Welcome to the latest instalment of EGRA Lockdown News - the alternative to real meetings.
There is so much happening at the moment that it is almost impossible to cover everything. The big issues in this newsletter are the future of the Blackwall Lane Rose Garden, the current road changes and Silvertown Tunnel.
On top of that there are pending planning matters. Enderby Wharf Phase 2 which was going to include the Cruise Terminal has submitted the Scoping Document for its new Environmental Impact Assessment which means that a new Planning Application is in the offing. It looks as if they want to double the number of property units and the building heights are significant at up to 32 storeys. On the plus side, there does not appear to be a cruise terminal, only yet another Thames Clipper dock. Check out the Scoping Document on the RBG Planning Portal Ref 20/3133/EIA
We were contacted by yet more consultants employed by U+I, the developers for Morden Wharf, but decided it looked too much like a greenwashing exercise rather than a proper dialogue. The Executive Committee decided that there is no point in more fruitless discussion at this time.
There is a Local Government Boundary Commission and Council consultation on changes to Ward boundaries and an increase in the number of Councillors. Peninsula Ward is a prime candidate for sub-division as it has far more residents than the norm. The consultation can be opened here.
We are looking to refresh our website and would love to have some contributions from our members. If you have any pictures that you think particularly represent our area and you are happy for them to be used on the website, please send them through to us. Similarly, if you have any issues that you would like highlighted please send us through any articles for inclusion on the site or in one of our future newsletters. As always, we continue to look for people who would like to get more involved either as an executive committee member or to take the lead on particular issues. If you would like to get more involved please email us at email@example.com
The Rose Garden in Blackwall Lane - A chance to make a community space?
Where are we now?
The short sharp campaign to save the Rose Garden from being sold off to developers was an amazing success. From the moment that Mary Mills noticed the disposal plan in that little-read publication Greenwich Weekender, there was an outpouring of anger and outrage that the only Council-owned green space in the entire East Greenwich riverside area was up for grabs. Even the complicated snail-mail only objection procedure did not deter residents from making sure that their voices were heard and thanks to Councillor Chris Lloyd 64 letters of objection were printed out and hand-delivered on top of all the others that residents posted. There were two immediate positive results from this. The Council swiftly withdrew the proposed sale and we have an email from Councillor Denise Scott-McDonald, the deputy leader of the Council assuring us that in future there will always be an email option when commenting.
EGRA organised a quick ad hoc meeting and litter-pick on Saturday the 26th September to get some immediate ideas on how to proceed. Thanks to everyone who turned out at short notice and collected several bags of rubbish while also coming up with some great ideas about how this tiny space could be better used. The great surprise for everyone was how peaceful the park seemed given its proximity to the heavy traffic on Blackwall Lane. The mature trees create a feeling of comparative spaciousness too and the rose bushes although untended were flowering still.
Some of the ideas that came out of that first meeting in the garden were:
The priority is to have the Rose Garden put on the list of parks and open spaces to give it protection from being sold off in the future.
EGRA members and others are willing to form a ‘friends group’ to help maintain the park.
The Council Parks Department should be able to provide help in kind such as logs, soil, compost, seating and litter bins.
Any additional planting, and there should be some, must be done with a view to enhancing habitat for wildlife.
There should be some sort of play area made using natural materials. Once again the Council should be able to assist with this.
Christchurch School Community Garden project is very close by and can provide tools, seeds and some plants and shrubs.
We wrote to RBG with some of the ideas here and have had a very positive reply, they are happy with the idea of a friends group. We are waiting for further information from Parks and Open Spaces to see what we can do together.
We are also trying to find out what revenue comes in from the electronic advertising hoarding on the site since we believe that some of that should be used for maintenance and enhancement of the site. We would also like to see some of the Community Infrastructure Levy spent here given how few publically-owned places we have here and how much development we have all endured over the last two decades. All in all this is an opportunity to make something beneficial for the community.
In the meantime we will continue to consult with local residents and try to put a plan together. We also need to get gardening soon and will organise some planting sessions which will be advertised on Twitter as well as via email to EGRA members, they may be at fairly short notice given the need to work around the weather. Anyone with spare plants or perhaps remodelling their gardens over the next few months please consider contacting EGRA or the Christchurch School Community garden at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know what you have. Roses for the Rose Garden appreciated.
Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and Cycleways - an Update
Until recently EGRA had never had cause to formulate any kind of traffic and road use policy. Frankly, we have always found it hard enough to keep our heads above water on the endless planning issues and our small attempts to improve the urban landscape to worry about the appalling traffic-filled mess through the centre of our area. Not any more.
The joint efforts of the Council and TfL implementing projects that have been on the back burner for years under cover of the pandemic has made this a hot topic. Inevitably it is a contentious matter with some streets feeling that they have lost out while others are enjoying a much quieter life without persistent rat-runners using their streets. There has also been a great deal of concern that the Hills and Vales street closures in West Greenwich have caused additional traffic in East Greenwich.
In these circumstances it seemed sensible to try to formulate some kind of basic principles that EGRA could apply to the appropriateness of new traffic measures. The initial things that spring to mind are:
EGRA welcomes any attempt to improve air quality and the local environment by reducing car use and encouraging healthier alternatives.
Pedestrians should be the highest priority in local road planning to encourage use of local shops, businesses and services.
Residential streets should not be exposed to high levels of traffic whether permanent or rat-running.
Residential streets where houses open directly on to the street should have a higher priority for traffic reduction than those with proper front gardens to provide an element of protection from fumes and noise.
Penalising pedestrians by moving crossings and bus stops to less convenient locations is worse than inconveniencing either motorists or cyclists.
Confusing road layouts which encourage anti-social behaviour by all road users are a bad idea.
Get it right first time. It would be much better if schemes were well-planned and properly understood by the designers before they are installed. Desktop plans are no substitute for knowing the area. We have already seen cycle lanes constructed only last year abandoned with a huge waste of public money.
If any members of EGRA would like to suggest some more basic principles that we should use when assessing the effectiveness of schemes, we would be delighted to include them. Once we have a proper wish list we will post it on the EGRA website.
Of course, work is still underway so any firm conclusions now would be premature. However, using the draft principles as a basis for an interim assessment of where we are now, the results are decidedly mixed.
Low Traffic Neighbourhoods
LTNs have been installed in a number of areas by the use of “modal filters”, otherwise known as flower planters, blocking access to cars and vans. Inevitably, these caused some consternation among motorists to start with but the message seems to have got round now and there are far fewer angry three-point turns happening.
RBG has been unusually responsive to the knock-on effects in neighbouring streets and quickly added modal filters to Walnut Tree Road to stop rat running off Vanbrugh Hill. There are still issues in Calvert Road and Annandale Road during the morning rush and the new road (Hawthorne Crescent) at the Greenwich Centre which allows motorists to cut onto Woolwich Road. The best plan is for residents to petition the Council with accompanying photo or video evidence of traffic problems.
Trafalgar Road Cycleway
Although this is being flagged as an extension of Cycle Superhighway 4 which will ultimately run from London Bridge to Woolwich, this section is essentially a standalone project at the moment. There will be a substantial missing link from Rotherhithe roundabout to Deptford for the foreseeable future until Surrey Quays shopping centre is redeveloped. The Charlton to Woolwich end of the cycleway is also currently unfunded and not likely to see the light of day in the near future.
The section along Trafalgar Road from Christchurch Way to Blackwall Lane has involved a large amount of disruption with more to come. The removal of the bus stop outside the Post Office will be particularly unwelcome as neither of the alternatives at King William Lane and outside Mr Fixit along Woolwich Road will have a bus shelter and the distance between the stops is at the maximum distance permitted by TfL.
The new pedestrian crossing at the Plaza is also very pedestrian-unfriendly with a long narrow dog leg barely wide enough for a double buggy or wheelchair. The usual East Greenwich Line of Desire route across nearly stationary traffic between the Post Office and the Co-Op is now a very dangerous option with two cycle lanes and two narrow vehicle lanes to negotiate.
The cycleway itself has no logical route through Greenwich Town Centre except through Cutty Sark Gardens and the ORNC. TfL and their design team at Streetscape have no alternative routes during the regular closures of the ORNC for filming or concerts.
Cyclists are then supposed to cut in to Old Woolwich Road via Park Row and continue to the junction with Christchurch Way. New road markings have been painted on to the road but the appalling pot-holed road surface remains. The cycleway has a number of junctions too at: Eastney Street, Greenwich Park Street, Lassell Street and King William Lane, all of which have vehicles cutting in from Trafalgar Road and poor sight lines.
Once at Trafalgar Road many cyclists seem to be confused by the retention of parts of the existing cycleway installed last year under the Low Emission Zone scheme. Some cyclists heading towards Greenwich Town Centre are simply heading down the cycleway against the traffic until they realise the cycleway has disappeared.
All in all, the project looks like a bit of a dog’s breakfast at the moment. The impact of the works at Angerstein Roundabout are impossible to predict. Although the cycleway may benefit those commuting into Central London, it seems probable that locals will still prefer more scenic and safer routes along the river or through the Peninsula.
There is a council consultation on the traffic changes, which can be accessed here
EGRA and Silvertown Tunnel - What’s our position?
Since Silvertown Tunnel was first proposed it has been impossible to find a clear consensus of opinion among the EGRA membership. While many of us probably believe we will end up with more and worse traffic once it is built, there are plenty of others who think that it might ease the constant pressure on Blackwall Tunnel and make cross-river journeys slightly less frustrating.
Frankly, we will not know the outcome until it is open, by which time it will be too late to do anything. The current situation is so fluid anyway. Will more people give up driving to try to avert the climate emergency or will the pandemic encourage people to take to their cars so as not to face public transport? Will the introduction of tolling on both Silvertown and Blackwall Tunnels act as a disincentive to use either tunnel in favour of free Rotherhithe Tunnel or Tower Bridge? Will drivers really want to have to make the detour to Silvertown in order to get to the M11? What will be the impact of having a tunnel that can accommodate large HGVs, currently too big for poor old Blackwall Tunnel? And what about the likely presence of two new distribution centres, one in Newham and one at Morden Wharf, serving the current trend for on-line shopping? None of the traffic modelling done for Silvertown includes any of these factors so we are working in the dark.
So what is EGRA doing at the moment? We have been keeping track of the continuing Stop the Silvertown Tunnel campaign (SST) and having regular dialogue with its members who include the local Green Party, Extinction Rebellion and other local amenity groups. There are few paths left open to objectors now. While some SST members want to seek judicial review, EGRA’s experience with the cruise terminal makes us very wary of this course of action. The risk of this process is all with the objector and the costs will be substantial. Extinction Rebellion have undertaken some direct action such as occupying the test platform in the river a couple of months ago and planting some tree whips at the site of the entrance to the new tunnel on the Peninsula.
The real difficulty has been raising awareness of the impending construction among residents both in East Greenwich and more particularly on the Peninsula where knowledge of what is to come is minimal. It is extremely hard to reach residents of the new apartment blocks where security prevents any normal leafleting and many of the occupants are short-term anyway.
EGRA, along with the Greenwich Society and the Westcombe Society, has been attempting to get some clarity on the accompanying infrastructure that will be needed on this side of the river to service the new tunnel. There is almost no detail on any of this and it seems suspiciously as if this is being done in a rather ad hoc way. All the local amenity groups are very concerned that the additional road network needed to support Silvertown Tunnel will make journeys on foot or bicycle between East Greenwich, the Peninsula and Charlton even more horrible than they are at the moment. Once the Silvertown Tunnel Approach roads are added in, there will be a minimum of 20 lanes of road running North/South on Greenwich Peninsula between Tunnel Avenue and East Parkside as well as acres of multi-level parking at the O2. There will be some kind of a flyover taking the Blackwall Tunnel southern exit over the Silvertown Tunnel traffic lanes and yet there are no design details let alone information on noise suppression, air quality monitoring and mitigation or light pollution. The Peninsula will be more Los Angeles than urban village. EGRA believes it is vital that local residents and road users get some serious input into real mitigation as well as improving the permeability of the adjoining areas. We do not need more communities cut in half by ill-planned road building.
In the meantime, the Riverlinx consortium who are actually building the tunnel and will be responsible for it and its tolling for the next 25 years, have started their “Community Engagement” process. This has been less than successful so far with the two on-line meetings dominated by lengthy presentations from Riverlinx about the details of tunnelling and no information about the surrounding infrastructure or time for questions. Our local Councillor, Denise Scott-McDonald is now chairing these sessions and we have written to her asking for some better procedures to make these meetings more useful. We also would like to see some more residents involved in this process, particularly from the Peninsula where the most disruption, both during the construction period and afterwards, will be seen.
If any EGRA members have any ideas about how to raise awareness of the impending challenge from Silvertown, we would love to hear them. Please make sure your friends and neighbours know that construction is starting now. Also, if members would like to participate in the formal Community Engagement meetings we would be happy to pass on the details of how to join in. If anyone has any worries about how the new road layout will impact on our area or what extra pedestrian/cycle friendly crossing points ought to be included we would love to hear about this too.
If you have any opinions, ideas or information on any of the above matters or any other things that impact life in East Greenwich contact EGRA via email@example.com