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.
The High Court quashed Transport for London’s Streetspace scheme in January, describing the scheme as ‘extreme’. In a decision on 20 January 2021, Mrs Justice Lang found that, in relation to the banning of taxi drivers on parts of major roads, Streetspace ‘went beyond what was reasonably required to meet the temporary challenges created by the pandemic. It was possible to widen pavements to allow for social distancing, and to allocate more road space to cater for an increase in the number of cyclists, without seeking to ‘transform’ part of central London into predominantly car-free zones. The stated justification for restrictions on vehicle access, namely, that after lockdown there would be a major increase in pedestrians and cyclists and excessive traffic with risks to safety and public, was not evidence-based.’
The judgment states that use of the pandemic as a justification for restricting taxi access to bus lanes would not appreciably reduce traffic volume because ‘taxis would divert’ via other routes. There was no ‘overriding public interest which justified the frustration of the taxi drivers’ legitimate expectation’.
The quashing of the scheme is not taking immediate effect because TfL has obtained a ‘stay’ while it attempts to persuade the Court of Appeal to hear an appeal.
The Streetspace scheme, introduced last summer, aimed to frustrate car traffic all over London. It led not only to bans on some taxi routes but also to a scramble by local authorities to introduce ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhoods’ in a bid to obtain cash from the government’s pandemic emergency travel fund. The schemes did not use LTN protocols and guidance or consult residents.
There are many legal challenges to local authority Streetspace LTNs in the pipeline. Most schemes are similar to what was introduced in West Greenwich last August. Residents have objected to schemes that indiscriminately block essential journeys, and overburden inner city ‘main’ roads similar to the A2 at Blackheath residential streets that were never planned or built to take the loads now imposed.
Local councils, such as Greenwich, covertly used traffic law to close the streets. The rules make it difficult to overturn such changes. Go to Act Now to find out how to make a Formal Objection to the Scheme, or to make a formal complaint that can later be investigated by The Local Government Ombudsman.
Time will be up on 3 March for making Formal Objections to the West Greenwich Traffic Scheme. The Scheme was introduced under a new temporary traffic order, so that Greenwich qualified for the first tranche of the Emergency Active Travel Fund. The government chose to introduce this new form of temporary order because of the temporary nature of the pandemic.
But Greenwich rapidly changed the legal authority for the scheme to an Emergency Traffic Order (or ETO, normally used to cement permanent changes). The ETO came into force on 3 September. We have very little time to register the Objections. To make a Formal Objection, see our sample on our Take Action page.
As well as creating a smokescreen of obscure regulatory moves, the Council has failed to obey the law on information that must be made public.
The Council has failed to make the full ETO orders and formal ‘reasons’ for them, as well as Formal Objections, publicly available.
The Council also stated in a Freedom of Information Act request made last August, (FOI 42679) that: “The Council commissioned a number of surveys before measures were introduced in the West Greenwich (Hills and Vales) and Westcombe areas. Post implementation surveys have also been carried out on the same roads to capture the impact of modal filters. Once these results have been analysed, a summary of the report can be made available on request.” The Council should disclose this monitoring, which has never been made public.
West ward Labour Councillors have told the local branch Labour Party that “a six month review” of the West Greenwich scheme will begin in March, followed by “a decision on its future” - a process “likely to take six to eight weeks”. Local Councillors are said to have “approved” the changes before implementation last summer.
Greenwich incompetence exposed by Council Leader’s responses to East Greenwich protests on unacceptable traffic displacement
A full meeting of Greenwich Council on 25 November was petitioned by all three Blackheath-Westcombe councillors for action on the West Greenwich Traffic Management scheme, including dismantling the scheme for the duration of the pandemic.
Taking questions from Cllrs Leo Fletcher, Mariam Lolavar and Geoffrey Brighty, Councillor Danny Thorpe, Council Leader, admitted that Blackheath Hill and Maze Hill had seen a rise of 17 per cent in traffic since the scheme’s installation, but insisted the real cause was a rise in pandemic traffic in the ‘region’.
Residents in Maze Hill, Vanbrugh Hill and the Westcombe area have protested since August that the West Greenwich scheme has caused unacceptable gridlock because of displacement of traffic that formerly travelled between Park Avenue, Crooms Hill, Hyde Vale and Point Hill, to access Trafalgar Road and Blackheath. Continual queues on Maze Hill and the surrounding area have resulted in a 3000-signatory petition to Greenwich Council to put an end to the scheme.
The scheme, originally modelled on ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhoods’, did not take account of official guidance to ensure robust main roads would take displaced traffic. It has also caused severe problems of displacement west of the park, overloading Blackheath Hill, already a pollution and accident black spot.
The Council’s response indicates that Greenwich and TfL have failed to monitor traffic flows and pollution that are vital to evaluating the controversial scheme.
Greenwich to block Dabin Crescent cut-through to quell criticism of the Low Traffic Neighbourhood that ‘accelerates health and social disadvantage’
Greenwich is to modify its West Greenwich Traffic Management scheme to introduce a modal filter preventing vehicles from entering Dabin Crescent from Plumbridge Street and Lindsell Street. The filter is due to be installed on 18 November. It will shut down a dangerous cut-through created by the scheme itself.
Greenwichgonetoofar.co.uk highlighted how the scheme accelerates health and social disadvantage by displacing local traffic to congested Blackheath Hill, leaving seven blocks of flats, mainly Greenwich social housing, exposed to higher pollution levels and traffic danger.
The scheme ensured that Dabin Crescent, the narrowest road in the neighbourhood, would remain open to traffic from the A2 as well as LTN residents whose streets are protected from entry from Point Hill and Blissett Street.
All seven blocks, including Dabin Crescent and Cade Tyler House, are sandwiched between Blackheath Hill and Dabin Crescent.
The two-way, three metres-width Dabin Crescent was left open by the Council’s LTN scheme, permitting a direct route to Greenwich South Street from Maidenstone Hill, Winforton Street, Trinity Grove and Dutton Street. Two-way traffic cannot pass without both cars mounting narrow, metre-wide pavements. A small play area with equipment for very young children lies unused across the street from the flats because residents of all ages face a severe danger from traffic.
The area was ignored by Greenwich Council during planning of the scheme when residents should have been given a voice in shaping the proposals. Traffic on Dabin Crescent increased exponentially following introduction of the scheme in August.
A building space extension for work on the corner of Lindsell Street and Greenwich South Street led to partial closure of Lindsell Street in October. Councillors hoped this might provide a temporary 18-month ‘fix’ for the internal rat-run. However, traffic only increased: the Lindsell Street closure forced more local traffic to take the Blackheath Hill route via Dabin Crescent to Lindsell Street and Plumbridge Street.
Read more about how the LTN accelerates health and social disadvantage.
The concentration of social housing on Blackheath Hill and Dabin Crescent is on the narrowest section of the A2, where two lanes of heavy traffic merge to a single lane all day long. Just a few metres separate our neighbourhood’s biggest permanent traffic jam from our largest agglomeration of social housing.
Ealing residents’ associations have launched an application for judicial review in opposition to low traffic neighbourhood schemes. The grounds for the claim, by representatives of the Coldershaw and Midhurst Traffic Action Group (CAMTAG) and Ealing Residents Against Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, are that Ealing Council is failing to meet its legal duties to keep road access open to premises, and to uphold the Equality Act 2010, according to Ealingtoday.co.uk.
Local councils are under a legal duty to secure and maintain expeditious, convenient and safe movement of vehicular and other traffic to provide 'reasonable access to premises' under section 122 of Road Traffic Act 1984. Exceptions to the rule are provided for to prevent excess use of the roads, for instance by heavy commercial vehicles.
The legal duty to uphold the Equality Act 2010 aims to prevent the imposition of disadvantage on people with disabilities and other statutorily controlled forms of discrimination.
In Greenwich, the Council has avoided answering questions as to its engagement with disability groups.
If you have experienced delays in receiving care, medical attention or making hospital appointments, don’t forget to inform the Royal Borough of Greenwich on its streetspace consultation:
The full Council meeting of the Royal Borough of Greenwich is due to go ahead this month after the unexplained cancellation of its 28 October meeting. Residents had submitted questions to the Council, including requests to know:
-what monitoring of the scheme is being conducted in East Greenwich;
-why planned local ‘engagement events’ about a potential scheme did not take place in 2019;
-whether any information was supplied, or consultation held, with residents on Blackheath Hill, Dabin Crescent or Greenwich South Street where displacement of local traffic was planned prior to bringing in any scheme at all (not simply the current scheme).
-whether the Council is prepared to listen to the body of evidence of objection, and work urgently to find an immediate solution to gridlock on Maze Hill and surrounding area during peak hours.
At the September Council meeting, East Greenwich residents and councillors had pressed the Council to review the scheme, a request that was refused.
The next Full Council is due on 25 November. You can view the meeting online (all Council meetings during the pandemic have been held remotely), or later on youtube. Local residents and taxpayers of the borough have the right to submit up to two questions in writing or by email to a Full Council meeting.
Modal filters were removed from Abery Street and Gallosson Road, Plumstead on Wednesday 4 November following an announcement by the Royal Borough of Greenwich on 2 November. The Plumstead to Abbey Wood cycle route had “proved popular” according to the Council, but that it had responded to feedback from local residents and businesses that they had found the road blocks had made it difficult for residents to use local businesses and as a result, had placed them under pressure.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Danny Thorpe said: “After a visit to Plumstead High Street last week it’s clear to me that it’s in the best interests of the area for us to remove the modal filters on Abery Street and Gallosson Road. We’ve tried something which you’ve told us hasn’t worked for residents and businesses in the area. We’re acting on your feedback, so please keep telling us what you think.”
How to help Cllr Thorpe: contact Greenwich Council’s Streetspace consultation. You can make as many individual ‘specific’ complaints as are necessary, although only one short general complaint is ‘allowed’. Link: https://www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk/westgreenwichtraffic
Alternatively, contact your local councillor, or write to Cllr Danny Thorpe at the address on our Take Action page. Don’t forget to sign the petitions.