It’s time for yet another green report to emerge from Woolwich Town Hall as Greenwich Council bring out another to join the collection.
This one is the Carbon Neutral Strategy which joins previous reports such as Greener Greenwich and last year’s Physical Activity and Sport Strategy and Action Plan. The link to that has already been wiped from the council’s website. The report starts with a PR photoshoot taken in east Greenwich promoting healthy living and travel.
The photo was taken in a ward where tens of thousands of new homes have either been built or are planned including just down the road at Greenwich Peninsula. That has brought hundreds of millions into council coffers via Section 106, Community Infrastructure Levy and New Homes Bonus income, and yet many streets and public spaces are still dire for walking and cycling 20 years after the Millennium Dome was built.
Almost every street project in the area has either been entirely or part funded by TfL. TfL are now in serious financial difficulties and council’s will need to step up to an even greater degree. However, as I covered extensively last year, Greenwich were almost last across London in allocating funds to top up TfL funding to improve streets – which is now under threat. Total amounts over three years allocated to Local Implementation Plan are:
- Greenwich – £206k
- Lewisham – £1.33m
- Lambeth – £1.2m
- Southwark – £765k
- Ealing – £766k
- Brent – £6 million
- Camden – £5.26m
- Hounslow – £5.3m
- Hammersmith & Fulham – £27.2m
It’s a similar story at most other Labour councils with Greenwich last in London. Many outer Tory councils spend little, though even Bromley allocated nearly double at £390k.
That total was decided after previous report sand strategies on healthy living and going green.
For all the continual reports, little changes. Any time it’s raised the buck is passed to TfL. Planning permission is given to large developments in the area time and again, and if lucky council officers decide to allocate what amounts of chicken feed for public space. Little changes. Pedestrians are ignored.
The report states there is now urgency. I guess we can look forward to millions of unspent S106 and CIL income now improving pedestrian links in the coming year then?
The latest available figures on CIL income shows that in 2018/19, a total of £4.3 million in unspent funds from previous years was brought forward. In 2018/19 they received another £3,143,365.39. Throughout the year they spent £2,496,945.96.
That left around £5 million unspent. Despite this the report states they can’t allocate even £660k for transport in the short term.
In future will planning agreements see incoming funds improve walking and cycling? It’d break a decades old pattern if they do, yet the absence of streets, public space and infrastructure being mentioned there means little will probably happen.
The report then shows an image of new low emission council homes. Great, except the authority recently built that low-rise housing in a built up area of mid to high density housing near Plumstead railway station. Much of the land was also given over to parking. The result is a low number of homes in a brownfield, urban area despite a fast growing council waiting list and ever more people being housed away from support networks in areas such as Medway in Kent, who then head back into London either by driving or adding to pressure on public transport.
Other recent new builds have continual pavement parking outside:
— stacey morganfrankie (@frankierose2) November 13, 2020
The report continues with the usual mix of glossy photos and rehashed information.
Much of it is incredibly tone deaf. It states: ” In February 2020, the first Greenwich
Partnership meeting focused on climate change took place at IKEA Greenwich”.
Yep, the giant retail shed in zone 2 London taking a vast amount of land in a housing crises. A store that sees 70 per cent of customers drive. For all the PR about reusing water and solar panels, a retail shed in inner London is not a sustainable concept.
Once again it’s worth forgetting the words and looking at the actions. Greenwich Council spent much of the past decade approval retail sheds in inner London. Despite numerous reports appearing over the past decades that’s quite the contrast.
When they really start taking in interest in, say, improving pedestrian links between Greenwich Peninsula and places such as car dominated Charlton retail parks on Bugsby’s Way (a good example of recent action contradicting warm words) then maybe we will be able to take these continual reports seriously. That requires cultural change and systemic action with departments and officers. Are councillors willing and able to push that through?
They’ll be more tests soon of just how seriously the authority take their reports when major projects directly involving the council are decided. Just this month a consultation was undertaken into hundreds of new homes at Greenwich Council’s Morris Walk estate in Woolwich.
Not only is there a large reduction in social housing but hundreds of car parking spaces are planned – and the consultation states no controlled parking zone will be implemented in the wider area.
Parking enforcement is still dire in areas where parking zones do exist. See the weekly reports from residents to the authority of cars parked on pavements and cycle lanes at Greenwich Millennium Village – a flagship sustainable project – to give just one example.
On the flipside, there have been some signs over the past year of moving away from a driver free for all. After 15 years without adopting powers available to the authority, the council now use CCTV to enforce drivers blocking bus lanes, keep clear areas outside schools and other issues such as driving through no entry signs or attempting to jump queues.
This week I covered how they plan to consult on parking problems at estates. This is another long term failure – though even now it looks as though without changes they will ignore many residents in the forthcoming consultation.
A lot of this however is merely reaching a point they should have arrived at over a decade ago, let alone thinking about a future with a growing population and increased congestion and how to encourage people out of cars for short journeys.
And you may have realised the obvious, glaring issue of Silvertown Tunnel hasn’t even been mentioned yet either on this post or the report. Numerous smaller, lesser known issues may make a mockery of the conveyor belt of green reports emanating from the authority, but the tunnel project is the figurehead. The half-arsed letter to the Mayor asking for a pause didn’t really fool anyone, and when it emerged they failed to join other council’s in subsequently writing to the Mayor it only made it seem more tokenistic.
It’s absence in the report, along with a same old rehashed list of goals seen during years of inaction across a whole range of areas shouldn’t result in much expectation. The only way that will change is a culture shift, and what chance of that.
Still, there’s always the next PR photoshoot about sustainability to look forward to. There’s a new car park being built at this very moment near the cable car. Maybe that will do?
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