By Joe Talora, Local Democracy Reporter
Campaigners who oppose the Silvertown Tunnel say there is “fury boiling over” after plans including the felling of more than 100 trees were swiftly withdrawn.
At least 111 trees were earmarked for destruction in a planning application submitted to Greenwich Council in January by Riverlinx, the consortium in charge of delivering the tunnel.
Though the application was withdrawn just 10 days after being submitted, campaigners say they fear a “barrage of new lesser planning applications” that could see the trees gradually destroyed.
Kate Middleton, a local campaigner, said: “It’s really devastating because you know from other campaigns that the trees are the things that go first, but we just kind of assumed that they would take down the trees from the actual work site. And so the fact that they’re taking down all the streets’ trees is just criminal really, it’s vandalism.”
“You’d think in this day and age that they’d actually think through ways of protecting the trees and ways of getting their heavy vehicles for the building in and out without having to take down every single tree on that part of the peninsula.”
Despite the planning application being withdrawn, campaigners say many trees on the Greenwich peninsula, some of them more than 50 years old, have been marked with white crosses to designate them for removal, with some already having been felled.
In a newsletter to residents, Sheila Keeble of the East Greenwich Residents Association said, “it looks impossible for the tunnel to go ahead without a lot of further tree loss”.
Ms Keeble said: “After the shortest ever planning application, withdrawn after 10 days, the 111 trees threatened with removal are now, temporarily, safe again. But what was TfL’s and Riverlinx’s plan?”
“Surely they must have realised that this level of tree destruction would not go unnoticed. Cynically, we may well anticipate a barrage of new lesser planning applications with 20 or so trees scheduled for chopping down rather than this rather rash mass extermination.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has come under increasing scrutiny for plans to push ahead with the tunnel, the cost of which is estimated to reach up to £2 billion over three years.
Calls to scrap the tunnel have grown following data from the British Lung Foundation that revealed Greenwich has 131 schools, nurseries and colleges in areas where levels of PM2.5 pollution exceed WHO recommended limits.
Experts and campaigners argue that PM2.5, a type of particle pollution that can be caused by vehicle tyres, will increase as more traffic passes through the area once the tunnel is open.
Pictured top: Trees that have already been removed due to the project
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