diamond geezer

 Tuesday, May 07, 2019

This is Bridge H14, a metal footbridge linking Fish Island to the Olympic Park across the River Lea.

It was installed in 2012, just before the Olympics. It opened to pedestrians and cyclists in the summer of 2014, so has been operational for less than five years.

But at 6am this morning it's being closed, and is to be removed, then replaced by a much wider bridge which can take vehicles. 10 young trees alongside the bridge are being cut down today too.

This is Bridge H16, another metal footbridge linking Fish Island to the Olympic Park across the River Lea.

It was installed earlier this year, and is located just 150m to the south of Bridge H14. It opened to pedestrians and cyclists at the end of last week, so has been operational for less than five days.

As of 6am this morning it is the diversionary signposted cross-river connection for pedestrians and cyclists. A Victorian warehouse was knocked down to build Bridge H16.

A footbridge added to replace a footbridge replaced by a road bridge. A heritage workplace demolished. Ten trees for the chop. It's no planning triumph.

New Bridge H16 breaks off from Stour Road on Fish Island immediately alongside Forman's salmon smokery. A change of height is required so pedestrians face three flights of stairs while cyclists and pushchairs tackle a six-pointed zigzag chicane. The architects included a ramp to bypass the chicane, but health and safety jobsworths have added four plastic barriers to discourage cyclists from taking an over-speedy shortcut.

On the QEOP side the bridge lands between Bobby Moore Primary Academy and Bobby Moore Primary Academy's artificial sports pitches. This time it's on the level, so connects straightforwardly to the southern Loop Road. But the bridge has been opened before the ramp down to towpath level is complete, because opening the new link is more important than full connectivity. Opening Bridge H16 last week, then closing Bridge H14 today, allows everyone to get on with building flats.

The new Bridge H14, wide enough for trucks and cars, has been sitting in the Sweetwater compound for several months. Once the old Bridge H14 has been winched out of the way this can be hoisted into place and the abutments at either end widened. On the Olympic Park side one tree is for the chop, and on the Fish Island side nine. All five silver birches on the zigzag ramp are going, and four out of five of the young alders alongside the Omega Works. Someone wasn't thinking ahead.

The Mayor of Tower Hamlets is one of many interested parties displeased at this wasteful shenanigans. A new bridge that delivers streams of vehicles to Fish Island, currently a transportational backwater, goes against safer neighbourhood strategies and air pollution targets. But the Mayor of Tower Hamlets has no jurisdiction in this corner of his borough because the LLDC are in control, and they want the new bridge, so they win.

The LLDC point to outline planning permission obtained in 2004, before London won the Olympics, and a 2007 'requirement' that a vehicle-friendly bridge be built in this location. They point to a traffic study by Arup which suggested traffic levels at the White Post Lane road junction might reach 3% above recommended levels if the bridge wasn't built. More specifically they point to 'Grampian condition' LCS0.194, agreed in 2012, which limits flat-building in the Sweetwater neighbourhood unless a road bridge is built.
"No more than 400 Residential Units in PDZ 4 shall be Occupied unless and until new Bridge H14 has been constructed and completed in accordance with the details approved by the Local Planning Authority pursuant to Condition LCS0.31 and open for use at all times by the general public as a multi-modal vehicle bridge."
We have to build it, they said, carefully ignoring the fact that they'd built a footbridge rather than a road bridge in the first place. Hence the new bridge was commissioned, and Vittoria Wharf got demolished, and ten trees die today. The local road network is already being transformed to funnel traffic away from White Post Lane and towards the new connection.

But the LLDC have backed down slightly, following a request from London's Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills. How about only allowing buses on the bridge to start with, he said, and see how that goes?
"It is therefore proposed that the LLDC open the bridge in restricted mode and then review the condition again at 200-unit occupation (which we expect to be post-2023). This will allow a more accurate assessment to be undertaken of existing and projected future traffic levels, and a further review of the costs/benefits of enhanced connectivity between the Park and Fish Island."

So the current plan is that the road bridge opens at the end of this year, but only for pedestrians, cyclists and buses. TfL have already held a consultation to divert bus route 339 across the bridge and onwards through Fish Island, instead of serving Hackney Wick, and the switch will be made once the new bridge is in place. Bridge H14 will then see just eight vehicles an hour until the number of flats in Sweetwater hits 200, no earlier than 2023, at which point the LLDC will revisit the decision.

Either they'll say "it's essential that we build over 400 flats, so we need to open up the bridge to cars", or they'll look at the existing traffic conditions and say "you know what, it looks like the new road bridge wasn't necessary after all." Place your bets. In the meantime we've got a new footbridge to replace the original footbridge that closed this morning, and a new road bridge for hardly any vehicles ready to take its place. Sounds Fishy.

11am update

This morning Bridge H14 was still open, but six of the ten trees had been felled, chopped into pieces and fed into a wood chipper.

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