The Silvertown Tunnel

The proposed Silvertown Tunnel is a four lane road link between Newham’s Royal Docks and the Greenwich Peninsula. The required land in Newham was purchased by TfL years ago, before any formal planning proposal was submitted.

The scheme entered the planning stage in October 2015 and a decision is expected in late-2017.stunnel

The case against:

  • TfL expects traffic levels to increase by more than a third on major roads across Newham with Silvertown and Canning Town the worst hit.
  • More traffic means poorer air quality. Newham residents already suffer the impact of some of the highest levels of air pollution in London.
  • The tunnel will bring many more HGVs into East London, endangering pedestrians and people on bikes.
  • The earliest possible completion date is 2022/23.
  • The Silvertown Tunnel is expected to cost at least £1 billion.
  • The tunnel will be tolled, and a toll will also be introduced at Blackwall Tunnel. Whilst West London river crossings will remain free to use – and as those are all bridges, not tunnels, they are available to pedestrians and cyclists too!
  • Greenwich Green Party are also concerned about the traffic congestion and air pollution increases this tunnel would cause south of the river. The Woolwich Road flyover is already one of the most polluted spots in London.  Furthermore, it will also make existing bottlenecks at Kidbrooke and Eltham – where the A102 and A2 have only two lanes in each direction – worse.
  • The tunnel will be financed using Public Private Finance Initiatives – essentially a expensive loan from a private company who also builds the infrastructure. These have crippled the NHS and schools with debt.

The Silvertown/Royal Docks area is already heavily over-polluted, from both the airport and existing building works, we feel TfL’s proposal doesn’t give this harmful impact on local residents and businesses enough consideration. We held an townhall-style event in Britannia Village, near the proposed tunnel’s entrance. Understandably, local residents were angry and felt unheard in the process. Many would prefer a bridge, while others didn’t want any river crossing in the area – as their community was being fractured by all the other approved developments.

silvertown-tunnel-meeting

 

In addition to the negative health and infrastructure impacts, this project unfairly targets East Londoners to pay for the privilege of crossing the river, with the introduction of the proposed tolls.

TfL’s proposal claims the tolls are to aid with congestion reduction – but this could, and should, have been thorough trialled at the existing tunnel before public funds are committed to building such an expensive and polluting new tunnel.

It’s also confusing that TfL highlights the continuing need to reduce congestion on these routes, when the argument for building the Silvertown Tunnel was initially to relieve congestion at Blackwall. Is this new tunnel not fit for purpose? Or are the tolls really more about providing a guaranteed revenue stream for the private-partnership funders?

“The Mayor of London is loudly promoting a £750 million Silvertown Tunnel between the Royal Docks and the Greenwich peninsular as the solution to congestion on east London’s roads.

But a simple investigation of the facts shows this scheme to be expensive, unnecessary and dangerous.

TfL admit the only way to stop a tidal wave of extra traffic flooding roads across east London would be to impose toll charges. Motorists would pay around £2.50 to cross the Thames using either the new tunnel or the old Blackwall Tunnel which is currently free.”

Darren Johnson, Green Party London Assembly Member in 2014 , challenged in a Big Debate piece in the Newham Recorder against Newham Councillor Ken Clark, who claimed that “A Gallions bridge and the Silvertown tunnel would reduce the congestion we see in Newham”, without any details on how, or indeed IF, local infrastructure would be improved to deal with the extra traffic these crossings would generate.

Newham has one of the lowest levels of car ownership in London with two thirds of residents commuting by public transport. Newham Green Party believes that residents should have the choice to cross the river on foot or by bike. We welcome new north-south public transport links that would take the strain off current routes.

Caroline Russell, one of Green Party’s London Assembly Members, has also criticised the scheme. She says:

“I will continue to support local people to fight this road tunnel through the planning process and at City Hall I will hold the Mayor to account for his decision to progress this scheme.”

Silvertown1_800.jpg
Caroline Russel and Sian Berry protesting near the proposed tunnel’s entrance

In a recent announcement, Mayor Sadiq Khan attempted to greenwash the project by announcing that buses services through the tunnel would have space for bikes. The Mayor’s support for the Silvertown Tunnel is utterly incompatible with his commitment to reduce air pollution in London.

The Green Party, with locals on both sides of the river, are not the only group campaigning against the tunnel – Hackney, Lewisham and Southwark Councils coming out against it in 2015, and Newham Council in 2016 – after having initially supported it. Greenwich Council gave their support via formal feedback in the second stage of the consultation (Nov. 2015).

There is also an independent group, called No to Silvertown Tunnel, who you can follow on Twitter @NoSilvertownTnl

changes-to-the-road-network-in-the-royal-docks-area

We’re taking part in the public consultation – several members have responded independently with their views, but we are also preparing an official response from the Newham branch of the party, and welcome feedback from local residents and/or businesses, if they would like it included. Closing date for this final feedback to the consultation is 15th November 2016, therefore we ask for all feedback you would like us to include to be submitted to us by 5pm on Friday 11th November, either in the comments or by email.

A Green manifesto for Forest Gate North

FGN banner

I’m Elisabeth, the Green Party candidate for the Forest Gate North by election.

Here’s my manifesto for Forest Gate.

Council loans

I will push the council to take the banks to court to get £millions back for Newham residents.

Newham council was mis-sold bank loans amounting to over £500m, and the pay-back terms on these loans are so high that 80% of our council tax is now going to pay them off. That’s £51m a year – just over the amount the council is suffering in budget cuts from central government. If elected, I’d make it a priority to encourage Newham council to take the banks to court to get our money back. With this money coming back to the council rather than to the banks, we’ll be able to invest in better waste collection, council housing, sure start centres, cycle routes and community centres across Newham.

Please sign my petition asking Newham council to take the banks to court.

Flytipping & recycling

I will seek to improve the current recycling contract and challenge the £20 bulky waste fee.

Rubbish on the streets is a major problem in Newham. Despite this, the council have decided  to charge residents £20 for each bulky waste collection. This will just make things worse. If elected I would challenge the council to take this charge away and set up new pilot schemes to tackle flytipping in Forest Gate.

Not only that, Newham has one of the worst recycling schemes in the country. If elected, I’d seek to end the current recycling contract and get a new one in place that can collect food waste, more plastic items, tetra paks and glass.

Affordable homes

I will fight for more social housing and oppose estate demolition if residents want to stay.

Somewhere good to live is a basic human right and a world leading city like London can afford to offer that to our citizens. However, Newham’s housing is in crisis. Local people are being priced out of the area and rogue landlords are charging rip-off rents while allowing tenants to live in damp, crowded conditions. Social housing tenants are being forced out of their homes, making the problem worse.

If elected, I’d oppose the demolition of council housing schemes that residents love, such as the Carpenters Estate, and work with local residents to resist evictions. I’d push to make sure that any new development offers a majority of social and genuinely affordable housing as standard.

 

Traffic and cleaner air

I will work to reduce pollution and increase investment in safe cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.

Newham has some of the worst air quality in the capital, and schemes such as the proposed Silvertown tunnel will only attract more cars into our borough. That’s the last thing we need!

I’d oppose this unnecessary development and encourage the council to invest in better cycling and walking  facilities instead (such as the London Cycling Campaign’s plan for Upton Lane and Woodgrange Road). This would give us cleaner air to breathe and we’d have fewer traffic jams. I’d also push to get bike hangars for Forest Gate’s residential areas, which provide parking spaces for 6 bikes in half a regular parking space.

Your Green Candidate for Forest Gate North!

A Coalition of Environmental Groups hand in the Microbeads Petition

Hi, I’m Elisabeth, and I’m the Green Party candidate for Forest Gate North. I live on Sebert Road under the Goblin line, having decided to move here when I fell in love with Wanstead Flats four years ago. Forest Gate has been my home for a relatively short time, and yet I feel more a part of the community here than I have anywhere else since I moved out of my parents’ house. I guess it’s that kind of place.

In my professional life I’m an environmental campaigner (in the above photo I’m handing in a petition against plastic microbeads to Number 10!). I’ve led successful campaigns to create marine reserves in far flung corners of the world, getting to know island communities and working with them to protect their incredible underwater life. I also helped to achieve a reversal of government proposals to water down the National Curriculum’s requirement to teach children about nature.

IMG_9902 editedMy degree in psychology and my experience in environmental campaigning have given me the skills to understand how to tackle issues like flytipping, one of the most pervasive problems that this area faces. The recent decision to introduce a £20 charge to collect bulky items seems to me to be a big step in the wrong direction, and shows a real misunderstanding of local people’s circumstances.

You might have met me when I worked at Coffee7 a couple of years ago. While talking to other people who live here, I’ve heard that many are deeply dissatisfied with the current council and Mayor. No matter what your political allegiance, it’s surely bad for democracy to have only one Party represented on our council, with no opposition to scrutinise their decisions.

In the last local elections here in 2014, the Green Party came second in Forest Gate North. If you want to send a strong message to the council, increase the democracy and accountability of the council, and elect a candidate who will listen to residents and fight hard for their concerns, then please consider voting Green on 14th July.

This blog first appeared on forestgate.net

Leader Knows Best

R-CollinsonSmlNewham Green Party Chair, Rachel Collinson, reports back from Newham Council’s August meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to follow up on concerns around recent council budget decisions.

“I know how this vote is going to go. If the motion was ‘the earth is flat’ councillors Rokhsana, Seyi, Kay and Susan would vote 4-2 for it,” thunders Lester Hudson, as he eyes the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting.
 
I’m so offended and shocked by this that I can’t help snorting, despite being in the public gallery.

Hudson continues as though nothing has happened. “If the motion was ‘Geoffrey Boycott is useless at cricket’ they would vote 4-2 for it.” Nobody’s laughing this time. His tirade continues: “I sincerely hope this time, common sense will prevail, but I doubt it.”

There is general uproar, and the female councillors who have been the subject of these personal attacks are rightly livid. (Later on I realise that John Gray – also a member of the rebellion against the Robin Wales regime – is spared the vitriol. Could it be that the Y chromosome is a safeguard?)NewhamLogo

A chap to my left passes me a sheet of lined A4 notepaper, with “Attendance Sheet” scrawled at the top. There is a name and one signature on it so far. I pass it on without signing.

A few minutes later, an unnamed lady shouts “Has everybody signed the attendance sheet?”

“I’ve never been asked this before as a member of the public in a council meeting,” I say, annoyed. “It doesn’t say on it how the data will be used, so I didn’t.”

“I just need to know who is here,” she replies.

Well, that much is obvious.

This meeting has been called because Newham Council’s Cabinet have seemingly approved a dubious investment proposal without oversight of the Investment and Accounts Committee. Councillors heard about it in passing and were horrified. They have decided to ask the Mayor to reconsider spending £500,000 without due process.

Council Officers will not let members of the public (or even certain councillors) see more details of what’s proposed. All we know so far is that the Cabinet are attempting to reduce payments to the council’s pension fund – which already has a £238 million deficit – using a ‘Special Purpose Vehicle’. We understand that the council is using some of their buildings as security on a risky investment. How do we know it’s risky? Because their financial advisors are warning them against it.

It seems common sense to me that if the proposal were common sense, then the Cabinet would not resort to bending the rules to avoid scrutiny.

What I am seeing in action here is the Labour belief that Leader Knows Best, and democracy is merely a frustrating blot on the master plan. The belief that the people ought to shut up and take their medicine. The belief that is shown up at its worst in the Executive Mayoral system.

This is further confirmed when a member of the public stands up and questions whether the chair should be asking loaded questions of his own committee. The offender, Anthony McAlmont, says that members of the public are not allowed to speak, despite having allowed an earlier question. For some reason this breach of meeting protocol goes unnoticed by the Legal advisor present.

Newham Town Hall in East HamI hear the words ‘p&%$-up’ and ‘brewery’ emanate loudly from elsewhere in the public gallery.

With dogged persistence, the female Councillors draft a resolution that no more money should be spent until the investment and accounts committee has had a chance to review the proposal in more detail. In the end, the meeting vote is 5-1 for this motion.

Hudson warns this is a waste of time. What does he know that we don’t?

During this fiasco, I am reminded of the botched Labour leadership elections. You can vote for anything, as long as it’s the right choice.

As if to reinforce this, the Mayor rejects the motion day after.

It would be easy to despair right now. But I’m seeing a new movement emerging amongst the people of Newham. I see it in the snowballing, hopeful tweets about Jeremy Corbyn. I see it in the growing bravery of left-wing councillors against their bullying leaders. I see it in the swelling numbers of Newham Green Party.

And it’s almost reassuring to observe some councillors in utter denial of this growing trend. It means we will win, and soon.

If you’re interested in helping the Green Party challenge Labour’s one party state in Newham, do sign up here. (NB: We have a No Purge Promise™)

 

This post originally appeared as a guest post on ForestGate.net on August 27th 2015.

In recovery from tactical voting

Rachel Collinson, Green Party candidate for West Ham, explains why a Green vote is never a wasted vote

Hello. My name is Rachel Collinson and I’m a recovering tacti-holic.

Four years I skidded along in the surface of politics. I used to vote Labour to keep the Tories out. I dabbled a bit with donating. I did every petition around. Then when that didn’t work, I looked around for some harder stuff. I spoiled my ballot. I voted Lib Dem to get the Greens in.

That was when I hit rock bottom. I thought things were never going to change and sank into deep political apathy.

Then one day a friend told me about tacti-holics anonymous. I finally looked up and saw the vote for policies site. The scales fell from my eyes. I realised I could no longer live that lifestyle, and decided to vote for what I actually believed in.

It’s like a new lease of life. No more holding my nose. I know that I’m building a new movement, that things can change. And Greece is proof of just how quickly they can change!

Here’s what they don’t tell you about this. There’s an interesting secret the establishment don’t want you to know about. They’d rather you stay a slave to tacti-holism, going to more extreme lengths to prop up a broken system.

The secret is: Short Money. What’s that? Well, exactly.

Provided a party has one MP (which the Green Party does) and over 150,000 votes overall (which we got last time) then that party is eligible for Short Money. More votes mean more money.

Over the last five years, this has provided Caroline Lucas MP with the assistance to introduce a stream of brilliant private members bills and amendments on the things we all want: an end to exploitation of slaves, railways back in public ownership, reinstating the NHS, closing tax loopholes and more.

My name is Rachel Collinson, and I am a recovering tacti-holic. A green vote is never a wasted vote.

The Green Party Conference

This blogpost was written by Newham Green Party member Rachel Collinson who recently ventured up to Liverpool to participate in her first Green Party conference. Here is her take on Green politics in action.

Forget what you read in the snide newspaper reports about smells or rights for rodents or colouring in or magic: the gathering. Preposterous lies! I can tell you this, because I was there. As you might expect from the Greens; here is the real news – the facts the establishment don’t want you to know.
Beautiful visual minutes at the Green Party conference
Beautiful visual minutes at the Green Party conference

Real democracy

This is the only main UK party conference where YOU, the member, get to set and vote on policy. It is true democracy. And it was thrilling to be able to raise my voting card, along with the 1,300 other people there. One of the things I voted on, heart pounding, was what the Green Party’s response would be to potential coalition negotiations in the event of a hung parliament.

Making history

The result? A resounding NO to any agreement containing austerity policies. The Greens would only join a confidence and supply agreement if part of it including a commitment to increasing spending on the poor and taxing the super-rich to pay for it. I am proud to say that voting on this felt like part of making history.

Here, everybody is truly in it together

Other highlights for me included:

  • Forming a Christian Greens group and helping others to start similar faith groups within the Green Party
  • Attending the UK’s first ever political party conference event on intersex and trans issues
  • Giving a standing ovation to Amelia Womack’s barnstorming speech (see below)
  • Watching Natalie Bennett vote alongside everybody else
  • Seeing the vast room full of young Greens doing a stirling job of fundraising
  • Joining in solidarity with the climate march on Saturday
  • Seeing the care and attention paid to including everybody.

And I mean everybody, from parents with young children, to non-members, to those angrily opposed, to non-binary gender folks, to the working class, to people with limited mobility; even waiting for a person with a stutter to make their contribution during a tense debate. And even those described by the Telegraph as the frizzy-haired do-gooders, like me.

Thanks, Telegraph. Remind me: which hair care brands are paying the wages of your journalists?
Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 20.01.00