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.