Lanarkshire. He founded the British Aggregates Association to fight it, and to battle environmentalists. As the paper put it:

By 2001, he had decided that something more had to be done to combat the environmentalists. This time he linked up with a former Downing Street civil servant, Mark Adams.

Mr Adams, who served as private secretary to John Major and Tony Blair, the former and current prime ministers, had set up his own public relations firm, Foresight Communications, in January that year. Together, the two men launched the Scientific Alliance, an organisation whose stated aim was to present a “rational, scientific approach to the environmental debate”.

Recruiting a number of respected scientists as advisers, Mr Durward provided funding to get the organisation off the ground. With offices in London, and a website registered in the name of Cloburn quarry, he now had a vehicle to nip at the ankles of the environmentalists. who were tormenting him.

Writing under the auspices of the alliance and using its registered address in Golden Cross House in Duncannon Street, London, he railed at the “profligate” cost of talks on climate change. He was, he said, “a businessman who is totally fed up with this environmental stuff … much of which is unjustified, such as the climate change levy”.

Adams himself told The Scotsman in 2003 that the New Party was a “a centre-Right organisation, trying to appeal to disaffected Tories, to people who voted Labour in 1997 and 2001 but are thinking again”.

But the party, which stood as the Scottish People’s Alliance on a platform of “direct democracy“, flopped at that year’s Scottish elections, and many of its top team defected to Robert Kilroy-Silk’s shortlived Veritas group in 2005.

In 2007, the New Party re-emerged after funding a court case which challenged the screening of Al Gore’s climate change film An Inconvenient Truth in secondary schools.

It was voluntarily deregistered as a political party in July 2010, but its website continues, declaring “ the Welfare State does not work and has caused many thousands to be born into poverty and deprivation” and advocating “a low tax, lightly regulated economy“.

Is this all in Mark Adams’ distant past? As late as November 2009, Mark Adams was still registered as providing political consultancy work for the New Party through his then company, Foresight Consulting.

Adams sold Foresight a year later, but set up a new lobbying company, The Professional Lobbying Company, last year. However, no accounts have ever been filed at Companies House.

He remains a staunch advocate of lobbying, despite his decision to seek elected office. On Twitter, he described one critic of the industry on Twitter as “another misguided lefty without a cause”.

Indeed, when asked on Twitter about lobbying and his support for the Silvertown Tunnel, he branded his questioners “a bunch of political thugs” – even though they were just people who’d followed his tweets and his comments on this blog. He later described himself as “a lobbyist on a sabbatical“.

However, Adams is deputy chair of the London Chamber of Commerce, which lobbies for business interests and backs Silvertown – something he didn’t disclose in his comments on this website.

Reading reams of his his furious tweets, plus his replies on this website, what’s striking is his lack of patience with anyone who questions him, and his contempt for the political class he seeks to join, down to this uncomradely exchange with Labour MP Paul Flynn. Why would he seek to join them?

Mark Adams' tweets

Whether Adams is the kind of person Greenwich Labour activists want to have represent them is, of course, an issue for them. How many of them he’d describe as “misguided lefties without a cause” is another matter. And how on earth a man who is well-documented as having helped set up a right-wing party in Scotland ended up pushing to be a Labour council candidate in south-east London is yet another puzzler to ponder.

But Labour members’ decision over whether to pick the “lobbyist on a sabbatical” for a council seat will send out a huge signal of where they want the Royal Borough of Greenwich to go. This will be a story to watch.

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