Greenwich Park, 28 June 2020
Cars were almost completely banned in the park last spring

Greenwich Council has objected to plans to stop through traffic from running through Greenwich Park – despite wanting the same measures in streets either side of the historic open space.

Car drivers had been allowed to use the park as a short-cut during the rush hour until last March, when the park was closed to nearly all vehicles as part of the first coronavirus lockdown.

While car parking was permitted again in July – and remains so despite the third lockdown – through traffic has continued to be banned, with a formal trial beginning in August.

The closure has coincided with the council’s own Hills & Vales “low-traffic neighbourhood” in streets west of the park, which has been blamed by many residents for traffic jams in Maze Hill, to the east of the park. A separate traffic scheme is now being planned for Maze Hill and nearby streets.

Last November, Royal Parks consulted on making the closure permanent. Greenwich’s objection was not made public at the time, but is referred to in a single line in a paper produced for councillors on the borough’s highways committee, who will discuss the Hills & Vales scheme on Wednesday.

“The Avenue in Greenwich Park was closed by the Royal Parks since the first Covid-19 lockdown and Royal Parks has been operating a six-month trial prohibiting vehicular access through the park at all times,” the paper says. “The council has officially registered an objection to this proposal as part of statutory process.”

853 contacted the council last Tuesday evening to ask for more details on why it has objected to the scheme. However – and despite efforts by the council’s communications staff, and pointing out the importance of carrying a balancing response on a controversial issue – no response has been received at the time of publication. (A response came late on Monday afternoon.)

Greenwich Council’s own plans to tackle the climate emergency call for a 45 per cent cut in car use by 2030.

Wednesday’s committee meeting will discuss its response to eight separate petitions regarding the Hills & Vales scheme – three against it and five for it.

However, the proposed response is unlikely to satisfy anybody – the scheme is a six-month trial which began on 3 September, and council officers say it is too soon to give a formal response as the trial is not yet over – and that the scheme is likely to be in place for another six months yet while its future is decided.

Planters on Maidenstone Hill
Planters have been in place in west Greenwich for nearly six months Credit: The Greenwich Wire

“Once the consultation period closes on 3 March 2021, officers will analyse all of the responses (including the received petitions) in line with the required statutory process … in order to then produce a recommendation report on the way forward,” council officers say.

The review will also consider data on traffic volumes, road safety, air quality, feedback from emergency services, equality impact assessments, public comments and collision data.

“Allowing for the decision-making process and the anticipated ongoing importance of providing safe and convenient alternatives to public transport and private cars, the trial is likely to last for up to twelve months in total,” the report says.

Officers cite anti-social behaviour by drivers – captured in videos from local lobby group Save Greenwich Neighbourhoods – as one reason for introducing the curbs.

Last week, Greenwich’s cabinet member for transport, Sizwe James, told 853 that plans to implement further road blocks in streets east of Greenwich Park – effectively banning north-south private traffic in an area between Greenwich South Street and the A102 – were “just the start”. The schemes are being put in place to combat a long-term increase in road traffic and to nudge people towards walking and cycling for short trips.

Across the other side of the borough, plans have been unveiled to put cameras in place on three streets in Lee to stop them from being used by rat-runners – Weigall Road, Abergeldie Road, and a service road off Westhorne Avenue.

This follows Lewisham Council’s decision to put planters on the borough boundary at nearby Upwood Road and on other adjacent streets. The Upwood Road planter is to be replaced by a camera, Lewisham announced last week.

Further plans have been revealed for Sandy Hill Road in Woolwich town centre. Although being branded as a “low traffic neighbourhood” – a term usually used for closing roads to through traffic – this scheme will simply make the road one-way between Crescent Road and Brookhill Road, allowing traffic towards Woolwich New Road.

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