Tunnel Avenue pocket park
The green space is at the junction of Blackwall Lane and Tunnel Avenue

Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook has criticised plans to sell green space close to the Blackwall Tunnel approach road – saying he is “at a loss” as to why Greenwich Council is “determined” to offload the land.

The council plans to sell an old rose garden at the junction of Blackwall Lane and Tunnel Avenue. When 853 first reported this story earlier this month, the council did not respond to questions about its plans. Documents published on the town hall’s website last night appear to indicate that the land could be sold to the developer Pocket Living.

Pennycook – who is also Labour’s shadow climate minister – has written to council leader Danny Thorpe to “object in the strongest terms” to the planned sale, saying urban green spaces such as the rose garden “indirectly impact our health by improving air quality and reducing urban temperatures and they benefit the environment by helping store carbon”.

“The coronavirus lockdown has only served to reinforce the importance of access to urban greenspaces in this regard, particularly for those without access to private gardens.

“I am at a loss to understand why the Royal Borough of Greenwich appears determined, despite having rightly abandoned an attempt to do so in 2015, to dispose of the rose garden, which is, as you know, one of the few pockets of urban green space in the vicinity of Blackwall Lane.”

The old rose garden, which contains a number of trees, absorbs pollution from the nearby Blackwall Tunnel approach, which will see more traffic when mayor Sadiq Khan’s Silvertown Tunnel is built. The council’s ruling cabinet approved plans to sell it to a developer in 2015, but did not proceed with the sale.

Local Labour councillor Chris Lloyd also submitted an objection – and included letters from 54 of his constituents, helping them beat the council’s insistence that objections must be sent by post.

He said the decision to sell the land “flies in the face” of the council’s climate emergency policy. “Pocket after pocket of green space is disappearing in east Greenwich and the line must be drawn here,” he said. “I cannot overstate the strength of feeling about this locally.”

Tunnel Avenue pocket park
In 2015, councillors agreed to sell to the developer of adjacent flats, but nothing happened

Local Greens have also objected. The party, which came second in Peninsula ward in 2018’s council election, said that the plan was “not only irresponsible but contrary to planning strategies at every level of government”.

In addition, Conservative councillors have put a motion forward for next week’s council meeting calling on the town hall to abandon the sale.

When Bexley Council undertook a similar land sale last year, Thorpe condemned its cabinet member Louie French as “a Tory who thinks profit is more important than people”. He has been silent on social media about this particular sale, despite one resident telling him: “You’re better than this.”

The sale plan has been given the legal minimum publicity, and residents only found out after former local councillor Mary Mills was tipped off about a public notice in a little-read freesheet.

The identity of the proposed purchaser has not been confirmed, however, the site is similar to those that Pocket Living specialises in. The company – which has Pennycook’s predecessor Nick Raynsford on its board – sells small flats to first-time buyers at a 20 per cent discount, meaning they qualify for the government definition of “affordable” housing, if not the dictionary definition.

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