Rank-and-file Greenwich Labour members have rebuked their own council for launching its campaign to build a third Blackwall Tunnel.

Greenwich Labour offices

Greenwich and Woolwich Labour Party members voted in favour of a motion criticising their councillors’ decision to launch the Bridge The Gap campaign, to press for a tunnel between Greenwich Peninsula and Silvertown and a road bridge between Thamesmead and Beckton. The council claims it will relieve congestion and bring economic benefits.

But air quality and traffic experts believe the Silvertown Tunnel will lead to an increase in pollution and will only exacerbate traffic congestion at the existing Blackwall Tunnel. A 300-strong petition is currently running against the scheme.

Party members are angry they were not consulted about the campaign, with many first reading about it in council newspaper Greenwich Time.

Furthermore, it’s emerged some of those councillors believe they were misled by their leadership into voting for the Bridge The Gap drive at a behind-closed-doors meeting in November.

They say they thought they were approving the idea of backing more river crossings in general, and not the specific proposals unveiled by leader Chris Roberts a week after their vote.

Greenwich Time, 4 December 2012

The local ward party in Roberts’ own seat of Glyndon – which suffers from some of the worst air pollution in the borough – is one of three which have rejected his plan, and whose motions were put before the constituency party on Thursday.

Roberts did not attend Thursday’s meeting, but regeneration cabinet member Denise Hyland did, according to party members who were there – but she left before the vote, which called for more research into the proposals.

MP Nick Raynsford and London Assembly member Len Duvall spoke in favour of the council’s campaign for a Silvertown Tunnel.

Transport for London is currently consulting on the Silvertown Tunnel and an alternative proposal for a ferry at Gallions Reach, Thamesmead, which would replace the Woolwich Ferry. While the bridge is an option, mayor Boris Johnson has made it clear he is against that proposal.

The Bridge The Gap campaign, launched in association with Newham Council, has been beset by problems since its launch nearly nine weeks ago. An attempt to use social media was abandoned when pranksters hijacked the council’s Twitter feed, while a press launch a month later was derailed by protesters.

The council’s own transport planner has admitted the campaign is based on “conjecture”, while Hyland herself has said the council has not carried out any traffic or pollution studies.

It’s unclear quite where the members’ motion leaves the council’s campaign, but ensures it will be difficult for the council to simply return to it when a new round of consultations start later this year.

The vote could have wider ramifications, though, for the council itself.

The anger against Roberts comes as local members begin to select who will stand for them in the 2014 council elections. If TfL push ahead with their Silvertown proposal, the issue could put councillors in marginal wards under threat if Greenwich continues its backing.

Indeed, with Roberts facing strong criticism from his own ward party, he may have to find a new seat for a second election in a row.

Saturday 9am update: Despite losing the support of her own party members, Denise Hyland defied them to appear on Saturday morning’s LBC radio breakfast show to plug the council’s campaign.

Friends of the Earth is holding a public meeting on Silvertown and the Gallions Reach proposal at the Forum, Trafalgar Road, Greenwich from 6.30pm. You can also watch Greenwich councillors take public questions at their next full meeting, on Wednesday at 7pm at Woolwich Town Hall.

To take part in the TfL consultation, go to www.tfl.gov.uk/rivercrossings. To sign the No To Silvertown Tunnel petition, visit www.silvertowntunnel.co.uk.

15 replies on “Greenwich Labour members reject council’s Silvertown campaign”

  1. I live near the A102. I now have asthma, probably a consequence of living here for many years. Greenwich Council never sought my views on their rotten little campaign: they don’t speak for me. Then again, I’ve only seen my local councillor once in my entire life when he wanted my vote before the last election.

  2. The Thamesmead / Beckton link seems to be getting a lot less flak than the Silvertown one. Do people generally think this one isn’t such a bad idea?

  3. In my experience there is quite often a delicate relationship between elected representatives of a political party and the rank and file. The latter usually get squashed, as Labour 1997-2010 and Lib Dem 2010-2013 can testify. In this case I can’t see there being any change and thus this ludicrous whim of a so-called plan will continue.

    As you imply, the real local elections in Greenwich are happening now in Labour Party meetings of course, ahead of the rubber stamping in 2014. Democracy Greenwich style.

  4. The worse thing about this, is that the real transport priority of the Crossrail station at Woolwich, is being ignored, as the council throws up a shed load of chaff with the Bridge proposals. The whole focus of the council, should be to get Woolwich fitted out, anything else is garnish.

  5. “The worse thing about this, is that the real transport priority of the Crossrail station at Woolwich, is being ignored, as the council throws up a shed load of chaff with the Bridge proposals. The whole focus of the council, should be to get Woolwich fitted out, anything else is garnish.”

    Well said, Sacha. I’ve been banging on about this since last summer.

  6. Hard to tell the exact deadline as to the best of my knowledge this has never been made public apart from “Spring 2013”.

    Taking an educated guess I’d say April. The first tunnel bore started a few weeks back from Plumstead Portal and is advancing towards Woolwich at 100m a week. The second bore starts four weeks after the first and as soon as the tunnels have passed through the station box it should be ready for the fit-out to start.

    I did start to read the Crossrail Act for further confirmation but it’s far too late for that tonight!

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