Lewisham Council has removed planters used to block through-traffic on a rat-run in Blackheath after fears children’s lives would be at risk.  

Some residents, particularly cyclists, backed the move to put planters at the junction of the notorious South Row and Prince of Wales Road, which was part of a host of emergency measures across the borough to encourage cycling and walking, and to help people social distance.  

But after the planters appeared, online platform Commonplace was flooded with concerns that traffic would be pushed down Paragon Place to Wemyss Road, a narrow street with two schools on it.  

Drivers were also ignoring the planters, and on Friday afternoon (June 19) cars could still be seen driving straight through.  

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In response, the council first removed the barrier stopping residents getting out at the junction, then completely removed the planters by the junction, “which will address the problem of people using Wemyss Road as a cut through,” it said. 

It plans to put bollards instead of planters at the junction of South Row and The Paragon this week to stop vehicles getting through. 

But people are still concerned that there will be increased traffic by the schools.  

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Phil Snape, whose three children go to school on Wemyss Road, said children’s lives would be at risk, adding that he believed Covid-19 was an excuse for the council to bring in the measures.  

“It’s the most socially distanced road in the whole of Blackheath, so why you would use that as an excuse is just madness. 

“Why would you send all the cars down past two schools when it’s very narrow – only one car can get down at a time, it just seems insane to me,”  he said. 

Others, like Mr Snape, were annoyed by the lack of consultation. 

He added: “They seem to be making it up off the top of their heads on a daily basis.” 

The 49-year-old said he had contacted other parents at the schools whose children weren’t back yet and they were “completely unaware” of the scheme.  

“Kids are going to get knocked over, there’s just no two ways about it.  

“I’ve never known a diversion of traffic push the traffic the way of a school.  

“If it was me doing it – I understand that they may have targets – but if I pushed the traffic towards a school and a kid gets knocked down, where’s my conscience?” he said, and urged the council to close Wemyss Road off to traffic. 

“If you’re closing off any road in Lewisham, for safety or social distancing reasons, surely the children’s safety is a priority.  

“Pushing traffic down in front of a school is just idiotic and highly irresponsible,” he said.  

Blackheath High Junior Head, Sarah Skevington, said: “The safety of our students is our utmost concern. This is a quiet residential road and we hope it will stay this way.  

“We will closely monitor the impact of these changes as time goes on.”  

Others backed the scheme after the changes were announced, while one commentor praised the council for making the changes so quickly. 

“Well done Lewisham! Responding to concerns so quickly and making two changes in three days (the planters were only put in on Wednesday!).  

“This shows that trial schemes using planters is the way forward. Reducing rat running makes our streets safer – enabling and encouraging walking and cycling,” they said.  

Cllr Sophie McGeevor, cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “This is a hugely ambitious programme to support residents to walk, cycle and create space for social distancing in response to Covid 19.  

“We are regularly reviewing resident feedback via Commonplace to help inform the next steps of the programme and listen and respond to issues as they arise.” 

Lewisham received the lowest amount of Covid-19 emergency transport funding last week – £20,683 – in the third round of Streetspace funding from the Mayor of London.

This is despite the council starting work on a host of schemes across the borough, which it expects will cost £460,000. 

The first phase of emergency measures, started on last week, include modal filters in five other streets including Scawen Road, George Lane, Kitto Road, Glenbow Road, Bishopsthorpe Road, and Silverdale.