There has been much talk coming out of the leadership of Greenwich Council about a new era of community involvement and a greater focus on social media since May’s local elections and we may just have seen the first signs of how this new approach is going to work in practice.
Matt Pennycook, Greenwich West councillor and Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Greenwich and Woolwich, has launched an online petition calling for a “green bridge” over Woolwich Road to link Maryon Park and an enlarged Barrier Park as part of any future development around Charlton Riverside.
Having lived near Mile End when the park was extended across the A11 in the same way I can safely say this is an admirable cause, but let’s look at this petition a little more closely…
The first mention of a Charlton Green Bridge that I am aware of came from Nick Raynsford (Labour – MP for Greenwich & Woolwich) at a meeting of the Charlton Riverside Action Group in November 2011. The plans were subsequently included in Greenwich Council’s Charlton Riverside Masterplan in 2012 which, incidentally, was finally ratified and adopted as part of the local Core Strategy at last week’s Council Meeting. The development priciples of the masterplan state that,
The enlarged Barrier Park will have a strong connection with Maryon Wilson Park, potentially through a green bridge, providing a much stronger green link to the river.
This looks like Greenwich Council policy to me. So who is the petition addressed to?
On closer inspection the charge.org site says that the petition will be delivered to the Royal Borough of Greenwich.
Of course, this kind of thing has happened before with local Conservative Thomas Turrell’s petition for increased capacity along the 108 bus route which initially took a convoluted route by asking Greenwich Council to lobby TfL, although he sorted that out and it looks like he may have achieved some action from TfL. The difference here is that Tom wasn’t an elected official.
Another interesting thing about this campaign itself is the fact that, to the best of my knowledge, the council don’t currently recognise online petitions.
Having been involved in a number of these myself, including for No to Silvertown and the Woolwich Grand, there’s also a problem with using sites like change.org due to the number of signatures that come in from either outside the area or without sufficient contact details. I’ve been told this enough times recently by councilors and council officers.
A cynic would say this is a profile-building exercise for the petitioner himself. After all, is it normal for a councillor and PPC to petition himself and his own council to implement a project that was first proposed by the man he intends to replace, has already been discussed for years and is already official policy?
That’s not for me to say – I’ll leave you to make up your own mind.