VIDEO: Councils claim new river crossings would benefit community
17:32 04 January 2013
Opponents of proposed new River Thames crossings that would link east and south east London have been urged “to grow up a bit”.
Transport for London is currently consulting on proposals to build a new road tunnel connecting Silvertown to the Greenwich Peninsula by 2021 and a new vehicle ferry linking Gallions Reach at Beckton to Thamesmead by 2017.
It says the plans will ease congestion on the approaches to the Blackwall Tunnel north and south of the river.
Campaigners have been vocal in their opposition on the basis that it will increase the number of motorists in the east of London and subsequently damage air quality. Newham and Greenwich Councils launched a joint campaign in favour of the proposals close to the Woolwich Ferry today. The event was also attended by protesters who unfurled a banner in opposition to the scheme.
Newham's executive member for regeneration and strategic planning, Cllr Conor McAuley, said new crossings were crucial for the development of east London.
"West of Tower Bridge there are 17 fixed crossings," he said. "East of Tower Bridge there are only two, a new crossing here would do much to bridge community and help economic activity grow in this part of town.
"I understand some people are just ideologically opposed to all new roads, they need to grow up a bit.
"It's important that East London gets to grow."
The authorities claim a bridge at Gallions Reach would improve access to more than 40 sites either side of the Thames, creating around 20,000 jobs.
Cllr Denise Hyland, Greenwich's cabinet member for regeneration and strategic planning, said she believed the majority of her borough's residents backed the tunnels.
She said: "It's very important that there are increased crossings on the river here.
"For too long, we have been starved of investment and decent transport links and this is actually our chance to put that right and get greater convergence with west London."
However, an online petition has been set up against the road tunnel on the basis any development will increase traffic on the A2 at Kidbrooke and Eltham. It has so far gathered more than 150 pledges of support.
Friends of the Earth's London campaigner Jenny Bates said the reasons behind the proposals were flawed.
She said: "New Thames road crossings would just add to traffic, congestion and exacerbate air pollution which is already a health hazard.
"The priority should be to make our streets safer to walk and cycle and provide better public transport - which would help free up space on existing river crossings.
"A year-long public inquiry into the Thames Gateway road bridge at Gallions Reach found the extra traffic would be likely to increase congestion and that Transport for London's regeneration claims did not stand up."