Last night (11/2/2020) there was a “Lee Green Assembly” meeting at which the main topic was the proposed Healthy Neighbourhoods scheme. It was well attended with I would guess over 100 local residents there. I tried to ask some questions but was ignored; however my points were well covered by other people.
The event was managed to avoid debate – for example by dealing with questions in threes which avoids follow-up responses. It was clear that some people supported the scheme but it was also obvious that more people opposed the scheme than supported it. Councillors present simply brushed off the objections. One speaker suggested it was appropriate that the event was held in a school because they were being treated as schoolchildren.
I will cover some of the speeches and the questions/answers in detail but this is not a verbatim report:
- Councillor James Rathbone (for contact info see below) opened the meeting but Councillor Octavia Holland then spoke. She said the key objective was to reduce traffic. The drivers of the policy are air quality and pedestrian safety. She apologised for people not hearing about the proposals. She mentioned there had been more than one petition on the subject (Note: one of these is still open – see https://tinyurl.com/wpbx57u – you may care to sign it). She also said that 60% of traffic in the area is not starting or stopping within it and admitted that the scheme was going to be inconvenient for some people – that is particularly so as 65% of households in the area own a car. It will need significant change in how people organise their lives.
- The scheme is based on the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy and there will be a consultation during the trial period. The scheme also depends on approval by Transport for London (TfL) as it might impact on bus journey times. There will also be multiple “drop-in” sessions, and it was said later that will be another “letter drop” (Comments: so why can’t they simply ask residents whether they support the proposal or not?).
- It is also proposed to extend the current CPZs across the area and there will be a public consultation on those proposals.
- Questions were then taken by Octavia and Josh Learner who is the Cycling and Walking Programme Manager at Lewisham Council.
- The first Question/Comment was from a police constable who said the modal filters will impact emergency response times. It will apparently require the police to get out to unlock and remove the “bollard” to gain access and replace afterwards. She said that you would be “buggered” if it was a single person call-out. The response was that it works OK in other similar schemes.
- Another issue raised was the increased traffic on Hall Park Lane coming off the A205 to avoid the road closures. Answer: This is being discussed with Greenwich Council who are responsible for that area – more closures might be imposed.
- A cyclist who lives on Burnt Ash Hill supported the scheme but raised the issue of monitoring of air pollution before and after the trial (there may be more traffic on that road, increasing air pollution). The answer was that it will be monitored.
- The next speaker who lives on Manor Lane near the blockages was concerned about increased traffic and difficulty getting onto the South Circular which is already a problem. Answer: this will be looked at.
- The next speaker complained about the consultation. Why not a simple vote on the scheme, with a letter sent to everyone? (Comment: this is a very good point). The answer from a councillor was simply waffle at which point they were shouted down. But it was said that the scheme would not be stopped regardless of the public views [in other words, the “consultation” is a farce as the public will be ignored anyway).
- A resident of Burnt Ash Hill said that they were going to be poisoned but you are ignoring us, and why can’t we have proper consultation. Councillor Rathbone said that Councils often went ahead without consultation and mentioned a similar scheme in the London Borough of Bromley at Shortlands (Note: the Shortlands scheme is very different and does not involve road closures. There is no public opposition and Bromley Council is very good at doing wide public consultations when necessary).
- The next speaker spelled out the impact of low traffic speeds on air pollution and mentioned the negative impact of a scheme in Walthamstow. The answer given was that it will be monitored in the trial.
- Another person raised the possible conflict of interest of having a TfL employee on the board of Sustrans who were developing the scheme.
- Another speaker raised concerns about the delay to emergency services and access to the South Circular. The answer was that the emergency services had been contacted but had no objections.
- One speaker suggested “timed” closures instead of 24-hour coverage to stop rat running during commuting hours. Answer: it could not be done as part of the trial.
- A speaker asked whether there were targets for reduction of air pollution and traffic. Answer: There was none because the final design was not settled and there were “too many moving parts”. Comment: this is a major omission and makes it clear that with no targets being set the “trial” will be considered a success regardless of the facts.
- The next question was “had they consulted local businesses”? For example Brewers on Chiltonian Estate? Answer: businesses had been overlooked and they are looking into that. Note: we sent a few letters to such businesses but we could not cover all of them and they will be very badly affected.
- A resident of Dallinger Road queried the closures and asked how vehicles were expected to turn around when they ran into one. Answer was that perhaps we should move the closures to the other end of those roads. Comment: I don’t see how that solves the problem.
- The next speaker complained about the problem of quick access to Lewisham Hospital as all the fast routes would be cut off (the speaker’s husband had often had to be taken to A&E). Answer: there will be some people who take longer to get to hospital. (Comment: delays to emergency services are already a major problem in London where they consistently fail to meet response time targets. Don’t have a heart attack in London as you are likely to die as a result! The road closures in Lewisham will make matters worse).
It was mentioned in the meeting that another draft of the scheme will be proposed. The last one published was Version 11 so there will be a Version 12, or 13, 14, etc as someone suggested.
It was very clear from the comments of people at the meeting that there is widespread opposition to the scheme as proposed, particularly against the road closures. These might make air pollution slightly better for some, but a lot worse for others. Journey times will be substantially increased.
But councillors and council staff seem to want to push ahead regardless. Anyone who has had dealings with councils will know that they hate to admit mistakes and reconsider proposals or abandon them despite public opposition. That is what is happening in Lewisham.
It is also clear that Lewisham Council is pushing ahead with a “trial” of the road closures before doing a proper public consultation. This is an “arse about face” approach to put it politely. They will never to be taken out later.
I urge all residents of the Lee Green area to contact their councillors below.
James Rathbone: http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=2990
Octavia Holland: http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=2989