Greenwich to spend £75,000 training staff on modern street design – which TfL already provide

One of the biggest bugbears of this site – and one of the original motivations behind its creation – is poor street design in many places across Greenwich borough which particularly hampers vulnerable people trying to get around.

It was moving back to Greenwich borough after almost a decade away living in various places that alerted me to widespread bad street design endemic across Greenwich borough. Much was rooted in decades-old thinking where the car was king and pedestrians an inconvenience to be blocked off, penned in and diverted around traffic. No area or authority is immune but the scale of it in this area of SE London was extremely high.

Enough clutter?

That led on to more research and discovering just how poor they have been at enforcing against bad parking for example (with a £12million budget shortfall) – and how cluttering up streets with endless street furniture at high cost is no real alternative or solution.

Around £130k was spent in a couple of years on thousands of wooden bollards stuck up pretty much at random. It didn’t work as little to no enforcement.

Abbey Wood

Street furniture often blocks paths for wheelchairs and buggies.

Courtesy Google. Bollard located on narrow paving

Anyway, the council have now determined to use £75,000 of Local Implementation Plan funding next year given from TfL on improving design knowledge among staff and departments.

What’s interesting is that this money is from a TfL fund – and yet TfL already provide a comprehensive street design guidance manual – which Greenwich often ignore by adhering to dated design principles. A dogged reliance on guardrail for instance – even when research shows removing in some places can lower casualty rates.

There’s also documents on cycle design and others areas of public realm management from TfL in a “Streets Toolkit”. So why develop more guidance?

It’s somewhat of a shame £75k couldn’t be used to audit and remove or relocate  existing street furniture and clutter.

Many design problems are down to little attention to detail and common sense. Who thought sticking the pole directly in the middle of the pavement here (which predates the grit box) was a good idea for example?

Pole blocking buggies and wheelchairs in Plumstead

There’s so, so many examples. More spring up than are removed. Maybe the £75,000 will advance thinking on small scale work and major schemes – but should it be needed when the guidance is already there?

This certainly needs attention – and it’s a shame its taken so long. Cycling numbers in the borough are stagnant at best and falling behind targets whilst road collision rates rose sharply last year (though changes in methodology play a part).

The extended Thames Path is a great scheme but very much an exception to the rule.

I may launch a mini series of posts (time permitting) on examples of good and poor design and street changes which either hinder or help pedestrians.






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J Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

11 thoughts on “Greenwich to spend £75,000 training staff on modern street design – which TfL already provide

  • I couldn’t agree more with you on this subject, Murky. The streescape around here is an eyesore and really, it wouldn’t take that much to clear it up. Less is more when it comes to stuff on the pavements!

  • The only boroughs as bad as Greenwich in my experience are Brent and Newham.

    It’s astounding that much of the rubbish they put in costs money. It’s not so much a failure to spend money improving public space but an abject failure in HOW its spent. Most staff and councillors seem to be old (no offence) and living in the past. The world’s moved on but this borough havn’t.

    The money will be wasted no doubt. The culture of the past is too embedded. I’d love to be proven wrong but they keep making the same mistakes. It needs a proper clearout. What I don;t get is how other boroughs managed to move with the times – they must have long term staff too. Maybe just not as insular and they get out more.

    Big schemes like Eltham and Woolwich sort of move on but done by outside bodies I guess and when Greenwich take over they don’t know what to do so it all falls apart.

  • Oi it’s not age as I’m in my 60s but insularity among many I find. I’ve lived here all my life and still amazed how many people rarely ever go central London or other places.

    When I say I’ve been Stratford shopping I often get a response like its the other side of the world. It’s been 20 minutes away on the DLR for 10 years now! Maybe not having the tube instills this in some people I’ve no idea. But never leaving (or just going Bluewater) means never noticing how fast behind many areas are falling. I mean Stratford isn’t great that’s just an example of people not travelling.

    Then again I think Greenwich town centre is great so the borough certainly has the guidance already and uses it for areas tourists will go but mostly not where local people live. Weird.

  • I’d be happy if they spent £500k on council training if we get a renaissance of excellence in urban design versus the current abysmal semi apocolyptic dystopia. Please spend the £75k!

    It can be hard to attack the council but my trust is so low. The new IKEA work has removed a cycle path. Is that because a new better cycle path is about to appear elsewhere? I don’t know – they aren’t communicating!

  • The council’s total commitment to 1970s street design, cattle-pen barriers, pedestrian obstructions, clutter, redundancy, and streetscape confusion can only be for one reason – maximising the borough’s chances of being used for filming retro ’70s London gangland movies

    • Ha they are one of the few to still use pebble dashed street furniture so you may be right

  • It is not a matter of the age of people working at the council. You can be 50 or 60 and still do your job at good standards.
    I wonder on recruitment criteria, performance management meritocracy etc… each department has its directors they should be the ones accountable in first place…and name and shamed when unsuccessful and incompetent decision are taken.
    Then,personal experience, it is unbelievable the rate of absence from work that some employees allow themselves.

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