Lewisham and Greenwich Council workers on Blackheath
Border clash: A Greenwich Council worker consults with his Lewisham colleagues

Planters have been installed this morning on a notorious rat-run in Blackheath, closing the road as a through route for vehicles in a move which Lewisham Council hopes will make it easier to walk and cycle.

South Row has been closed off with planters outside the Princess of Wales pub, blocking both it and Paragon Place at Prince of Wales Road.

Street sign warning people of closure
A street sign on the Lewisham side of the border warns people of the closure
Kidbrooke Gardens
There is less warning on the Greenwich side

The planters have been installed as part of an emergency scheme to make it easier for people to get around during the coronavirus pandemic. Together with adjacent Kidbrooke Gardens and Westbrook Road – both in Greenwich borough – South Row is a heavily-used cut-through between Kidbrooke Park Road and Blackheath Village.

The rat-run crosses the border between the two boroughs, and one of the first drivers to be inconvenienced was in a Greenwich Council van. Asking Lewisham’s contractors what was going on, he exclaimed: “Nobody tell us what’s going on!”

Please explain why

How dare you do this. You are diverting traffic onto the private Cator Estate where the residents pay for the road. How dare you install traffic count equipment onto our estate. This is trespass. You will be turning the Cator Estate into a rat run for Blackheath Village. However we are not concerned as we will simply have to install ANPR onto our private gates for the use of residents only. We will be taking this up with Greenwich Council.

Are there any urgent issues that need addressing with this scheme?

How dare you transfer an existing rat run into a new rat run through the Cator Estate

Would you like this scheme to be made permanent?

Some people are not happy about the closure
Please explain why

There is already the heath which has masses of space for social distancing.

Are there any urgent issues that need addressing with this scheme?

Yes! Whoever thought up this scheme clearly has no local knowledge. Residents of South Row and The Paragon will be blocked out of the village as they can’t drive down Pond or Morden Roads as they are private and will inevitably be closed off by The Cator Estate. The scheme is ludicrous

Would you like this scheme to be made permanent?

Some feel the existence of Blackheath is enough
Border map
The rat run cuts across the border between Greenwich and Lewisham, while the greyed-out streets below are inside the private Blackheath Cator Estate

While many have wanted the rat run closed for many years, the scheme has been rushed through to encourage walking and cycling. Two more sets of planters have been planted close to The Paragon, but there is just one, easily-missable sign on the Greenwich side of the border, and nothing to deter drivers from using Kidbrooke Gardens at Kidbrooke Park Road.

There have been fears that rat-runners will simply divert to the Blackheath Cator Estate or use Paragon Place and Weymss Road to access Blackheath Village, meaning the scheme backfires. Drivers could be seen diverting into Pond Road, one of the estate roads, this morning.

Westbrook Road
There is no warning for drivers entering Westbrook Road, which leads into Kidbrooke Gardens
Westbrook Road
The road on the Greenwich side is part of a cycle route to Eltham

Other worries expressed on a consultation page set up by Lewisham Council include access to the Princess of Wales pub’s car park and a three-tonne weight limit on Kidbrooke Gardens affecting shopping deliveries and Greenwich Council bin trucks. Some, though, were simply dismissive, saying if people wanted to socially distance, they could use the heath. “There isn’t a problem. There is a whole heath to walk on. This is probably the most ridiculous idea I have seen,” one said.

South Row
The emergency scheme could be in place for 18 months

The scheme could be in place for up to 18 months, and will be reviewed to see if it can be made permanent. Visit lewishamcovidresidentialstreets.commonplace.is to send feedback.

There are still no details of Greenwich’s plans for safer walking and cycling, despite a decision from cabinet member Sizwe James having been due yesterday. More pavement space has been created in Greenwich town centre, Eltham High Street and around a bus stop in Vincent Road, Woolwich.

Last Friday, Greenwich announced it planned to create a cycle route in Blackwall Lane, east Greenwich; a route from Abbey Wood to Woolwich, effectively extending TfL’s plans to create a route from Greenwich to Woolwich; and a route from Eltham to Greenwich Park which would incorporate the Kidbrooke Gardens/South Row route. It has previously announced plans to pedestrianise part of Greenwich town centre. It is asking Transport for London to pay for the schemes.

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