Local residents plead for an end to discord as minority pro-LTN backlash puts council officers under pressure
LTN supporters living inside the former traffic management scheme area have staged demonstrations and disrupted the work of hard-pressed councillors and officials. Their behaviour threatens to hold up essential work in a Council already experiencing heavy commitments and staff shortages.
Claims that a majority of local residents supported the scheme are misplaced and misleading. A 70% consultation response in favour of the scheme only represents views within Hills and Vales, home to the main beneficiaries of the scheme. But the figure has been widely touted in the press and social media as a majority of all local residents.
Objectors have pressed for the decision to be governed only by residents in the protected area. In Tweets, Matthew Pennycook MP asked for transparency in future decision making, but was clearly influenced by calls for greater weight to be given to the beneficiaries in the small and affluent protected area.
In other social media posts, others uphold the actions of Cllr Sarah Merill in taking a lead in listening to all voices in the debate, and proposing a wider more thorough analysis of traffic issues in the borough.
How the consultation became more inclusive
The second consultation, which closed on 18 February, was publicised to a defined 'consultation' area including East Greenwich, Greenwich Town Centre, Blackheath Hill, Greenwich South Street and the Ashburnham Triangle, in addition to "Hills and Vales". Open to anyone with net access, contributions also came from key workers travelling into the area, and included former residents living in distant parts of London and elsewhere.
Consultation users had to log their post-codes to enable analysis according to locality. A majority of residents living in Hills and Vales, which has benefitted from the closures, were in favour, while large majorities against the scheme were registered for those living in neighbouring parts of the consultation area, including boundary roads. The '70% majority' located within Hills and Vales has been widely touted in social media as representing all local residents.
No experimental scheme for East Greenwich
The Council announced on 20 January that no experimental LTN would be trialled in East Greenwich. The decision follows last summer's overwhelming public rejection of proposals in the Westcombe Park area. The Council planned to place a road barrier along the route of the Greenwich to Woolwich railway line, preventing all vehicles from crossing, except for buses and emergency services.
All plans for experimental LTNs across the north of the borough have now been dropped.
Scrapping the West Greenwich scheme could open the way for the Council’s more recent promise of a broader, fairer borough transport strategy.
Royal Hill experienced 18 months of 'boundary road' traffic during which people shopping and going to work and to school on foot have been threatened by heavy traffic, including large goods vehicles. Statistics showed additional traffic in the afternoons here and on Blissett Street.
The scheme was one of the causes of life-threatening additional pollution and congestion on boundary roads such as Blackheath Hill. (see: Tenants and their children living on boundary roads take the strain on this page.)
It held up emergency vehicles and essential journeys over a wide area and put pedestrians at greater risk of accidents. From Creek Road to Westcombe Hill, the West Greenwich barriers cause delays, pollution and extra mileage - harming livelihoods and people dependent on car travel.
Greenwich Council did not consult on the scheme prior to installation and failed to heed the warnings and objections of the emergency services.
The West Greenwich traffic management scheme scrapped due to traffic displacement and lack of local support
Final decision by Greenwich Council points to significant social concerns
A final decision on 25 February by the Royal Borough of Greenwich to allow the experimental traffic scheme to expire, was the result of "significant levels of concern about the scheme" and the opposition, during two consultations, of a majority of respondents. 53% of local residents opposed the scheme in the Greener Safer Greenwich consultation, and 5,000 online petitioners opposed the scheme from its inception in August 2020.
A Streetspace consultation opened in 2020, without open access, indicated high levels of concern about the lack of permeability of the area. This portal did not ask for views on the future of the scheme, even though Council officers were later asked to guess, from responses, whether respondents were 'for' or 'against' the scheme (producing a variety of confusing results).
Following a modification of the scheme in August 2021 the Council posted a 'Greener Safer Greenwich' open access consultation, attracting more than 2,000 contributions. This survey was self-selecting, and asked whether the scheme should be scrapped, leading to a majority of responses against the scheme.
The decision was one of a series of cancellations of projected experimental 'low traffic neighbourhood' schemes across the north of the borough after traffic experts found that the build-up of displaced traffic would cause congestion and additional mileage over a wide area.
The Council's earlier decision not to go ahead with the East Greenwich scheme meant that if the West Greenwich 'LTN' continued, traffic displacement would continue into East Greenwich, Woolwich Rd Trafalgar Road and beyond.
The Cabinet Member for Environment, Sustainability & Transport, Cllr Sarah Merrill also took the decision on the basis of statutory criteria in the governing legislation, as well as local opinion and petitioning.
A GGTF petition from 422 residents living on 'boundary' roads (Blackheath Hill, Greenwich South Street and Trafalgar Road) called on the Council to acknowledge that the consultation itself "does not directly address major problems, including hardship arbitrarily inflicted on residents who depend on vehicles: blue badge holders; those with urgent or long-term conditions needing care and support from key workers, relatives and friends; people with disabilities; those who rely on public transport or trade vehicles; parents of small children; and school pupils."
Last August's experimental ‘modifications’ to the West Greenwich Scheme failed to make any difference to congestion on boundary roads and in East Greenwich.
Cllr Merrill has indicated that the way is open for a review of borough transport strategy.
Since it was installed in August 2020, the Scheme has increased the daily vehicle tally of 28,000 on Blackheath Hill, causing life-threatening additional congestion and pollution. Scrapping the scheme will help reduce the nightmare of overloaded boundary roads. Government traffic figures show that while pandemic traffic reduced vehicle numbers everywhere, there was no change on Blackheath Hill and heavy goods vehicles increased by 17 per cent.