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After Councillors’ questions comes Motions and there were ten of them to deal with. Thirty minutes was allocated
to their discussion so eight Councillors were disappointed, especially Councillor David Leaf who had
submitted two motions. If you guessed that both were designed to slag off Labour and the Unions, go to the top of the class.
Seán Newman had drawn the lucky straw.
Note: Councillor Newman spoke with his back to the public gallery and his voice was afflicted by the echo that comes to those sitting closely behind speakers in the presence of a slight delay from the distant loudspeakers. What follows should therefore be regarded as a close approximation of a small selection from his address to Council. Quotation marks are therefore used more sparingly than usual.
Councillor Newman (Labour, Erith) said we must accept change and the proposed 31,500 homes are very necessary. “We all need to explain why we need growth”.
Communities have been neglected, the housing is poor and there are complaints of damp and over-crowding. Sub-letting by absent landlords has led to houses being no longer fit for purpose. People do not spend time and money because of the threat of summary eviction forever hanging over them. “Our growth agenda consigns that to the past and delivers the promise of a better and more secure future.”
“We should bring residents with us and make them vocal champions for change and damp and over-crowded tenement flats are replaced with affordable, clean and spacious apartments no longer subject to Anti-Social Behaviour and crime.”
“A new High Street that offers something other than betting machines presenting opportunities for stable jobs. Better transport to reduce reliance on cars. It is a hopeful vision.”
“The ‘Making Institute’ in Thamesmead is bold and ambitious. This Council can lead an integrated network between employers and schools. If Greenwich can have a university Bexley can.”
“That is the vision we have and we are committed. We have said so publicly and confirmed it privately. The Motion sends a clear message to those who we need to lobby and those we still need to convince.”
The Motion was seconded by Councillor Louie French (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling).
He wanted the London Mayor and the government to look beyond Zone 1 and looked to Labour Members to lobby Sadiq Khan. He hoped that they would remind the Mayor where Bexley is. “Bexley has been short-changed by City Hall.”
“The Conservative Group has been clear for many years that we support better infrastructure in the right places at the right time and at the right price. It must not be to the detriment of our environment, or businesses or residents. We want Bexley to retain its features and cultural heritage. But nostalgia is not what commuters feel when travelling to London in rush hour. Investment in transport infrastructure is key to improving travel times. We need better road links and river crossings and Crossrail to Belvedere and Slade Green.”
“We must continue to highlight what this investment in our infrastructure will yield in Bexley and the wider Thames Gateway Region. Early investment on transport is crucial. We cannot remain stationary.”
Councillor David Leaf could not resist letting an opportunity for a dig at Labour to go by; he thought Seán Newman might be “purged by Comrade Jeremy” if his performance was seen on the webcast.
Councillor Leaf reminded Members that there had been no real change to Bexley’s railway infrastructure for more than 100 years … river crossings are key.”
Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) also spoke in favour of “the vision of planned growth not the piecemeal development we have seen in the past”. He said “it was important how the Council spreads that message” and that he had already been involved in “heated debate with residents in Slade Green” (a reference to his meeting with residents 24 hours earlier) but it was “for the benefit of the community and they must be brought along”.
Transport is key and “and we must look at cross borough links. There are opportunities to get services from Abbey Wood and the Sidcup line right down to Bromley North. There is a spur there doing absolutely nothing”.
Dentist, doctors, open spaces and schools also got a mention but most important was “desperately needed affordable housing”.
Councillor John Davey (Conservative, Crayford) came in with a similar message. “Bexley’s residents were the happiest in London but there is more we can do to make it even better.” He wanted faster broadband, better healthcare and parks.
The poor transport links had resulted in Bexley having the highest car ownership in London giving “problems with parking and driving round and it is getting worse, especially north south”. He wanted to see “modest river crossings” in more than one place to spread the load.
Like his colleagues he thought Sadiq Khan was a Zone 1 Mayor.
Councillor Val Clark made similar points to her colleagues emphasising the need for a Crossrail extension to Ebbsfleet and a river crossing at Belvedere.
The time for debate was over and Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer was asked to sum up. He said the planned growth would “outlive us and many generations. A legacy for generations to come. There is no limit to our ambition”.
Naturally he fully endorsed the need to “take communities with us”.
Next was the vote and we were treated to unprecedented scenes.
Every hand in the chamber was raised in agreement.
Labour party statement on growth in Slade Green.
Residents consultation response to Bexley Council.
Have your say until 28th July. Never mind the spelling!