It seems like a long time ago now that Bexley Council announced its intention
to sell 27 parks and open spaces but refused to tell anyone which of them they had in
mind. It wasn’t until one of the few Cabinet Members with a conscience felt it prick and
read out a list at a Scrutiny meeting that the public got to know anything.
Alex Sawyer (it’s not his responsibility any more) said he needed to sell them in order to raise the money necessary to maintain the remaining parks, otherwise they would turn into jungles. The story seemed far fetched at the time and more than three years later with none of the parks sold and the remaining parks still In reasonable shape it seems even more like Project Fear.
Over time the 27 were whittled down to six - or maybe it’s four, it’s difficult to keep up - and they are no longer listed as being for sale but are instead being transferred to BexleyCo who will build and sell the houses. Despite the deception perpetrated in the Tories’ election manifesto it amounts to the same thing. Money into Bexley Council’s coffers and nowhere to walk your dog.
The problem that might arise with that, BexleyCo being Bexley Council by another name, is that Bexley will expect to make its own proposals to build on its own land and grant itself its own permission. Difficult enough for any Council to be seen to be totally transparent in such a situation, near impossible for a Council more akin to the proverbial nine bob note.
And so it nearly proved with the first sites to go through the process, the two open spaces in Wilde Road. It seems likely that someone in a high position thought they could get away with whatever they liked as Bexley Council does most things but no one predicted that the Planning Committee might play by the rules. Bexley’s own plan broke very nearly all of them.
Professional planning officers must know those rules inside out and I bet they knew they were skating on very thin ice. Either that or they are incompetent and I have seen no reason to suspect that in the past - except that their traffic forecasts are usually suspect.
So here we are four years after Bexley Council told us that parks would become jungles if they didn’t sell 27 and none have been sold. If there was a shred of truth in the original story someone should be panicking by now and maybe they are. A public squabble has broken out on Twitter.
However let’s step back four months to a time before the Council elections.
At that time Wilde Road was in a ward represented by three Councillors, Peter Reader, Melvin Seymour and Philip Read. Several other Councillors objected to the proposal but of the three ward Councillors only Peter Reader made a formal presentation at the March planning meeting in support of residents. The not normally shy Philip Read did a disappearing act and as you know the planning application was deferred pending improvements.
The residents group are not aware that Read did any work behind the scenes.
It was the Conservative Cabinet’s decision to build in Wilde Road and Philip Read voted for it. The detail of the proposals have been available for many months and Philip Read gave no indication that he had misgivings about the original plans but now that the improved plan has been rejected unanimously Philip Read is trying to rewrite history.
According to him it is the Tories who were successful in supporting local residents’ “opposition to inappropriate development” and “no Labour Councillor objected”.
What nonsense, it was Labour Councillor Nicola Taylor who seconded the vote to refuse the application.
Facing both ways at once the hapless Read is now claiming on the one hand that Labour can take no credit for the rejection but also that the residents’ group which overturned the Cabinets’ ambitions is fronted by one or more Labour party activists. How confused/stupid can one man be?
But don’t take my word for it, have a look at some of what has been kicked around Twitter in recent days.
Note: Displayed in a convenient format for web use and because of that not every one is in sequence. However the messages should give a flavour of what has been said.
If you get to the end you will see that having lost the argument - and the vote - with the resident’s group Councillor Read blocks them and prevents further discussion. The action of a coward.
During her address to the Committee, Mrs. Waters on behalf of the residents’ group thanked Teresa Pearce MP for her help and assistance and for submitting her own personal objection to Bexley Council’s plans. The MP’s letter of objection is reproduced below.
The estate is very busy with vehicular traffic and from personal experience I am aware that it can at times be near grid lock at school imes with residents unable to leave or enter the estate. It is not uncommon for vehicles to drive up on to the pavement to navigate the parked cars. Even outside of these times it is often impossible to find a parking space, a problem which will be exacerbated by any further esidential development.
This planning application is for 12 units, but with what appears to be insufficient parking spaces. Whilst it would be ideal to assume that residents would choose to use public transport rather than cars, this area is not well served by buses and is some distance from the nearest railway station. As such, I believe that the impact of more vehicles, especially with it not being uncommon for households to have more than one car will be very negative indeed.
The style of these proposed buildings are also in my opinion not in keeping with the existing dwellings on the estate. Currently the area feels quite open and this is due largely to these two pieces of land being open and green and creating a sense of space in what is already a densely built up area.
The original planning of this estate also included the provision that these two pieces of land be kept, one as an enclosed area which is frequently used by dog walkers or people with small children to keep them safe and the other as an open green community space.
The loss of these two spaces will in my opinion be detrimental to those iving on this estate.”
But Councillor Read continues to assert that it was the Tories who defeated their own proposal without Labour assistance.
Just who does he think he is kidding?