Measures to stop drivers clogging up back streets in west Greenwich are to be watered down, local residents have been told by the councillor in charge of transport, with a key road to be opened up during the morning rush hour.
Streets west of Greenwich Park have been closed to vehicles since last August as part of the Hills and Vales low-traffic neighbourhood, a scheme to end rat-running and make it easier for people to walk and cycle in the area.
The scheme coincided with the park being closed to through traffic and was followed by jams in streets east of the park such as Maze Hill; as well as residents complaining about antisocial behaviour by drivers. Similar behaviour was recorded by west Greenwich residents before the traffic measures were put in there.
Now multiple sources have told 853 that the council plans to open Hyde Vale to through traffic for two hours every morning in an attempt to release the pressure on other roads. While Hyde Vale is a relatively wide B-road, it ends on narrow Royal Hill, which is home to James Wolfe primary school.
Residents have been left “stunned” by the decision – and many fear it will simply compound problems by generating its own jams while failing to draw traffic away from the Maze Hill area.
Sarah Merrill, the cabinet member for transport and sustainability, told a council meeting last week that she had asked Royal Parks, which runs Greenwich Park, to open its gates to traffic each morning, but that she didn’t “hold out any hope” that they would. She also said that planters which had been used to block roads would be replaced with cameras after “alarming” feedback from emergency services.
One resident who met Merrill last week told 853: “We were called to the meeting at very short notice, and were unaware what the purpose of the meeting was,” the resident – who 853 has agreed not to name – said.
“Cllr Merrill started by telling us we would not like what she was going to say. She was right. We were told that she was going to open Hyde Vale to rat running traffic each weekday between 7-9am.
“She said that there were a huge number of people who wanted something done about the traffic. She said she had been refused by Greenwich Park, so we would have to make this sacrifice.
“There was no discussion, let alone consultation. She had been in post for only three weeks, but claimed she knew our area.
“Residents have been stunned and angry about this. It will seriously harm the roads within the area, and do little – if anything – to alleviate traffic elsewhere. It is a victory for rat-runners.”
853 has agreed not to publish the resident’s name because of the risk of abuse.
The measures were brought in to stop traffic flooding down the narrow roads in west Greenwich, including Point Hill and Crooms Hill, to avoid the A2. Residents complained that drivers even tried to use Westgrove Lane, an unmade road, as a cut-through; one resident in Point Hill told councillors earlier this year that drivers used to mount the pavements.
Greenwich had originally taken a bullish approach to the scheme, proposing to expand it east to cover Maze Hill, Vanbrugh Hill and Westcombe Hill – with Sizwe James, then the cabinet member for transport, saying the scheme was “just the start”.
The council’s highways committee even took the unusual step of recommending the Hills & Vales scheme be made made permanent, with chair of highways Bill Freeman calling it a “success”, comparing it to the “absolute disaster” in Lewisham, where a similar scheme over a wider area of Hither Green and Lee Green was partially unwound last October after traffic jams built up in adjacent areas.
But now Greenwich seems set to follow Lewisham in watering down its sole low-traffic neighbourhood.
Despite Labour romping home in a council by-election in Greenwich West – which covers the Hills & Vales area – in May, councillors appear to have been frightened by swings to the Conservatives in areas of the borough where drivers are in the majority.
Even though low-traffic neighbourhoods are government policy, local Conservatives have campaigned against them, demanding referendums on the measures. Plans for an LTN-style scheme in the Page Estate in Eltham were abandoned in early May, in the midst of a hotly-contested by-election in the neighbouring Kidbrooke with Hornfair ward.
Only 47 per cent of residents in Greenwich West own a car, according to 2011’s census figures, compared with 63 per cent in Kidbrooke with Hornfair.
Greenwich Council has not yet responded to a request for comment made on Tuesday morning.
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