A long-delayed Freedom of Information request, FOI-53675, admits Greenwich made false claims that the Metropolitan Police wrote to the Council to ‘back’ the West Greenwich Traffic Management Scheme in 2020. The true position was that the Met joined other emergency services in condemning the Council's plans as dangerous and impeding services.
The Council failed to take into account the July 2020 consultation held with the emergency services before the traffic scheme was put in. This resulted in a wholesale condemnation of modal filter schemes as endangering life.
Repeated complaints by the ambulance services about hold ups to critical emergency calls finally led to a limited opening up, by conversion to ANPR, of just three barriers in the 'low traffic' neighbourhood.
The FOI disclosure also forwarded what the Council claims is ‘documented’ evidence of heavy traffic on Crooms Hill. Grainy iPhone shots of traffic queuing to pass residents' parking on a narrow stretch of the Hill do not include verifiable records or reports of accidents, incidents or collisions.
Greenwich Council falsely maintained for 18 months that the Metropolitan Police had given written support to the Scheme, which closes Crooms Hill to traffic at its northern end.
The Met’s supposed written request was cited twice in a letter from Royal Greenwich to residents on 12 August 2020, announcing that the West Greenwich Traffic Management Scheme was due to be introduced within one week. Referring to ‘excessive and dangerous’ traffic in the area, and vehicles ‘driving on footpaths’, the Council justified the modal filter scheme by saying: ‘the Metropolitan Police has written regarding remedial action on Crooms Hill’. The letter stated that ‘key feedback we received and incorporated in the measures’ included ‘the Metropolitan Police Service detailing road safety issues at the northern end of Crooms Hill, due to current levels of traffic’.
But the Metropolitan Police, as statutory consultees, objected to the scheme in July 2020, backing the ambulance and fire services in condemning modal filters (road blocks) as hampering emergency access.
Despite the absence of evidence, Greenwich maintained the narrative of the Met’s support for more than a year in its website information on the traffic policy, and in Council officers’ reports used to uphold top level Council decisions.
The original FOI request, made on 11 December 2020, asked: ‘What road safety measures were “detailed” by the Metropolitan Police Service as applicable to the northern end of Crooms Hill? Please also disclose the letter or written advice by the Police Service.’ After almost a year of prevarication, the response provided on 29 October 2021 admits that no such letter or written advice was ever received.
Former councillor Mehboob Khan, who led lobbying by Crooms Hill for ‘liveable neighbourhoods’ money, also maintained the fiction of Met support, telling the September 2020 council meeting: ‘The Metropolitan Police have demanded action by the council and if the council had failed to act upon the Metropolitan Police’s advice we would have been neglecting our duty towards our residents.’ He also intervened in a Highways Committee on 24 February 2021, stating ‘The Metropolitan Police wrote to the council and demanded action to tackle the amount of vehicles using these residential streets at peak hours.’
For many years, traffic has queued on both sides of residents’ parking places provided on the narrow, northern section of Crooms Hill. On nearby Royal Hill, a major pedestrian thoroughfare, an identically narrow stretch of road allows no parking. And a new modification to the traffic Scheme exposes pedestrians and primary school children to additional risks from morning peak hour traffic as a result of measures to relieve traffic displacement from Crooms Hill which had spread to East Greenwich and contributes to severe congestion on Trafalgar Road. (See – Council ‘modification’ consultation offers route to scrapping the West Greenwich Scheme)
The Council’s FOI response now claims that unspecified ‘feedback’ might have emerged in phone calls with the emergency services.
The Council also provided what it claims is ‘documented evidence’ in the form of phone photos taken by a Crooms Hill resident, together with redacted correspondence. The blurry snaps show occasional congestion on the narrow northern section. Peak time traffic was forced to negotiate the width restriction caused by resident parking. But there are no objective, credible or official records of accidents, collisions, or ‘incidents’, and no evidence of danger to pedestrians or cyclists. The section of Crooms Hill benefits from the only zebra crossing in the area, facilitating pedestrian access to Greenwich Park, in which wide footpaths run parallel to Crooms Hill, well protected from traffic.
New public disclosures reveal that the emergency services made strenuous efforts to prevent the use of modal filters in West Greenwich from July 2020, and that instances of critical delays to ambulances called to the area are resulting from the road blocks. See our link below to the full disclosure.
Efforts by services to head off the deadly risks posed by the ‘hard’ barriers that make the scheme were ignored until the recent appointment of new Transportation Cabinet Member, Sarah Merrill. Cllr Merrill has immediately put in hand the adjustment of three road blocks, which will be replaced by ANPR cameras, at Crooms Hill, Hyde Vale and Winforton Street, allowing for emergency vehicle access only.
The move comes after a year of protest, not only from services, but also many residents and people working in the area, that the West Greenwich scheme, brought in last summer without consultation, causes severe congestion that not only delays vital individual journeys, but also prevents the emergency services from doing their job.
We reveal the new disclosure, which includes correspondence on proposed schemes for East Greenwich and Woolwich, all of which were condemned by services. Evidence of critical and life-threatening delays is growing, together with pressure to withdraw the scheme entirely. See what the emergency services say.
Councillors now accept that successive closures in neighbouring areas, together with the loss of road space to the cycle superhighway, compounds congestion and is having a disastrous impact on borough residents and emergency services forced on to overcrowded main routes. A councillor has privately described the situation as the “perfect storm”. And Cllr Merrill has pledged to listen to residents to make specific changes in the short and medium term. In the long term she hopes to create a borough transport strategy in consultation with residents.
Consultations in July 2020, before the installation of the West Greenwich Scheme on 20 August 2020, received firm and detailed rejections of the modal filters in favour of ANPR (camera) control. The ambulance service also warned that the Council risked prosecution. On 9 July 2020 the London Ambulance Service stated: “It is not acceptable to delay the ambulances reaching addresses or 999 calls within a restricted traffic area as any delay could result in death or permanent injury to a patient. HM Coroner has issued Prevent Future Death notices regarding these issues previously, so any scheme must easily allow emergency vehicle access at all times during the operation.” This warning was endorsed by both the Metropolitan Police and London Fire Brigade. The letter referred to the Council’s liability for criminal proceedings under the Emergency Workers (Obstruction) Act 2006.
Greenwich also misled the public on the response of the Metropolitan Police Service, which has been consistently opposed to the scheme. Greenwich continues to claim on its website that the Met supports the scheme, when there were no official representations by the Service to this effect, only objections. GGTF has already reported on earlier disclosures and highlighted wrongful claims that the Met backed the scheme. (Scroll down to “Greenwich’s misleading claim of Met support for the traffic scheme was based on a routine road-rage incident”.)
The scheme was originally introduced under a Road Traffic Regulation Act s14(1) , a new measure enabling national pandemic protection for school pupils and shoppers, none of which was ever provided.
When this order was switched to an Experimental Traffic Order (ETO) commencing in September 2020, statutory consultees should have been approached again. This did not happen, and Council members seem to have been left in the dark about the July consultation and told that emergency services had no substantial objections to the ETO. Councillors and staff at Greenwich have been unresponsive to representations and complaints about risks that have confronted the community for almost a year, including 1,400 signatories to a West Greenwich online petition that was initially ignored by the Council.
The new disclosures include data from 20 July 2020 onwards providing hard evidence on the high call-out rate for ambulances in Greenwich town centre, the impact of neighbouring ‘LTNs’ in East Greenwich and Woolwich, and the implications not only for reaching patients, but also, turning in the tight cul de sacs created by the scheme, long diversions, and potential delays in taking critically injured and ill patients to hospital.
In September 2020, for instance, a call to a ‘category 1’ (immediately life threatening) patient in King George Street was forced to take a ‘long diversion’ due to the closures on Point Hill, Winforton Street and Hyde Vale, resulting in a 5-6 minute delay.
The ambulance service, commenting on the new East Greenwich ‘LTN’, stated that existing road closures “are causing multiple delays for emergency services accessing patients and emergency calls”. The letter asks Greenwich to “please be aware that residents in one London borough are alleging that a patient has died as a result of ambulance vehicles have to redirect around physical barriers” and notes that one London borough had removed all their schemes. “Can I suggest their reasoning is investigated before any further implementation is carried out in Greenwich?” the writer asks.
This request was repeated on 29 October 2020 in relation to plans for an additional modal filter to close Dabin Crescent: just two metres wide, this tiny service road provided an escape to Greenwich South Street for residents in Maidenstone Hill area. GGTF drew attention to the fact that two-way access on this narrow road meant that cars inevitably mounted the one-metre pavement to pass. Council correspondence stated that the road was used as a ‘rat run’ for A2 traffic, without mentioning that much of the increased traffic was coming from the newly gated community including not only Maidenstone Hill, but also Winforton Street, Dutton Street and Trinity Grove. To read more [Link to] Health and social inequality
By the time the Dabin Crescent closure was due for consideration in October, Services pointed out that the pan-London group of TfL, emergency services and the boroughs, had decided that “the use of planters and lockable bollards should be limited”. The Dabin Crescent closure nevertheless went ahead in November, forcing more local traffic bound for Greenwich South Street on to Blackheath Hill. The cut-through was unacceptable, but nevertheless, one of the no-win scenarios set up by the scheme. Alternatives were never properly explored.
Although the correspondence from Greenwich officials constantly states that ‘monitoring’ would be conducted, it has been privately admitted that virtually nothing happened before or after the introduction of the ‘Hills and Vales’ scheme, and that monitoring of any kind has yet to be set up.