Eamon Dyas writes: If a public authority concludes that the road system they have inherited cannot be radically changed to accommodate the growth in traffic, it is neither fair nor just to displace the offending traffic to an already congested stretch of the A2 which is more densely populated than the streets that are being freed of that traffic. Surely, a more equitable solution would be to leave the situation as it was, until a real solution is found. Isn’t equality a core belief of the Labour Party that controls both Greenwich and Lewisham? That way the weight of traffic and pollution would be shared between the privileged and the under-privileged.
I live on Blackheath Hill. I am 73 years of age with a confirmed asthmatic condition and I have never owned or driven a car. Although Blackheath Hill includes some affluent homeowners, the majority of us are social housing tenants or private renters. The majority of those, like myself, do not own cars. Yet we represent the human cost of ill-thought-out traffic policies across three authorities. The boundary between Greenwich and Lewisham runs down the middle of the road while the road itself is subject to Transport for London authority.
Over the years Lewisham and Greenwich have implemented policies that have impacted on traffic and pollution on Blackheath Hill and in the process have not only failed to consult those living on the Hill but not even consulted each other!
In embarking on its current road closure policy, Labour Greenwich has placed itself on the side of the vociferous and privileged voices of the ‘genteel’ Hills and Vales and left the voiceless poor literally to choke to death. This will come back to haunt Labour.
It has left those living on the Hill with no voice over policies that impact on the environment they inhabit. Those on the Greenwich side have no influence or say in policies that Lewisham introduce and those on the Lewisham side have no voice in what Greenwich may decide. In environmental terms, the people living on Blackheath Hill are disenfranchised when it comes to the traffic policies of both boroughs.
In 1997 Greenwich Council diverted HGVs from Greenwich onto Blackheath Hill. Lewisham Council admitted at the time that they had no prior input into the plan.
Depending on who was to be believed this action led to an 80% increase in such vehicles using the Hill (according to a detailed residents’ report) or a 40% increase (according to a council commissioned report). In either case the increase was significant.
In 2002 Blackheath Hill collapsed and remained closed for nearly a year, possibly from the increased weight of traffic. Both boroughs complained that they could not cope with the 35,000 daily displaced vehicles, and neither authority subscribed to the belief that the closure would result in ‘traffic evaporation’, or encouragement to walk and cycle. Residents’ requests for an independent inquiry into the matter were ignored.
A short while later Lewisham changed the junction of Wat Tyler Road and Blackheath Hill to prevent right turns westbound when they reached the junction, forcing vehicles down the Hill, compelling dangerous U-turn alongside the Wat Tyler bus stop, or turn in Hollymount Close or Maidenstone Hill. This was yet another decision taken by one council, without proper consultation with the other, that increased the traffic on the Hill. And now we have the latest road closures from Greenwich which, as far as I understand it, were formulated without consultation with Lewisham Council.
Why is there still no joined-up process that protects the residents of Blackheath Hill from the impetuous traffic policies of either council? To those living on the Hill it seems that it suits both boroughs to have a pollution sump for traffic and fumes.
I support the arguments expressed in Greenwich Gone Too Far, and would like to add some personal comments as I have been worried by some of the comments on local social media about local road schemes. Some objectors seem to be anti-cyclist and mainly concerned to allow cars to be driven without any constraint. That is not my view. My main motivation is environmental.
I live in Royal Hill and have always walked or cycled whenever possible. I use my car very rarely, and only when I am carrying something heavy or going a considerable distance. When I was working in central London I went by a mixture of walking and public transport. The West Greenwich traffic scheme has made no difference to my choice of how to get about. However, when I do need to use the car (for example, to go to the recycling centre or to visit family outside the Borough) I am now inevitably forced through the awful South Street/Blackheath Hill junction. I am now forced into stationary or really slow traffic making its way up Blackheath Hill, adding extra distance to my journey and, more importantly, contributing to the local pollution as stationary vehicles are the worst source of traffic pollution. For local journeys, obviously, I walk or cycle. But what if I couldn't? Many people need a car and this scheme seems to have ignored the needs of our disabled neighbours.
So I believe the scheme is not achieving those aims. Even Royal Hill, where I live, and which was very quiet before the scheme, is now full of traffic. It is forcing residents to add to the problems on the A2 and A206, and streets in East Greenwich. It is worsening local pollution. And it will only get worse if the Silvertown Tunnel is ever built. So I would ask the Council and TFL to get their heads together to devise a scheme that does not simply displace traffic within the immediate neighbourhood, but looks more broadly at south east London and inhibits traffic from coming into the borough unless it has a reason for being here.
19 November 2020
The West Greenwich Traffic Management Scheme inevitably caused traffic displacement to overburdened roads on the edge of the area. But a shock effect was the queues that have clogged Maze Hill since the beginning of the scheme, and led to the foundation of the Maze Hill Action Group. There are also increased volumes of traffic on Westcombe Park Road, Vanbrugh Hill, Ulundi Road, Humber Road and Dinsdale Road. Maze Hill traffic attempting to enter Trafalgar Road is frequently prevented by congestion on the main road. The Council claims that the Maze Hill phase on the light system has been lengthened to reduce queuing. It reality, this fails to allow more vehicles the break into stationary Trafalgar Road traffic.
The Council believes that displacement ‘evaporates’ as drivers engage in further displacement elsewhere or re-time their journeys. As LTNs are introduced in hundreds more locations in inner London, it’s possible that saturation is being reached.
Lieve Reckers of Maze Hill Action Group writes:
It's late August 2020, and Maze Hill residents have a look at their Whatsapp group which has been so helpful in the recent lockdown. One resident alerts us to the latest news: in the coming week, Crooms Hill and Hyde Vale are going to be closed to through traffic - and that after the road in Greenwich Park has already been closed by Royal Parks! The obvious question is: so where will the local traffic go? Another obvious question: who decided this, and how? How come we were not even told, let alone consulted? It seems surreal.
Fast forward a few more weeks. The messages on our Whatsapp group are getting more and more desperate. “Have you seen the traffic? It's up all the way from Trafalgar road to well beyond Vanbrugh Castle!”
“What has happened to our lovely hill?”
“I just saw a car do a three point turn to back out, several bikes on the pavement and motor bikes going down the hill on the wrong side of the road.”
“My car was parked in the road and someone has driven into it.”
“I have to walk my children to school in that polluted air!”
“This cannot go on, we must do something!”
So we did something. We formed the Maze Hill Action Group.
We conducted our own survey of gridlock traffic during morning peak time. We collected statistics and questioned drivers. It was clear that most people had no alternative but to drive, for example going to work with tools in their vans, or visiting different clients as a care giver.
We set up a petition (at the moment over 2700 signatures online, plus several hundreds signed on paper in local shops and pubs), we wrote to the Council. We engaged with our ward councillors. All of them, Labour and Conservative, were supportive. We managed to get a Zoom meeting set up with them, as well as Sizwe James, Chair of Environment Sustainability and Transport, and Graham Cox, head of Greenwich Transport. They listened and agreed to come and see for themselves one morning at 8am. They even brought Council Leader Danny Thorpe along. We truly appreciate the time they took to listen to us, but we still have a long way to go to convince them that the Hills and Vales scheme is a big mistake, and that our problems won't be resolved until that scheme is reviewed as part of a global approach for all of Greenwich, on both sides of the Park, with due concern for Trafalgar Road and Blackheath Hill.
So we continue with our action. We have submitted a public question at the last Council meeting, and plan to do so again as soon as Council meetings are resumed. We will present our petition to the Council leader. We have contacted local press, and are considering a public demonstration.
We also discovered that far from everybody in the “Hills and Vales” area is happy with the scheme, it is not what the majority of residents in West Greenwich voted for during consultation, and we were encouraged to find out that in West Greenwich too, a petition is circulating to have the scheme revoked. We are happy to support Greenwich Gone Too Far, which like us believes that we need a united approach for the whole of Greenwich, instead of the current divisive piecemeal approach. It is time for proper consultation and effective democracy.
Both petitions remain open for signing, regardless of where you live.
East Greenwich change.org petition: http://chng.it/Sq2wFDPhqs
West Greenwich: https://www.change.org/p/matthew-pennycook-mp-reverse-the-west-greenwich-road-closures-hills-vales-petition