Paul Chapman writes…
So, last week I received an email from Tim Jackson, Assistant Director of Strategic Transportation at the council. This was an answer to a question I had first asked in November of last year.
My question had been a follow-up to this blog post by FromTheMurkyDepths who had highlighted the millions of pounds the Royal Borough of Greenwich (RBG) were receiving in 2016/2017 from TfL from the Local Implementation Plan (LIP) fund. MurkyDepths was making the point that RBG give very few details on where and how this money will be spent, in contrast to places like neighbouring Lewisham.
The details available at the time – Appendix A LIP 201718 Schemes Summary – made just one mention of Charlton, a zebra crossing on Charlton Road. So my question to the council was, is that it or is there more in the pipeline?
So, the positives from Tim’s reply is that 1 Charlton scheme has become 4. They are:
- Walking & accessibility – a study of the zebra crossing facilities on Charlton Road – with a view to improving/adding to them.
- Walking & accessibility – walking infra-structure – a scheme to introduce further “Legible London” way-finding signage to improve support more walking in the lower Charlton area.
- Cycling infrastructure – a scheme to improve cycling/walking from Charlton to Woolwich Common and beyond
- Cycling infra-structure – completion of the Thames Path (missing link) just east of the Thames Barrier.
Different people will have different ideas about the usefulness or impact of those schemes. The scheme ‘to improve cycling/walking from Charlton to Woolwich Common and beyond’ could be interesting but without more details it is impossible to say. The zebra crossing seems to have become a ‘study’ rather than guaranteed and the ‘Legible London’ signage has had mixed reviews.
The completion of the Thames Path ‘missing link’ is welcome news, but I was surprised to see this would be taking a lump of this years LIP funding given it has been a known project for years. Most recently the link was intended to be completed in time for this years Tall Ships festival. I also am not sure I see the missing link completion as a benefit for Charlton residents per se, it’s a benefit for the whole borough and the many visitors to our part of the Thames.
Perhaps Tim anticipated a lukewarm response as he went on to say that LIP could never cover everything and the council had to prioritise. True of course, but perhaps those priorities could be discussed with residents?
Sadly, Tim then stated that currently RBG did not consult with people about what those priorities should be. The council’s ‘default position’ was only to consult with people directly affected by a scheme once the council had decided to do it.
This seems a shame, but Tim did hold out the hope that RBG could change their thinking in light of the outcome of the Mayor’s draft Transport Strategy which is currently in consultation.
Another point raised by MurkyDepths and others, was that unlike some boroughs, it seemed that RBG did not use LIP funding to make improvements to the Public Realm.
Quick aside: for people like me who are new to these terms, ‘public realm’ translates as making improvements to local streets and pavements to improve the look of the place.
Tim didn’t name MurkyDepths but clearly had them in mind when he pointed out that RBG deliberately did not use LIP funding in this way, but that for the schemes they did carry out they made an effort to make public realm improvements in the areas affected. Which is all well and good if the schemes RBG choose offer them that opportunity. However, looking at the 4 schemes approved above only the missing link looks to have the scope to improve the Public Realm, and as Charlton goes it couldn’t be further away from the residential areas.
One area that could be improved for instance is the area around Charlton Station, which is cluttered with random railings and looks very sorry for itself, but unless RBG decide to change the road layout or add a cycle lane then there won’t be any Public Realm improvements from LIP funding coming its way.
Tim ended up by pointing out that Charlton had benefitted from ‘significant sums’ spent on schemes in the Charlton area throughout the last 2-3 years. There were:
- Implementation of the Victoria Way 20mph zone
- Implementing a 20mph speed limit is Charlton Church Lane
- Implementing a local road safety scheme in Hillreach & Little Heath
- Improving Charlton Road (new cycle lanes, better parking arrangements)
- Improving Woolwich Road (east of Charlton Church Lane) – better cycle lanes, resurfacing carriageway etc
- Improvements around Invicta School
- Cycle improvements at Blackheath Standard.
Understandably the email didn’t go into great detail about these schemes, and anything that improves road safety and cycling provision is good in my book. But in terms of public realm improvements there is nothing obvious there that I can see, and not everyone was happy with the consultation and impact of the Victoria Way 20mph zone.
Consultation is really what this all comes back to. Tim is rightly proud of the impact the council have had on road safety in the Borough through use of LIP funding. And the schemes above are well-intentioned and all have their merits.
The real issue here is that local residents shouldn’t have to fight to find out more than the most basic of information. The council and councillors need to be engaging with residents far earlier and finding out their priorities (something that presumably didn’t happen with Eltham’s £40k sign).
Consultation in Charlton could clearly improve too. I’d love to see our local Councillors consulting with residents more, including on the rapidly expiring Ward Budget scheme which suffers badly from a lack of visibility (the details are on the excellent Charlton Champion amongst their old posts but if you don’t know that how would you find the details?)
UPDATE: After a question to Gary Parker and Miranda Williams via social media, Miranda has replied and is writing another post for the Champion. That’s welcome, although I still think a static page – or pages – on the Champion or elsewhere, would be a useful way for our councillors to share key information such as Ward budget info and surgeries dates and times.
NB: The post above reflects the personal opinions of the author, and is not intended as representative of members of the Valley Hill Hub as a whole.