My north London family connections have dictated an interest in Thames crossings from long before BiB came on the scene. In the early 1990s when I owned a video camera I made a documentary film illustrating the problems poor cross river communications caused.
The local Conservatives have always been against a new bridge, Knee Hill, the A 2041 described on TV by a lying Tory as “a narrow country track” being the official reason but we all know that the real reason since 2006 has been the extra traffic which might cross Teresa O’Neill’s Brampton ward. But suddenly the Tories are in favour of a bridge and they have got together to invent and rehearse a uniform slogan which they can all use when their U turn is questioned.
“We have always been for extra Thames crossings so long as they are in the right place.”
It doesn’t stand up to examination. In the whole of their last period in office no Tory has spoken in favour of any bridge anywhere. They have backed the Silvertown Tunnel, there was little support for former councillor Munir Malik’s ambitious plan for a new bridge in Woolwich (Bacon once let slip he might not be against it) and when the local population looked like voting in favour of a bridge councillors Teresa O’Neill and Gareth Bacon stood on Brampton Road for the benefit of the Spring 2013 Bexley Magazine with the slogan “Don’t let the bridge back in”.
Not satisfied with that they spent your money on a propaganda sheet sent to every household. “The implications [of a new crossing] would be devastating for the people of Bexley” it proclaimed. All change now; the Summer 2014 issue has “River crossings and opportunities for growth” emblazoned across its front page and inside speaks of 10,000 new jobs.
In a conversion of Byzantine proportions, Bexley council is now in favour of a bridge. They say that putting one in Belvedere will make all the difference. Is Belvedere a new town recently reclaimed from the Thames marshes and ripe for expansion or is it and neighbouring Erith an ancient industrial area famed in the past for its cable and arms manufacturing plants and more recently for warehousing and food processing and distribution?
My research reveals that Belvedere and Erith and the A2016 which runs through both of them have all existed since before 2006 so why didn’t Teresa O’Neill notice Belvedere on the town map long ago? Surely it cannot be down to her party’s traditional neglect of the place, even they must have known it was there. So the conclusion must be that their sudden enthusiasm for a bridge from Belvedere to Rainham is a face saver. Boris is determined to do it anyway so they have no option but to change tack. But to say now that Belvedere is the right place and they have always been for a bridge in the right place stretches credulity a bit too far.
If they seriously wanted a bridge all along I think they may have stumbled upon Belvedere before now.
TfL ran the first of their new bridge consultations in the Broadway Shopping Centre this afternoon and I went along to see what I could see. Some friendly and helpful staff were kept quite busy with enquiries and were dishing out a nice well written booklet.
I asked why people wouldn’t want a bridge and was told that some people said Bexley used to be a nice quiet backwater within a sprawling city and they wanted to keep it that way. I have news for them, that horse bolted a long time ago and if it’s a nice sleepy backwater you hanker after then buzzing off to the sleepy countryside is the only option now. I bet they would soon miss having a bus every ten minutes.
My choice is going to be build both bridges and do it quick before I snuff it but Bexley council still has other ideas. They are going to run rival road shows to try to get you to vote against a Gallions Reach Bridge. They’d rather gum up Erith totally than share the load more equally and perhaps see an extra lorry in Brampton ward. Nimby O’Neill.
The only people consistent about the need for new Thames crossings has been the Labour party, sticking to their guns even when the idea was supposedly unpopular.