War of Words Breaks Out Over Hammersmith Bridge Closure

H&F Council demands retraction of Wandsworth Council leader's statement

Cllr Ravi Govindia by Hammersmith Bridge

A furious row has erupted over the issue of Hammersmith Bridge between Wandsworth and Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) borough Councils.

In a letter written by Cllr Wesley Harcourt, H&F’s cabinet member for the environment, to the Wandsworth Council leader, Ravi Govindia, a demand is made for the retraction of a statement published on the council’s web site and the removal of a video featuring Cllr Govindia which partly blamed the Labour controlled council for the situation.

Cllr Harcourt describes the statement as containing ‘a variety of false and deliberately misleading assertions’ and added, “These articles are clearly designed to support the local Conservative Party’s political campaigning on this matter rather than support the residents and businesses of Wandsworth”.

He claimed that the statements made on the Wandsworth web site are political campaigning and therefore in breach of Section 2 of the Local Government Act and therefore should be removed.

Cllr Govindia had said that it was unacceptable that Wandsworth borough residents had to suffer from the increase in traffic resulting from the closure of Hammersmith Bridge with Putney, in particular, having to bear the brunt of increased traffic.

He said that it estimated that in the weeks since the closure Putney Bridge is experiencing more than 4,000 extra vehicles every day, with 2,000 more on Wandsworth Bridge and an extra 1,000 daily vehicles on Battersea Bridge. He said that Nitrogen Dioxide pollution levels on Putney High Street, which have fallen from illegally high levels have now started to rise again.

He added, “Hammersmith & Fulham Council has singularly failed to keep this bridge in good working order. TfL has said it won’t have a plan for reopening the bridge until after August and it still isn’t clear who will be picking up the bills for these repairs.

“Meanwhile our residents, who are having to bear the brunt of this bridge closure, remain in the dark as to what is now happening and what sort of traffic levels Hammersmith Bridge will be able to take in the future.

“It is about time the people of Wandsworth had an answer from Hammersmith & Fulham Council, as well as TfL, as to what is happening to Hammersmith Bridge, when will it be put right and when they can they see the end to the nightmare of additional traffic that is now plaguing our roads.”

Cllr Harcourt disputed claims of a lack of transparency in his letter to Cllr Govindia and added, “It is a concern that you have not taken any reasonable measures to understand what is happening with Hammersmith Bridge. I, my colleagues and officers have received no correspondence from you or Wandsworth Council requesting information about Hammersmith Bridge. Nor have you sought to work together with us to support the residents and businesses affected. This is in stark contrast to other neighbouring councils who have been actively involved in supporting and informing residents and working collaboratively.”

The video published on Wandsworth Council's site

He pointed out that public meetings on the issue have been organised including one last month in Barnes at which TfL officials and H&F council officers were present to answer questions. Representatives from H&F did not attend a meeting organised by Justine Greening MP on the issue held on 20 June.

Cllr Harcourt accused Cllr Govindia of presiding over some of the worst air quality in Europe during his eight year tenure as leader and said that ‘there’s been no ambitious or effective strategy to seriously change that’.

He said that Cllr Govindia should work with H&F rather than ‘seeing this as an opportunity for party politicking’ and invited the Wandsworth leader to Hammersmith Town Hall for a meeting.

July 9, 2019