A102 southbound queue
Campaigners fear the Silvertown Tunnel will increase congestion

Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe has played down growing pressure for the council to condemn London mayor Sadiq Khan’s controversial Silvertown Tunnel.

The council has consistently supported the new road between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks, which is due to open in 2025, despite neighbouring Newham, Lewisham and Southwark opposing the crossing. Last week, Hackney Council reaffirmed its opposition to the scheme.

Planning approval was given for the tunnel in May 2018, and last week TfL announced it was close to a deal with a consortium to finance and operate the £1bn crossing.

In a wide-ranging interview with BBC Radio London, Thorpe said: “We are working hard to be clear on now the decision has been taken is getting the right mitigation to make sure there are no adverse impacts on the borough. There’s clearly people for it and against it but, look at the Blackwall Tunnel, now that was built in 1887 for carriages and horses.

“As a city, we have to have serious conversations about the infrastructure we need to keep our city moving. We want to get people cycling and walking, we are working with the mayor and his team to make sure public transport is people’s first choice.”

A recently established pressure group has been calling on the council to reverse its support for the controversial tunnel. Schools have backed the campaign, with one – Invicta primary school in Blackheath – crowdfunding itself to build a barrier to stop Blackwall Tunnel fumes from filtering through to its playground.

Pressed on whether the council was doing enough to combat air pollution close to schools, Thorpe said: “I’ve already introduced a school streets programme [to close roads at the start and end of the school day] and we are looking to roll that out further. We are working with all schools on transport planning to get people walking, riding and scooting.

“Where schools are adjacent to roads we have introduced an air filter system to protect kids from fumes.

“The school streets programme has six up and running and we are working on phase two. If we could make sure schools were further from roads, then I absolutely would but we have been stopped by this Tory government from building schools.”

Woolwich ‘feeling Crossrail benefits’

On Crossrail, which has been hit with delays and is hugely over budget, Thorpe said Woolwich is already feeling the benefits.

He told drivetime presenter Eddie Nestor: “Woolwich has been transformed by Crossrail honestly, in terms of access to the jobs that we have now, we are going to be six or seven minutes form Canary Wharf. What I am interested in is working with my schools to make sure young people have access to those opportunities.”

During the wide-covering interview, Thorpe said that funding adult social care was his biggest challenge for the next year, and that the council was “under the cosh” from austerity.

The leader also reaffirmed that building more council housing is a huge priority for him and his administration.

Homelessness is costing Greenwich tax payers 30 per cent more than it was three years ago, it was recently revealed. While in 2015, there were an average of 15,390 people on the housing waiting list, a figure that has since climbed year on year to 19,116 in 2019.

The leader added: “We’ve reached the end of the line in terms of savings and efficiencies.  We’ve got demand going through the roof – tonight we have 11,000 families in temporary accommodation. We are under the cosh as a result of Tory austerity.

“There’s not enough money to do all the things we need to do and in the end you are going to feel the pinch. If you look at other boroughs and what we are doing, we are in the same boat.

“We are focused on not letting developers just do what they want but building our own council housing. That is why I have secured over £200m over three years to do that – we are flat out on it.

“I don’t want to live in a country where developers are proving social housing as opposed to the authority.”

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Tom Bull is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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