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Accusations over Tolworth greenway funding
A heated debate over the Tolworth greenway project erupted into angry exchanges amid accusations Tory councillors lobbied Boris Johnson to have funding pulled for the controversial scheme.
Speaking at a full Kingston Council meeting, leader Derek Osbourne charged the opposition of "sneakily" trying to pull "back door strings" to put blockers on the plans, to roars of approval from Lib Dem colleagues.
The greenway scheme, which would see cyclists and pedestrians share the same road space on Tolworth Broadway, is partly funded by a £1.6m Transport for London (TfL) grant, run by the Mayor of London’s office.
Rumours Mr Johnston was planning to step in were once again rubbished by Coun Osbourne, who said the project had the full backing of the mayor’s office and TfL.
Last month he told the Comet the mayor’s office had asked to delay looking for building contractors until after the election, something he said the council planned to do anyway.
Jabbing a finger in the direction of opposition councillors, Mr Osbourne told the meeting: "Certain Tory councillors have been trying to lobby the mayor’s office and Boris Johnston to pull TfL funding on this project by pulling back door strings.
"This has been done in a very sneaky way and is, frankly, despicable."
Tuesday night’s motion, which called for more scrutiny over safety fears, was called by Tory councillor Richard Hudson, who failed twice in calls for a safety review at neighbourhood and scrutiny meetings and was once again defeated by 25 to 20.
He had wanted to take advantage of a delay in the project to test the safety of the scheme.
During the meeting, Coun Hudson once again accused the administration of ignoring opposition.
He said: "It is intuitively obvious that mixing cars, pedestrians and cyclists is dangerous, particularly when those bikes are likely to whizz along on a green walkway that is going to be shared by elderly people.
"Removing the barrier is an experiment and one that could lead to death or injury."
During the meeting, Councillor Bob Stead also came closer to breaking ranks among Lib Dems by admitting safety does need to be looked at, though he concluded the project should still go ahead.
Building on the greenway was due to start this month but has been delayed following the scrutiny review, as no major roadworks are allowed during the Olympics.