Today we have a guest post from Greenwich Council’s Deputy Leader Cllr David Gardner on Enhancing Greenwich’s Public Realm
Greenwich is strongly committed to excellent public realm, hence General Gordon Square being featured so prominently in the Mayor’s Healthy Streets plan; our £6.6m investment in transforming Eltham High Street and Passey Place and the current plans to finally pedestrianise Greenwich Town Centre at the heart of our World Heritage Site.
Labour committed in our manifesto in 2018 to creating healthy streets, otherwise termed Living Streets, where pedestrians and cyclists have priority and residents can park but not rat-run through.
Where children can play safely, neighbours talk and people feel safe to be out. With more trees and pocket parks, pavement cafes and wilderness spaces. Good for our planet, good for wellbeing and tackling the obesity crisis.
In this Climate Emergency, we all have to change the way we live our lives. The
Council has a huge role to play and will be returning with a full action plan updating our Greener Greenwich plan by the end of the year to achieve our goal of being net carbon neutral before 2030.
By then, we will be a city of ten million people and we need to reshape our great capital for walking, cycling, sport and play, efficient public transport, biodiversity and wellbeing – and all that means relegating the car (and other vehicles) only for essential use.
We can no longer devote 15% of our land mass to roads and car parks, we need
decent homes, community facilities but above all space to play, socialise and
breathe fresh, natural air.
Tarmac exacerbates global warming, greenery and trees in particular mitigate carbon emissions. And it means moving towards Zero Waste and embracing the circular economy where rubbish is a resource to be repurposed, re-used or recycled.
This will not be an easy process and it will never be fast enough. It will require
significant investment and to take local residents with us, as Waltham Forest
found in their innovative, brave and successful mini-Holland scheme there can
be significant opposition especially from small traders.
But once people see the benefits and the rejuvenation, the protests melt away. Murky Depths has played a valiant role in promoting better public realm and shining a light on plans that sometimes fall short. Criticism is healthy, but Greenwich is no laggard or outlier as might sometimes be the conclusion of your readers by the constant comparisons with other Boroughs on pockets of spending on public realm.
Greenwich decided to spend its (now much improved) parking income on
supporting the Freedom Pass to allow our senior citizens to travel for free on
London’s public transport.
We spend significant portions of our section 106 income and Community Infrastructure Levy on ensuring we had a Woolwich Crossrail station, which itself will generate a major shift to public transport and be a big boost for local people and we always have spent a significant slice of developer income on supporting local people into jobs and training through Greenwich Local Labour and Business.
I believe that this has paid dividends as we have closed the employment gap on the rest of London and allowed local people to share directly in the jobs created by regeneration so we all benefit.
We have secured our Thames frontage, with the missing link completed last
year in London’s longest riparian Borough. And only last week I was in Deptford Creekside to see how we are ensuring we enforce the Creekside footpath and cycle route there and can deliver on the ambition – with Lewisham – to open up the whole Creekside/Ravensbourne/Quaggy route.
Other Boroughs have chosen different priorities, but this does not in any way
mean that we lack the ambition, the appetite or the focus on improving our
public realm and transforming our streetscape, between 2015 and 2019 we
still spent £5.5m from s106 proceeds on public realm projects before counting
TfL major scheme and LIP funding.
We will shortly be consulting on the new Draft Masterplan for Woolwich which will have a significant emphasis on public realm and later we will start the process of revising our Local Plan both to meet the climate emergency and to reflect the Mayor’s emerging London Plan which has a very strong focus on Healthy Streets.
I look forward to continuing pressure from Murky Depths, other local blogs and
media as well as our ever-strengthening range of community and amenity
groups. Together, we have to deliver a happier, fairer, healthier and more
Thanks to Cllr David Gardner for writing this guest post. If anyone else is interested in doing similar drop me an email at Fromthemurkydepths@gmail.com