Greenwich Council is making a second attempt to sell green space close to the congested Blackwall Tunnel approach road – despite leader Danny Thorpe criticising Tories in Bexley for doing the same thing last year.
The council plans to sell a small green space between Tunnel Avenue and Blackwall Lane in east Greenwich, according to a notice placed in the little-read Greenwich Weekender freesheet, which is where the town hall places its public announcements. The old rose garden absorbs pollution from the nearby A102, which will see more traffic when mayor Sadiq Khan’s Silvertown Tunnel is built.
853 first revealed plans to sell the land to the owner of flats next door six years ago. The council’s cabinet approved the plans in 2015, promising that 20 per cent of the sale price would be reinvested in the local public realm. However, nothing happened and the land remained in public use.
The Labour council’s plan echoes a similar sale of land in Erith, where Bexley Conservative councillors backed a plan to sell a small park for a private housing development last year. When 853 highlighted this ahead of the general election, Thorpe branded Louie French, the Conservative candidate for Eltham who pushed through the scheme as a Bexley cabinet member, “a Tory who thinks profit is more important than people”.
His predecessor, Denise Hyland, said: “Imagine if Louie French, the Tory candidate, got his hands on Eltham Park South or Avery Hill Park- would he turn them over to private developers?” Hyland oversaw the previous attempt to sell the Greenwich rose garden to a developer.
853 contacted Greenwich Council on Wednesday to give it an opportunity to explain why it is selling the land, what it is doing to engage the public on the issue, and what it plans to do with the proceeds. It has not responded to or acknowledged the request.
The planned sale of one of the few open spaces in east Greenwich has been given the minimum publicity necessary – a notice in Greenwich Weekender, a freesheet funded by Greenwich Council placing its public notices there, largely distributed through libraries. In 2017, Weekender stopped carrying news reporting after councillors threatened to close the paper if it carried stories critical of the town hall.
Greenwich West Labour councillor Aidan Smith publicised the planned sale on Twitter, adding “#SaveTheRoseGarden”.
Local residents’ groups have also opposed the sale. The East Greenwich Residents Association said: “That small green space contains a good number of beautiful mature trees as well as the roses. It’s great to look at and provides a much needed carbon sink in a sea of roads. Not nearly enough green space in east Greenwich, what there is needs preserving.”
Meanwhile, the Greenwich Society said: “Greenwich can’t afford to lose any more green space.”
Back in July 2015, the council’s cabinet ignored 54 objections to agree to sell to the developer, the vast majority coming from residents close to the open space. Peninsula ward councillor Chris Lloyd also objected, and has said he will object again. Cabinet members were asked to rush through the decision because “a decision in September 2015 will be too late to enable the Royal Borough [sic] to seek to secure the best possible receipt”.
However, little has happened in the following five years, although the space – which had been looked after by council streets staff rather than parks staff – is currently in a poorly-maintained condition. Since then, however, Greenwich councillors have declared a climate emergency. A report commissioned by the council states that “Greenwich currently has more than 50 parks and green spaces, including the Royal Arsenal Gardens located on former industrial land. Preservation and potential extension of these spaces is a necessary means of contributing to carbon sequestration within the borough.”
Objectors will have to write to the council by post – to The Woolwich Centre, Wellington Street, London SE18 6HQ, quoting “Blackwall Lane” – to make their feelings heard. Comments have to be received by the council by 17 September.
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