There’ll be cheers in west Greenwich this weekend as the hated plans to create a huge gyratory system have been “suspended” by Greenwich Council – you can read the full story over at greenwich.co.uk, along with an exchange of e-mails between the three local councillors and leader Chris Roberts.
It’s good news, if not entirely unexpected – the plan was effectively dead the moment a senior TfL official wrote to Greenwich indicating it could not support the scheme, intended to create a pedestrian area along King William Walk and College Approach. The scheme was due to be funded with TfL money – and affected its “strategic routes” – so needed its approval.
In fact, the fatal blow came when it moved from “pedestrianisation” to “gyratory”, as the council and its contractor, Hyder Consulting, inexplicably chose an option which involved creating a one-way system around Greenwich High Road, Norman Road, Creek Road and Greenwich Church Street.
Transport for London has been steadily ripping out gyratories over the past decade, starting in Shoreditch in 2001 and continuing last year with the scrapping of the New Cross one-way system. It was very unlikely to approve going back on this policy for Greenwich, particularly with a scheme which still hadn’t taken into consideration the effects on the bus network.
The whole affair raises more questions than answers, though. Here’s a few I’d like to see answered.
– What happens to the £2.5m in TfL money earmarked for this scheme? Does it get reallocated to other schemes within Greenwich borough? Or does it find its way to another London borough instead?
– Will any of the other schemes be looked at? The gyratory wasn’t the only idea kicking around to improve Greenwich town centre’s environment.
– How much has Hyder Consulting been paid for its work on a scheme which has delivered precisely nothing? Hyder is working with Greenwich on other schemes in the borough, but this will have been by far the most high-profile. Last year, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to discover how much Hyder’s contract was worth. The council refused to answer, citing commercial confidentiality. There’s a bigger question here – on a day when Labour leader Ed Miliband is addressing hundreds of thousands of people opposed to cuts in public services, how much did one of his party’s councils blow on this failed scheme when the money could have gone elsewhere?
– Why does Chris Roberts dismiss TfL’s head of borough projects David Rowe as “junior staff”? Is it because he put the mockers on the gyratory proposal?
– However, Roberts does refer to a meeting with Boris Johnson’s deputy Richard Barnes and “senior TfL officials”. There’s a vague reference to traffic proposals which will “affect areas of the borough to the east of the town centre“. It’s unclear what this means. (A wild guess – something to do with the run of traffic lights around Maze Hill?) Some clarity from Greenwich Council or TfL would be handy.
Greenwich will no doubt return to the pedestrianisation idea in coming years – which is a good thing. But I suspect the gyratory is dead. By the time the council gets to look at it again, Norman Road will be home to big developments, and won’t be a street where you can hide a racetrack.
But the questions surrounding the council’s doomed scheme, and the costs, will echo for a long while to come yet.
(UPDATE 1.35PM MONDAY: A council statement fails to mention the gyratory proposal, further suggesting the scheme is almost certainly dead.)