Sadiq Khan’s decision to green-light the Silvertown Tunnel river crossing has come in for renewed criticism after it emerged the project would “significantly” delay the building of new homes near its planned location.
The tunnel, which will connect the Greenwich Peninsula with Royal Docks, was approved last October by Mr Khan who backed Transport for London’s claims that it will reduce congestion and support regeneration on both sides of the river.
However the project is opposed by some local residents and environmental campaigners who say it will increase traffic levels, thereby worsening the capital’s already poor air quality and leading to further congestion.
Campaigners add that by supporting the scheme, Mr Khan is undermining claims that cleaning up London’s air quality is a key priority for his administration.
Now the Mayor’s decision to approve the new crossing has been revealed to also be at odds with his commitment to prioritise the construction of new homes on publicly owned land.
A briefing note drawn up for Mr Khan says the project will “significantly” affect the planned redevelopment of City Hall owned land, known as Thameside West, on the north bank of the river.
According to the document, the land’s owners, which include the City Hall controlled GLA Land and Property Limited (GLAP) as well as commercial developers, “have shown a strong interest in investing and progressing a high quality residential-led scheme”.
However these ambitions will need to wait until after the tunnel has been built in order to allow TfL and its contractors to occupy a sizeable share of the land during construction.
With the tunnel not expected to open until 2022, developers will have to use the intervening period “to consolidate interests, prepare for development and make appropriate investment as required.”
In order to “minimise the negative impact of the delays and works resulting from the tunnel,” Mr Khan has signed a Mayoral Decision instructing TfL to carry out some of the work needed to facilitate the housing schemes during the tunnel’s construction phase.
However the briefing document cautions that “the full extent of these works and the certainty of their delivery remain subject to further technical work, design development and procurement.”
In addition TfL, which is having to cut back spending in the wake of budget cuts, will pay an undisclosed amount of compensation to GLAP.
Commenting on the document’s revelations, London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon said: “In a week where the Mayor has claimed he is serious in tackling air pollution it is depressing to discover that his obsession with the Silvertown road tunnel has a downside of not just generating more air pollution but also creating a serious delay in much needed new housing.”
There’s also been criticism from campaign group No To Silvertown Tunnel which accused Mr Khan of “jumping the gun” by signing the Mayoral Decision before the project receives the final go-ahead from ministers.
Campaign spokesperson Darryl Chamberlain said: “The wording of this decision shows what little regard the Mayor has for the planning process, and for the people whose lives will be blighted by his toxic tunnel.”
He added: “Despite all the Mayor’s talk of ‘bold action’ on emissions, even TfL admits that new housing in the Royal Docks will see increased pollution thanks to the Silvertown Tunnel scheme.
“If the scheme gets the go-ahead, the residents of Thameside West will find themselves living next to traffic jams caused by the new road.”