For fairness and social justice
Council challenged to end ‘cover-up culture’
Traffic scheme was built on ethical breaches and "maladministration"
Greenwichgonetoofar has sent an Open Letter to Councillors Anthony Okereke and Averil Lekau, the new Leader and Deputy Leader of Greenwich council, challenging them to live up to Cllr Okereke’s pledge to “put residents at the heart of every decision we make”.
Following May's local elections, regime change within the majority Labour group on Greenwich Council led to the selection of Councillors Okereke and Lekau to council leadership. Cllr Lekau is also Cabinet member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport, taking over the brief for traffic and transport formerly held by Cllr Sarah Merrill.
Our letter describes maladministration and breaches of official standards of public life in the imposition of the West Greenwich traffic management scheme in August 2020, citing some of the “false and misleading” information that underpinned it.
The GGTF letter says that Cllr Okereke's hopes “have no chance of surviving contact with the day-to-day reality of the way the council is run – with its endemic and deliberate lack of transparency, hoarding of information and cover-up culture.” GGTF urges Councillors to take the opportunity offered by the fresh start to involve Greenwich residents and businesses in a wide-ranging public review of the council’s government.
To read the letter in full, and download to forward under your own name, follow this link to our Act Now page.
The chaotic scheme that caused disruption all over north Greenwich was removed following a decision in February. However, traffic management is still on the agenda, with some 'Hills and Vales' residents hoping for a reversal of the decision.
Greenwichgonetoofar came together as a group to press for transparency and fairness following the imposition of the West Greenwich traffic management scheme in August 2020. We have compiled a dossier of the activities that led to the creation of the scheme and last year wrote a similar open letter – widely adopted - to former Leader Danny Thorpe asking him to improve the Council’s transparency over the scheme.
GGTF is not part of a ‘car lobby’, or against traffic management to reduce congestion and pollution. We campaign for social justice - for example, promoting the Lindsell Street modal filter introduced in November 2020, and not part of the original scheme. This filter continues to protect social housing tenants on Dabin Crescent, Cade Tyler House and Maidenstone Hill from excessive traffic.
Tenants and their children living on Blackheath Hill took the strain
The scheme deliberately displaced traffic to Blackheath Hill - the worst congested road in the area, and the highest accident rate in the Borough. The Hill is home to the highest concentration of social housing in West Greenwich.
Residents of Dabin Crescent and Cade Tyler House on Blackheath Hill, have the least access in the traffic management area to wide pavements, green, open space, and food shops. They are less likely to have access to a private car or a bike. But they are suffering the pollution fall-out and road risks of the Greenwich scheme.
28,000 vehicles use Blackheath Hill every day, putting residents at risk of accidents and poor health.
Pedestrians and people with disabilities among those harmed by the scheme
People with disabilities living on boundary roads are 'trapped' both by congestion on main roads and inaccessibility, caused by LTNs and other modal filters. Their transport lifeline for treatment and a life beyond their homes has been seriously damaged by the scheme. A Black Cab discount failed because savings were eaten up by waiting in traffic queues.
The emergency services protested privately at the delays that would result from the scheme, and complaints followed, from the autumn of 2020 onwards, about critical delays on ambulance calls.
Width restrictions were removed from the Hyde Vale and Crooms Hill junctions with the A2 encouraging speeding and increasing turning and circulation of goods vehicles within the protected enclave.
There was no enforcement of speed limits, or control of bicycle and motorbike abuse of modal filters and the pavement.
Crooms Hill, although closed to through traffic, has a zebra crossing, while no other 'LTN' street, including Royal Hill, has one.
Public transport on boundary roads suffered the impact of increased congestion.
Steep hills in the area make cycling dangerous for both cyclists and pedestrians, and few additional cyclists were seen during the experimental period.
Ending the scheme returns benefits to all
Our banner picture (above) was taken at school home-time in Royal Hill weeks after the 'LTN' was removed in March - graphically demonstrating all the 'LTN' benefits ... but without the LTN.
Immediate and ongoing improvements also include reductions in traffic and queuing on Blackheath Hill and Maze Hill, as well as less 'internal' traffic circulation and turning. Before the scheme, the West Greenwich area had always been quiet for most of the day and night, with some peak time queuing on open common land leading to the A2. As many locals testify, the traffic scheme was a 24-hour solution to a two-hour problem.
The traffic management scheme led to scenes like those pictured below on Royal Hill, where commercial and other traffic attempted to avoid congestion on Greenwich South Street. The chicane close to James Wolfe School on Royal Hill was often overwhelmed during the morning peak, placing children at risk every day.
Additional congestion on Blackheath Hill caused long tailbacks in all directions. Early in 2021, undisclosed Council monitoring had already recorded traffic displacement from West Greenwich all over the Westcombe Park area.
Cars constantly mounted the narrow pavement outside James Wolfe Primary School during peak hours.
Our old banner pic: spot the difference.
LTNs offer no demonstrable reductions in traffic
The original 'Liveable Neighbourhoods' policy in London was intended for poorer communities with few or no other environmental advantages. Conditions for their introduction included ensuring 'robust' boundary roads - that is, the four lane highways typical of A roads outside inner London.
No creditable research demonstrates that such areas 'reduce' traffic. Pollution measures can be hard to analyse, but effectively we all breathe the same air. The exception is that those living within 30 metres of major roads experience high levels of unmeasured particulates arising from brakeware and tyres, which are implicated in serious health conditions.
Although 'Liveable Neighbourhoods' was abandoned, schemes such as the 'Hills and Vales' - essentially traffic reduction for a small and already environmentally privileged neighbourhood - were looking (unsuccessfully) to the scheme for funding when the pandemic struck.
The rushed implementation of government measures in 2020, to prevent a 'traffic-led' recovery from the pandemic, gave schemes all over London a slice of the cake.
Journalist Paul Wheeler, writing in OnLondon, sets out the case that politicians should pursue policies on streets and pollution that are rooted in democracy and social justice. Click here for Paul Wheeler's "Last Rites for the Covid LTNs".
Meanwhile, policy emerging from Transport for London and the Mayor shows a clear trend towards road charging to end the tidal waves of traffic converging on inner London. Discussion is also heading towards distance-charging as distinct from the unpopular daily charge
How the scheme added road miles, pollution and congestion
The West Greenwich traffic scheme created a physical barrier between the A206 (from the town centre and Greenwich South Street/High Road) and the A2 along the yellow line. Throughout West Greenwich, access to and from either side of the barrier was via the Blackheath Hill and South Street junction.
The solid barrier removed Royal Hill, Circus Street, Brand Street, Blissett Street and Prior Street from the low traffic neighbourhood, and cut essential local access ('permeability') required by the Liveable Neighbourhoods scheme - funding that was sought for an area that includes the wealthiest streets in the borough.
Detours forced by the barrier added up to three miles to journeys, and placed extra pressure on the worst congested stretch of the A2, Greenwich South Street, Trafalgar Road and on residential roads in East Greenwich.
The road network was put under more pressure, forcing all traffic to take a detour using our busiest residential roads. This was a disaster for local people, particularly for older people and those with disabilities and many others who find it hard to get around on foot or on a bicycle. It led to hold ups and dented incomes for workers who use cars to provide services, repairs, care and vital visits. Cab firms, relied on by people with disabilities became uneconomic, with shrinking earnings and cut backs in available drivers due to hold-ups.
Council admits falsely claiming Met Police backing for the scheme
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. Read more...