Protesters take to streets to fight against bus lane blocking 110-year-old social club

Protesters gathered outside their social club on Saturday to fight against a bus lane that has forced many elderly members to stop attending their only social event of the week.

Greenwich Town Social, in Blackwall Lane, Greenwich, is a not-for-profit social club that has been running for 110 years and relies on its members and their families to stay open.

A bus lane in Blackwall Lane was extended past the club in December 2022. In August this year new signage was installed in the road notifying residents that the bus lane would run from 6am until 10pm, which would mean no parking or drop-offs for club members, starting from September 4.

Club secretary Lisa Kelly, 53, from Warland Road, Plumstead, said: “We have a lot of older members and members with disabilities who enjoy coming to the club. The new bus lane times mean they can’t come anymore because they can’t park outside or be dropped off outside until after 10pm.”

Ms Kelly’s dad, Bernard Morris, 79, is the president of the club. Mr Morris suffers from COPD, which makes walking very difficult.

She said: “There is no way he can walk from a side road – no way. 

“Another one of our members has COPD and he hasn’t been able to find anywhere to park that is close enough.”

Club members gather outside the social club on Saturday (Picture: Lisa Kelly)

The club does not have a car park and many of the surrounding roads are residents only parking. 

Ms Kelly said: “The closest parking places you can find now are about 100 metres away.

“It doesn’t sound like much but if you have mobility issues that’s too far, and now even these spaces are filling up.

“We had a singer on on Saturday and we only had about half our normal members turn up.

“Some of them live alone, and if they don’t come to our events they don’t get to see anyone all week. They are struggling.”

Many of the protesters took to the streets in their wheelchairs (Picture: Lisa Kelly)

Ms Kelly said the new parking restrictions have put the club in “jeopardy”.

She has sent a complaint to Greenwich council and emailed ward councillors, but was told the bus lane was the responsibility of Transport for London (TfL).

Ms Kelly said: “The bus route is for two busses, the 188 and the 422.

“One turns left and one right at the traffic lights. The 188, which turns right, has already pulled into the right hand lane before it even reaches our club. 

“There is no reason why the bus lane has to change to 10pm. Most nights it is always clear after 7pm.”

The club was completely rebuilt in 2016 and reopened in 2019. As part of the planning from the council the club had to be completely accessible for wheelchair users.

Ms Kelly said: “The council really insisted on this and now we are a totally disabled unfriendly club -that’s the most frustrating part.”

A spokesperson from Greenwich council said: “We empathise with the concerns expressed by members of the Greenwich Town Social Club. We’re committed to supporting community venues, like this one, that provide vital space for local groups to meet and socialise.  

“Following a request by TfL, the council changed the bus lane operation times from 7am to 7pm to 6am to 10pm to address issues with traffic and significant bus delays in the area. 

“The council made the change after notifying people about the proposal, including advertising on public notices on nearby lamp posts and in local press. No objections were received.

“Vehicles, including Blue Badge holders, can stop briefly on the bus lane as it doesn’t include a No Stopping sign, but only to pick up or drop off passengers. People attending or working at the club can continue to use and park in the bus lane outside the operational hours. We would encourage the club to arrange for deliveries to be made outside these hours, using permitted stopping points.”

Pictured top: Protesters outside Greenwich Town Social’s building on Saturday (Picture: Lisa Kelly)

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