Royal Greenwich Up the Creek?

Greenwich? Isn’t that where the Millennium Exhibition will (touch wood) open at the end of 1999? Well, yes and no. The exhibition site is actually on the North Greenwich Peninsula, on a redundant gasworks site near the Blackwall tunnel and about three miles from the Greenwich the tourists presently visit.

That Greenwich has the Cutty Sark, the Royal Naval College, and a stylish Georgian town centre designed by Joseph Kay around 1830, with Hawksmoor’s St Alfege terminating its main vista. It has the National Maritime Museum, the royal park, and Wren’s Old Royal Observatory up on the hill. But that Greenwich is feeling a bit neglected. 

Not that it fears the tourists (currently about 2.75 million) will disappear. The worry is rather that a high proportion of the 12 million people expected at the exhibition site will also want to visit Greenwich proper, and that the government and the Millennium Commission are failing to provide for them. The Department of National Heritage has nominated ‘Royal Greenwich’ as a World Heritage Site, and expects the official designation to be made some time next year, which can only increase the pressure. But when asked about taking road traffic (already in squalid and dangerous conflict with people on foot) out of the town centre, the DNH says: ‘That is a matter for local authority’.

Local antique shop proprietor, restauranteur and conservationist, Richard Moy, believes this is not good enough. The town centre, he says, is afflicted by ‘day-long, year-long flows of non-local traffic’ with long tail-backs and much congestion. The conflict between visitors arriving at Greenwich Pier and wanting to reach the museum and park is already acute. ‘The Millennium Exhibition, even with park-and-ride and park-and-float, is bound to make things worse. Without some form of relief, the situation will become intolerable’.

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