Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe will not commit the council to a judicial review of the Silvertown Tunnel scheme, two weeks after writing to the mayor of London to ask Sadiq Khan to review his controversial plans for a new road tunnel.
Plans for the tunnel between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks, which is aimed at relieving congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel, are back on track after a legal block on the awarding of the contract to build the new road was lifted.
Objectors say the new road – which will include a special lane for HGVs and buses that cannot fit into the existing northbound Blackwall Tunnel – will simply attract more traffic and will bring more congestion and pollution to southeast and east London.
While Greenwich Council has not formally changed its stance of supporting the project – councillors have never been given the opportunity for an open discussion on the scheme – years of wrangling in the ruling Labour group ended earlier this month when councillors passed a motion behind closed doors calling for the scheme to be paused. Khan has not yet responded to Thorpe’s letter asking for the review.
At last night’s full council meeting, Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Coalition co-ordinator – and Green Party candidate for Greenwich & Woolwich – Victoria Rance suggested there could be a judicial review, claiming TfL had provided “clearly incorrect” information to the consultations into the tunnel, the public hearings into the scheme.
‘No legal case’
“I would point out that having had a decade of austerity, money is not easy to come by and certainly, any legal action would need to be considered in that context,” Thorpe said.
But he added that it was too late for a judicial review into the tunnel, planning permission for which was given in May 2018, with the six-week window for a legal review having long expired.
He added: “My understanding of the legal situation is that following the conclusion of the consent order process, there were six weeks after that process in which to launch any challenge to that process, and as that has concluded… I don’t believe there would be a legal case to proceed.”
While Greenwich Council officers – along with officers from other councils – had consistently questioned TfL’s modelling during the six months of public hearings into the scheme, between October 2016 and April 2017, the council’s leadership had been among the most vociferous supporters of the tunnel scheme.
The signing of the deal to build the tunnel had been delayed by a legal dispute between rival bidders, but it is now expected to take place next month.
Last week, the Green Party assembly member Caroline Russell pointed to high pollution levels next to St Mary Magdalene and Millennium schools, on the Greenwich Peninsula, as a reason to scrap the tunnel.
In a letter to Khan written last Thursday, she said that morning, London’s worst PM2.5 pollution – which can be caused by tyres, brake pads and road surfaces – was at Hendon Street, a new road next to the new St Mary Magdalene school and opposite Millennium Primary School. The figures were obtained from a new tool to measure real-time pollution levels, Breathe London.
“Building a new urban motorway tunnel at Silvertown will simply induce more polluting traffic to pass through south east London and commit Londoners to years of continued heavy traffic to pay off the construction debt,” she said.
“This toxic tunnel belongs in a TfL archive, along with all the plans for motorways that would have carved up London in the 1980s. By pressing ahead and signing any Silvertown road tunnel contract, as I am informed you plan to do, you would be locking in Londoners, and future mayors in to years of heavy traffic and you would be concreting in further damage to health and continued climate changing emissions. I urge you to rethink your plans and scrap this project.”
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