6th August 2014

Time for a change? Petition yourself…

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? pennycook-petition

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.

Stewart Christie

Recovering cult escapee. Tread carefully.

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7 Responses

  1. Stewart,

    An interesting piece but one that wrongly assumes that a ‘green bridge’ over the Woolwich Road linking Maryon Park and an enlarged Barrier Park is a done deal. It isn’t.

    The Charlton Masterplan is very clear about the need to improve the connectivity between Charlton and the river. However, there is nothing in that document that guarantees it will be achieved through the construction of a ‘green bridge’ over the Woolwich Road.

    For example, Section 4, ‘Development Principles,’ Paragraph 3 ‘Connecting Charlton to the river’ states, ‘… 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…’

    Similarly, Section 5 ‘Development Framework’ under the section on Movement, merely states that ‘…this could include a ‘green bridge’ connecting Maryon Wilson Park to the expanded Barrier Park…’

    Thus, while there is a clear indication that such a bridge could potentially form part of the proposals to be bought forward in the delivery of the Masterplan, its delivery is not assured.

    Like Nick Raynsford I want to see a ‘green bridge’ constructed over the Woolwich Road as part of any future development in and around Charlton Riverside to provide a strong, safe and environmentally beneficial link from Charlton to the river.

    I launched the petition because as work progresses on a detailed Charlton Masterplan I thought it was important for the Council to get a sense of the support for a ‘green bridge’ that exists among local residents. As you rightly say, the idea has been talked about for years. If we’re to bring it a step closer to realisation we need to show that it has strong support in the community and a petition is an effective means of achieving that.


    • Stewart says:

      Thanks for the reply, Matt.

      I already suspected the masterplans weren’t worth the paper they were written on after the Woolwich Grand debacle but it’s worrying that you appear to agree with this yourself.

  2. Clare says:

    I personally don’t think such a bridge is a good idea. What needs to happen is for Woolwich Road to be downgraded and the dual carriageway turned into a single carriageway road with proper segregated cycling space on each side using the freed-up space from the lane on each side of the road. There need to be proper cycle and pedestrian priority crossings *at ground level* – have you tried lugging your bike up and over a bridge over a road designed purely around cars?

    That road is also a huge barrier between the Arsenal development and the rest of Woolwich, at least as much as the wall is. Making it all much more pedestrian and cycle friendly would really help.

    Simply channelling people away from cars and allowing traffic to charge along Woolwich Road with people corralled on bridges will just give drivers the impression they can speed along at will – not something that we should be encouraging.

    Just my 2p obviously.

    • Stewart says:

      I think there’s room for both ideas myself.

      We need to discourage car use and also do something to improve the public realm, and not just in Charlton.

  3. Deborah says:

    The Woolwich Town Master Plan does suggest the downgrading of the A206, at least in Woolwich, so that the Arsenal and a new development continuing from there, along to the junction with the A205 (currently the South Circular, aka John Wilson Street) are no longer separated from the rest of Woolwich.

    On the one hand, I would welcome this in itself, but there would be another personal advantage: I favour the encouragement of increased and safer cycling, but with this scheme, I would also no longer be in danger from rush-hour cyclists bombing through the red lights at the Pelican Crossing in Beresford St.

    On the other hand, the purpose of the downgrading, as set out in the Master Plan, pre-assumes the closure of the ferry and seems primarily to be part of a plan (a) to free-up valuable riverfront land for building upon and (b) to re-route the South Circular.

    The TfL reps at Woolwich Library said that TfL’s preference is to close down the ferry at Woolwich and to encourage HGVs and vehicles carrying hazardous materials to continue on the A2 and use the Silvertown Link. This must surely mean that the A206 will be downgraded along its length, at least from Plumstead Bridge, through Woolwich and thence as far as the junction with the A102.

    Furthermore, presumably this also means that the South Circular will be re-routed so that it starts at the Gallions Bridge and ploughs through hundreds of houses in Plumstead, the farm and woods to Rochester Way and severing the community in two.

    • Stewart says:

      There’s a big gap in the Core Strategy when it comes to Plumstead. It’s very telling that there are all these aspirations to downgrade roads through Woolwich and Charlton and a great big blank space where Plumstead should be.

  4. Deborah says:

    In response to an enquiry about future monetary investment in Plumstead, Denise Hyland indicated that spending plans are limited to street cleansing – and that some of that is only temporary.

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