The bill for Woolwich’s Crossrail station means that cash from developers isn’t available to fund a crossing outside a school on a dangerous road in Eltham, a local councillor has been told.
A 1,400-strong petition was handed into Greenwich Council earlier this year asking for a crossing outside Harris Academy on Middle Park Avenue, just off the Yorkshire Grey roundabout.
Drivers routinely ignore the 20 mph signs on the road and speed into the Middle Park Estate, putting students, teachers and pupils’ lives at risk. The school’s head said that two students had been seriously injured this academic year, and police and senior teachers had be present outside the school each day.
“Students cross unsafely as there is no other option,” Jack Doherty told the council meeting on Wednesday. “I understand that there is a cost to these things, but what cost can we put on the physical and psychological safety of our children in our borough?”
A source of money available to other boroughs is not available in Greenwich because of the way the Woolwich Crossrail station was funded.
The council’s response to the petition said that community infrastructure levy (CIL) funds – money paid by developers to contribute to local facilities, cash which has become a key source of revenue for many London councils – could be used to pay for a crossing and traffic calming.
But when Rachel Taggart-Ryan, a Labour councillor for Middle Park, asked what CIL funding could be used, she was told there was none – because it was all allocated to the Woolwich Crossrail station.
Because of the refusal of City Hall and central government to include Woolwich in their original plans during the 2000s, Greenwich is the only borough on the Elizabeth Line that had to pay towards having a Crossrail station. Berkeley Homes built the “box” for the station in exchange for being able to build a taller, denser development at the Royal Arsenal.
A deal to fit out the station so that trains could stop was not sealed until 2013, with Greenwich agreeing to put £15m towards the costs. At the time, Greenwich was given 10 years to pay the bill – which involved using CIL, then a new form of raising money.
But the council generated less than predicted, and now has until April 2025 to pay the bill – still using money from all developments in the borough, no matter how far they are from Woolwich.
This – and a relatively low rate of CIL compared with some similar boroughs – means that Greenwich has missed out on the kind of windfalls enjoyed by boroughs such as Brent, which charges developers more than three times as much in some areas.
It also means there is less money to deal with issues such as the Middle Park Avenue crossing. The council could look into using Section 106 money – another form of charge on developers – from other developments, including from the nearby Kidbrooke Village.
Taggart-Ryan emphasised how dangerous the crossing was to Averil Lekau, the council’s deputy leader.
“There is no safe crossing in or out of the school. There is no infrastructure in place at the moment,” Taggart-Ryan said.
Lekau said: “I have been to the school. I considered and looked really closely at what we could do with officers. We have made a commitment to try to do something as soon as possible. More than that, I can’t say.
“As soon as funding is available, I’ve said that I’m definitely committed to doing something there.”