Plans for a new scheme to deal with traffic in back streets in west Greenwich will be revealed this September, officials revealed last night – but two of the borough’s new councillors said they would not want to see a return to the low-traffic neighbourhood that was scrapped earlier this year.
Locals in Crooms Hill and neighbouring roads have complained of a return to queues and dangerous behaviour from drivers after the measures – which closed through routes west of Greenwich Park to traffic – were lifted in February. Plans for a scheme covering streets to the east of Greenwich Park were also abandoned.
Last year, residents who wanted to see the low-traffic neighbourhood kept had the unanimous support of the borough’s highways committee, a largely advisory group of councillors that deals with roads and parking policies.
But the composition of the committee has changed after May’s elections, and three of the new members criticised low-traffic neighbourhoods, with one saying that they “piss off everybody”.
Last night the committee heard from west Greenwich residents who want to see the low-traffic neighbourhood reinstated.
It also heard from residents in West Hallowes, a small residential street in Mottingham, who are suffering from similar problems with rat-running and antisocial behaviour from drivers trying to reach the A20.
(The clip below contains strong language and threats of violence.)
😳Road rage again on the narrow streets of West Greenwich. School kids watching. Ambulance amongst the mayhem. Standing car on ped crossing. Escalated beyond this clip. @averil_lekau @David_Llew @aidanmasmith @Pacelli1958 We need RBG’s alternative traffic reduction plan now! pic.twitter.com/5bFfTMRtl6
— Save Greenwich Neighbourhoods (@savegreenwich1) June 21, 2022
The west Greenwich petition, with 14 signatures, was presented to the council by local councillor Aidan Smith in March. A traffic study commissioned by the council said the west Greenwich scheme had not been the prime cause of increased traffic elsewhere, but Sarah Merrill, then the council’s cabinet member for transport, scrapped the scheme after a consultation found residents outside the area were hostile to the scheme.
Andrew Burton, Greenwich’s head of highways, said the council wanted to launch a replacement scheme “to achieve the same outcomes as the LTN sought to achieve – a reduction in through traffic”. He added: “That work started this month and we hope to have modelling to show ward councillors in September.
“That will show the level of problem that we are looking at and will inform the timeframe for when we go to consultation.”
But Burton said that because Greenwich had not allocated any money of its own to highways, any new scheme would be dependent on money from Transport for London – which is itself dependent on a deal with the government, which runs out at the end of this week.
David Gardner, the chair of the committee, asked if a scheme could be self-funding, as the council made £400,000 from fines imposed from the last scheme. Burton said that the council “had to assume nil income” from the schemes because it was illegal to base a traffic scheme around fines.
Asked by Gardner about other boroughs, such as Hackney, Lambeth and Southwark, funding schemes themselves, and why Greenwich felt that TfL funding was “the only show in town”, Burton responded that it would be a question of the council’s broader priorities: “There is nothing allocated for roads in the 2022-23 budget. That’s not to say it couldn’t be in the 2022-23 budget, but that’s part of the budget-setting process.”
Smith said he was “very pleased” to hear that proposals would emerge in September, as he had believed that they would have to wait for a borough-wide transport strategy to be developed.
“We’re back to stand-offs, threats and road rage,” he said of the streets where the scheme was ripped out. “It’s as unacceptable as it was before.”
Usual West Greenwich gridlock.
👎Bikes forced onto pavements
👎Standing traffic on pedestrian crossings
👎Pedestrians forced off pavements
Hope you can make this busy pedestrianised area safe again @averil_lekau @aidanmasmith pic.twitter.com/Wl1Lr35NAf
— Save Greenwich Neighbourhoods (@savegreenwich1) June 14, 2022
Local resident Jane Gregory, who spoke about the petition, said she still had a letter from Rosie Barnes – who was Greenwich’s SDP MP over 30 years ago – pledging to press the council on traffic issues after the death of a baby in a pushchair in the area.
But new Charlton Village councillor Jo van den Broek was less impressed with the thought of the low-traffic neighbourhood returning. “I would like to see less traffic everywhere. I don’t drive but I am concerned about the knock-ons from LTNs,” she said.
“I believe I saw knock-ons from the west Greenwich scheme, and when a scheme was mooted for east Greenwich my residents in Charlton were very concerned about knock-ons, it was just going to be moving eastwards across the borough. We’ve got a very big problem to deal with, I am very concerned about dealing with it in little bits.”
Van den Broek added: “I don’t understand how we can do any of these things without full data – on traffic levels, accident levels, in these streets and neighbouring streets.”
Christine St Matthew-Daniel, the new Blackheath Westcombe councillor, was also unhappy about the idea. “Whatever we do, we have to be very careful that it doesn’t impact on residents in Blackheath Westcombe,” she said.
In the case of West Hallowes, in the far south of the borough, local residents did not call for a low-traffic neighbourhood for their block of three streets, and were concerned to see council officers considering an area-wide scheme to deal with their problems.
All three Mottingham, Coldharbour and New Eltham councillors – Conservatives Matt Hartley and John Hills, and Labour’s Cathy Dowse – were also opposed to a low-traffic neighbourhood.
“It would see traffic converge on Court Road, which is close to being a car park already and would lead to gridlock,” Hartley said.
Dowse added that some of the traffic could be sent down West Park, a bigger side road, instead. “I don’t believe there needs to be a Mottingham-wide option – it’s a triangle of roads and we need to try to split up the traffic,” she said.
Another new councillor on the committee, Kidbrooke Village’s Dave Sullivan, said he had seen video clips of congestion and drivers’ behaviour in West Hallowes and sympathised with residents.
“I was appalled. I thought it must be a bad day, but I went down by myself and had a look and it was horrendous,” he said.
“I’d hate to be in that situation where you feel trapped and unable to do anything about it.”
But the former Lewisham Council leader added: “I have found LTNs wherever they are cause more problems than they solve and they cause more disharmony. Here we only have one set of people that are pissed off, LTNs seem to piss off everybody, if you pardon my language.”
The committee agreed that officers should look into a temporary scheme to deal with the problems in West Hallowes while a permanent solution was worked up.