Greenwich is distorting the law to avoid accounting to local people for the West Greenwich Traffic Management Scheme. Stakeholders registering statutory Formal Objections to the scheme under the Road Traffic Regulation Act have been sent a pro forma letter stating the Objections will be dealt with under the Council’s ‘corporate complaints procedure’ instead.
Formal Objections are intended to address the legal basis of the Experimental Traffic Orders (ETOs). The law requires they should be made public and dealt with transparently as part of the statutory decision-making process.
Substituting a long-winded, private and inappropriate ‘complaint’ process avoids the transparency that the Act demands. The Council intends to make a permanent decision before stage one responses to 'complaints' are likely to be received. It would allow the Council to escape from explaining why the scheme is not in accordance with the statutory powers the Council used to impose it on the area.
Formal Objections are being swept under the carpet to hide the lack of consultation on the scheme, as well as a secretive switch of statutory purposes within days of installing the roadblocks. Switching from an order designed to garner government money for Covid protections to an ‘Experimental Traffic Order’ captured cash for the Council and could make it easier to impose the changes longterm.
The West Greenwich Traffic Management Scheme had no mandate from residents, who voted against erecting roadblocks to the area in December 2019.
On 12 August 2020, the Council obtained an Order to bring in the scheme under section 14(1) of the Act, part of the Government’s special legislation to: ‘accommodate measures as part of the Council’s response to the public health considerations in connection to the COVID-19 pandemic’ and ‘promote active travel to support the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic’ in response to a transport ‘emergency’. A letter to Residents on the same day, 12 August 2020, gave this explanation, while claiming untruthfully that the Metropolitan Police supported the scheme, and that residents had rejected ANPR in favour of roadblocks (modal filters).
The scheme was installed on 20 August 2020. But days later, on 26 August, Greenwich obtained an ‘Experimental Traffic Order’ (ETO), effectively dumping the obligation to provide COVID measures and introducing a new timetable for permanent implementation that was not made public. The key ‘Statement of Reasons’ for the ETO were:
1 - ‘for avoiding danger to persons or other traffic using the road or any other road or for preventing the likelihood of any such danger arising,’ and
2 - ‘to facilitate the passage on the road or any other roads of any class of traffic’.
Residents were not told the changed objectives of the scheme, which differ radically from those in the original 12 August letter and Section 14(1) Order. Objections include that:
- the scheme is not an ‘experiment’. Pandemic traffic patterns and the chaos of building the new cycle superhighway did not allow it to be tested in normal conditions,
- the scheme increases, rather than reduces, traffic ‘danger’,
- residents were not consulted or told about the changed purposes.
Previously the protected area had a negligible accident history. Since 20 August there have been collisions on Royal Hill, dangerous turning movements close to the roadblocks, while ambulance and fire crews have told residents that they have been delayed in reaching accidents and emergencies.
The scheme increases danger on Blackheath Hill, to which most local traffic has been diverted. This road already had the worst accident record in the Borough, and the Greenwich South Street/Blackheath Hill junction has no pedestrian phase, creating serious risks at this busy, congested junction.
For those who found out about the ETO and made Formal Objections to the Council about its shortcomings, now is the time to reject the cul-de-sac of a ‘stage one complaint’. For a suggested response, please go to the Act Now page.
Greenwich has never held a consultation on the West Greenwich Scheme. But six other schemes are included in a Greener Greenwich online consultation that discloses responses publicly. The schemes being made available for open consultation include the neighbouring East Greenwich (‘Maze Hill and Westcombe Area’) LTN, which was proposed because of the displacement of West Greenwich traffic to the area. Reaction to the East Greenwich Scheme was overwhelmingly negative. The East Greenwich Scheme includes ANPR that would allow emergency vehicles through, unlike the West Greenwich Scheme.