Greenwich Council

Agenda item.

Improving public health through modal shift

The purpose of this report is to outline the role of modal shift in improving air quality within the Royal Borough of Greenwich and provide information on a number of initiatives aimed at supporting that modal shift.


The Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Sustainability presented the report, advising that it covered modal shift in order to address specific concerns relating to air quality in the Borough and how this work had been achieved. In his role as the Cabinet Member, he had been working to ensure the Council was co-ordinated internally as air quality issues cut across all departments through monitoring, policy and s106 contributions.  He pointed out that, in real terms, emissions were declining across London but public concern was increasing.


He continued that he chaired an interdepartmental air quality task force group, attended by officers, including Public Health and other Cabinet Members and part of the group’s remit was to make sure that the message to staff was clear and to make sure that the Air Quality Action Plan fitted in with the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment and Governance guidance.  He noted that there were challenges in dealing with air quality and there was only so much the Council could do but it was necessary to ensure what could be delivered was done well and, where possible, influence other people and organisations.  


The Cabinet Member continued that the Transportation Team collected data on how people travel around the Borough, which showed that car journeys were still the prevalent means at around 40% followed by bus or train use, walking and cycling.


In respect of cycling the Cabinet Member advised that a lot of work had been undertaken by the Mayor of London which was supported by the Borough’s focus on educating and supporting people to become more active cyclist, installing dedicated cycle lanes and establishing a quiet way network.  A lot of work was undertaken with schools to develop travel plans and a quarter of the schools that took part in this year’s car free day came from Greenwich Borough.  Consideration was now moving toward the potential of closing off spaces outside school, to stop offending parents from dropping of their kids, in order to create safer spaces.  In addition, the first anti-idling event had taken place in Woolwich. 


The Cabinet Member advised that a key area, was the establishment of Low Emission Neighbourhood Zones (LENZ), the first in London had been established in Greenwich.  As part of the LENZ project, the Council had looked at different ways of dealing with freight movement, how and when business deliveries were made and sustainable ways of delivering goods and freight.  A lot of work had been undertaking and was ongoing to get people into cleaner cars or onto bikes and creating a more pedestrian friendly environment.  He added that, whilst the focus was currently in East Greenwich, the successes and lessons learned there would be extended out to other areas of the Borough. 


The Panel raised that there was an awareness that people living in deprived areas faced poor health outcomes and, to what extend did the Cabinet Member feel the work of the Regeneration Department could help address areas of high social deprivation through improved transport.


The Cabinet Member responded that specific Ward data was gathered from monitoring stations across the Borough which show pollution hotspots that could be overplayed on deprivation data.  He continued that a recent GLA schools programme was looking at this issue and two schools, at opposite ends of the Borough, were being monitored.  Further, there was an awareness of the need to develop a practical and effective approach to the pollution related to the main routes through the Borough, to Blackwall Tunnel, and how this focused approach could be supported across the Borough.  He added that Public Health colleagues monitored specific element of the JSNA which address air quality and support both his and the Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care portfolio’s.


The Panel sought clarification as to the criteria needed to be met by Greenwich for the establishment of Low Emission Neighbourhood Zones.


The Cabinet Member responded that Greenwich was identified as it had a mix of style of streets, potentially the Silvertown Crossing as well as the Blackwall Tunnel in the area.    A breakdown of emissions along Trafalgar Road showed 60% of co2 was produced by buses and whilst a bus would take 60 people rather than 60 cars, this still needed to be addressed, for the people in the area and for the Borough as a whole.


The Deputy Director for Transportation added that a number of criteria had to be met to achieve the funding for the LENZ, including evidencing significant issues with air quality conditions; an opportunity for a positive impact; good existing public transport links which could be built on, and overt public and community support, which there was.


The Senior Transport Planner responded to the Panel Members that E-Bikes were available to hire on a monthly basis for £10 which covered insurance, safety equipment and panniers.  People collect them from a location near Greenwich Station and would be provided with an induction and a cycling instructor would be available to ensure that people were comfortable using the bike.  He continued that the bikes themselves cost from £600 upwards. It was recognised that cycling was not for everyone but the aim was that the E-Bike’s would be useful for people with health problems and to target motorist to get them out of their cars.


The Panel noted that there was an issue around encouraging people to cycle, as well as walk, through polluted streets many of which are narrow and heavily used which, due to environmental factors, often faced more serious issues than wide dual carriageways.  Further, that there was an issue around encouraging people to cycle, as well as walk.


The Panel then raised a number of questions relating to pollution and transport;

What was the strategic approach to the monitoring smaller roads and, accordingly change traffic movement to mitigate effects and were monitoring points reviewed as changes to transport links came into being?


There was an issue in respect of bus route planning, exampling that it can take 2 buses and up to ¾ hour to get from Eltham to Woolwich, and clarification was sought as to why changes in routes and additional routes, agreed with TfL could take up to 3 years to materialise?


What action was being taken to encourage TfL to move to electric buses use within the Borough?


Southeastern Rail were reducing their service, which was adding to the existing pressure on transport infrastructure within the Borough.  What pressure was the Council bringing to bear on TfL, Southeastern Rail and the Greater London Authority to address these issues?


The Cabinet Member responded that there were 11 large fixed air pollution monitoring stations in the Borough and officers were working with Kings College to ensure the one in Enderby Wharf was correctly located to account for wind variables, etc.  An additional air pollution monitoring station had been acquired from Bexley Council, which it was anticipated would be used on Shooters Hill at the approach to the Borough.  The Council had a number of small diffusion tubes but a number were need to be used in an area to get an accurate and meaningful assessment, which residents could be involved in. 


In respect of public transport, the Cabinet Member felt that, in comparison to other London Boroughs, Greenwich was poorly served and went some way to explaining the transport choices some people made.


The Cabinet Member shared the Panels frustration at the length it took for TfL to instigate agreed and contracted new bus routes and exampled issues around the Kidbrooke development given the number of homes required to trigger TfL to provide a service and their desire to change the requested express route from Eltham through Kidbrooke to North Greenwich to a wider and more meandering route.  He continued that a further issue was TfL’s reticence to act quickly where a development was near a train station, which was only exacerbated by the exceedingly poor service provided by Southeastern Railways.  He felt that until control of railways around Greater London was transferred to the Mayor of London’s office there would be little to no improvement.


The Deputy Director for Transportation added a deliberate approach had been adopted, as part of the cycling strategy, to set up a network of major routes for experienced cyclist and a network of quiet ways, which were frequently the less polluted.  He continued that TfL’s delay in implementation of changes was often linked to contractual arrangements and they were unwilling to make changes until the, up to 5 year contracts, ended.  He added that the Cabinet Member for Transport, Economy and Smart Cities held regular meeting with the public transport providers to try and influence change. 


In response to a Panel Member’s question the Deputy Director for Transportation confirmed that there were two low emission bus corridors near the Borough, running through Catford and New Cross with large number of the buses, using these routes, moving through Greenwich Borough.


The Panel sought clarification on a number of points relating to various forms of river crossings in the Borough;

Did the Council agree or not that the Silverton Crossing proposal did not comply with the documents publish in July 2017?


Had the funding been agreed to implement the modelled bus routes, in terms of mitigation strategy proposed and agreed by TfL? 


That the currently location of the Woolwich Ferry had a serious impact on the area, due to the number of lorries waiting to cross and that it was a disappointment that this had not been resolved by moving the ferry to another location.  Further, did the Council support the proposal for charging to use the Woolwich Ferry, by way of mitigation?


Residents in Blackheath & Westcombe continued to have concerns at the level of road noise and would it be possible to use CIL monies to erect the noise barrier now.


The Cabinet Member responded that the Council were not privy to all the information relating to the Silvertown Crossing and the Planning Inspector was the only party to see all the information.   He added that, whilst it may be possible to look at using CIL money to erect the noise barrier, this would be a large expenditure and there was a desire to ensure that TfL took responsibility for the impact to residents.


The Deputy Director for Transportation advised that TFL’s modelling for the Silvertown Crossing took into account the introduction of 12 routes, around 40 buses an hour, using the crossing and the impact this would have on air quality and modal shift. Whilst TfL had agreed to the introduce these buses there was no reference to funding for them and part of the Councils submission was that there must be a contractual arrangement and the Planning Inspector would make the final judgement.


In respect of the Woolwich Ferry, the Deputy Director for Transportation advised that there was concern that, out or 4 crossings, (Rotherhithe, Silvertown, Blackwall and the Ferry), two of them would have no charges introduced, this concern was raised with the Planning Inspector who advised that any charges would be subject to primary legislation.  


The Scrutiny Panel asked what lessons had been learned from other Local Authorities and were they doing things differently, particularly in relation to shared pedestrian cyclist pavement spaces, particularly as the painted cycle lanes were often abused by drivers and offered a false sense of security to cyclists?


The Deputy Director for Transportation responded that, as a whole, London was an exemplar at supporting cycling modal shift in Britain.  Having said this, Local Authorities continuously share ideas and TFL was an example of excellence around cycling.  He felt that there were areas where full cyclist segregation could be achieved and others where shared space was the only option, though the preference was for full segregation for cyclists, however the difficulty was the Borough had a historic road network.  Further, pavement sharing was only instigated on a risk sharing basis as officers tried to avoid mixing pedestrians and cyclists where possible.


The Scrutiny Panel noted that the action plan covered a large range of areas and asked for a priority list of what would be achievable within the next 2-3 years, broken down into possible short term and medium term developments.


The Cabinet Member responded that it had taken a considerable amount of time to produce the plan and would need to run a full year before it would be possible to look at the requested level of breakdown.  He confirmed that a report could be presented back to the Scrutiny Panel in a years’ time.

Action: Cabinet Member for Regeneration & Sustainability


The Panel accepted an address from a member of Public who noted that there had been a move by manufacturers to produce prams which were inappropriate for the health of babies, with the child being very low on the ground, getting directly exposed to fumes and more pollution than anyone else.  Further, that Kings College had done some research on this, that the Panel may wish to consider.


The public speaker also expressed concern at pavements being shared by pedestrians and cyclists as incidents had already occurred were cyclists were going too fast and there was concern at the further promotion of this type of pavement sharing.   She noted that, as Public Transport had been deregulated there was no longer a requirement to provide a user based transport service, but to make a profit.   Finally, she raised that the Council had allowed developments to be built on large green areas and more consideration should be given to preserving these areas.


The Cabinet Member felt that the observation in respect of prams was an important one.  He advised that not all the green areas were in the Councils ownership and, as the planning authority, the Council was legally obliged to deal with planning applications.  He added that there were 14,000 street trees in the Borough and just under half of it was green space with some of the best metropolitan open land in the country.  He assured that the Greenwich Strategy addressed how the Council would preserve and enhance green space alongside developments.


The Panel noted that a lot of money had been spent on the recent regeneration of Eltham High Street and asked what improvement had been made to the air quality?


The cabinet Member responded that work had been undertaken, by use of Controlled Parking Zones (CPZ’s) to reduce rat running and work had also been undertaken to get high street traffic to maintain a more regular flow.  He continued that the changes would be reviewed, which should be commenced shortly and confirmed that he would report back to the Scrutiny Panel with both the observational and scientific review data.

Action: Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Transport


The Deputy Director for Transportation added that whilst improving air quality in Eltham was important there was also a need to improve the public realm and encourage modal shifts.  To this end, cycle lanes had been installed as part of the High Street, more cycling parking spaces, better placed bus stops, pavement widening and safer pedestrian crossing’s had been brought in, which together should bring improvements in air quality.


The Scrutiny Panel accepted an address from a member of public who expressed concern that there was no Public Health Officer in attendance at this meeting, given the importance of the increasing issue of high density housing and its effect on the Borough.


The Cabinet Member gave assurance that Public Health officers were actively involved in development of the action plan and implementation of the JSNA but were not the lead on this area of work.


Resolved –


That the report, outlining the role of modal shift in improving air quality within the Royal Borough of Greenwich and the information on a number of initiatives aimed at supporting that modal shift be noted.

Supporting documents: