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When Bexley Council sold its Broadway site to Tesco for £25 million
we were promised an 80,000 square feet superstore and an enormous free (for
two hours) car park before the end of 2014.
That grand plan came to naught when Tesco ran into financial difficulties and reined in its expansion plans.
It was only then that Bexley taxpayers learned how badly the sale of their land had been handled. Bexley’s Conservative Council had rejected their Labour colleagues’ plea to retain a modicum of control (an overage clause) over what might happen to the site in future.
Because of that negligence Tesco could do with the site whatever it liked (subject to standard planning controls) and Bexley Council is almost powerless to influence the future of its town centre.
And so, perfectly legally, the site which should have been home to a major new store providing much needed employment and parking spaces for shoppers has fallen into the hands of Bellway Homes whose business is to provide much needed accommodation for those who can afford it.
If you don’t like it blame Bexley Council for being stupid enough to hand total control to Tesco in defiance of - probably because of - advice given by more financially astute opposition Councillors.
Another thing you might do is pop down to Highland Road to see for yourself what Bellway Homes have to say about their plans. They have an exhibition there which will be open again from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday.
When I arrived soon after eleven o’clock this morning there was a queue to get inside to look at the display boards and I took the opportunity to stand around listening to what visitors were saying.
I learned that the town centre site will get housing of the type that Councils currently consider to be appropriate to town centres, that is ‘high rise’.
“Would there be some proper houses” a lady asked, and the answer was “No” it will be all flats in blocks between six and twelve storeys high, the highest being in the dominant position opposite the cinema.
“How much?” Small flats will start at “somewhere between £250,000 and £300,000”.
There will be a bare minimum of car parking spaces for residents, nothing like as much as one each, in line with TfL’s current anti-motorist edicts.
“Would there be shops?” Just a small square with “maybe a Costa or similar.
The Broadway frontage looked like it could include one or two shops but maybe not.
What was striking about the visitors’ complaints was that they should more properly have been addressed to Bexley Council.
They were concerned that the lack of resident parking spaces would displace vehicles into roads nearby. They were already “used as rat runs” and the closure of Highland Road, another Bexley Council requirement according to the Bellway man, would only make things worse.
The narrowing of Albion Road was mentioned as a town disaster by several people to which the Bellway representative added what might be another. Bexley Council has plans to close the Sainsbury’s car park and turn it into a town square.
As someone who lives a long way from Bexleyheath and never visits it if it can be avoided I can see the attractions of a town square, but local residents saw the loss of the ground level car park as yet another problem. One thought Bexley Council’s ambition was “to kill Bexleyheath as a shopping destination”.
In comparison with the Tesco plan the parking situation is clearly going to become a great deal worse than it could have been and worse than it is now if the town square plan comes to fruition.
From the point of view of those such as myself who will not be affected by Bellway’s development at all I thought it looked attractive and can only improve the visual environment.
Bellway Homes have not yet submitted a planning application and said they aimed to have their display boards available on line within the next week or two. They hope to be able to begin construction by this time next year.
Meanwhile the best you can do is click on the images below.
Note: Councillor Howard Marriner (Conservative, Barnehurst), a member of the Planning Committee, arrived just as I was about to leave dressed very smartly exactly as you might expect of a well respected Councillor. As is to be expected of a Planning Committee member, the Bellway man’s attempt to extract a comment got absolutely nowhere.
Howard was his usual good natured self apparently anxious to prove that you don’t have to be an ignorant oaf to be a Conservative Councillor in Bexley.
Such a pleasant change from last weekend.