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It’s two weeks since I ran out of time and
didn’t get to attend
Bexley’s Places Scrutiny Committee meeting so here’s a quick roundup gleaned from my own recording of the webcast.
The first substantive item on the Agenda was about the National Grid’s plans for power infrastructure in the borough. Their representatives were present and said that they were going to replace three major 50 year old oil-filled supply cables in south London two of which run into or in one case right across Bexley to the overhead line in Crayford.
The old cables are partially buried beneath the roads but the new cables may be placed within four metre diameter tunnels up to 30 metres deep and with a 120 year projected life. There will be more road disruption. The oil is leaking and they must be replaced by oil-free polyethylene cables as soon as possible, certainly within the next two years.
Councillor John Davey (Conservative, Crayford) had a question. Were the Crayford pylons going to go? The National Grid presentation had already said that the scheme was one of under ground cable replacement to connect to the Crayford pylons so the answer to that one was obvious. No.
An earlier plan to have a ventilation shaft in Danson Park has now been deemed to be unnecessary. There was widespread concern about the traffic routes for the removal of tunnel spoil.
Switching to Bexley Council’s new found enthusiasm for cultural events, Cabinet Member Peter Craske briefly plugged his Book Buzz Festival.
Hall Place’s dinosaur exhibition was also praised. It attracted a staggering 12,500 visitors and later in the year there will be a Lego exhibition. Hall Place is on course for 250,000 visits a year, almost infinitely more than were attracted by the Heritage Trust.
The Trust ran it with the aid of a Council subsidy for only a handful years before it reverted to Council control. Why did Bexley Council ever hand it over to them in the first place? Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesness Abbey) made a similar point.
Sadiq Khan’s London Plan came in for criticism as is to be expected. It was said he wants to subject Outer London to the same restrictions, rules and regulations as Inner London which Councillor June Slaughter believed would bring “social and environmental problems to Bexley. The density and height of new buildings is unwanted in Bexley”. She said the “communities expect their representatives to be able to control what happens locally and the ability to do that is gradually being taken away from local Councils”.
Councillor Danny Hackett argued otherwise. He said the plan was for affordable homes to be the priority.
In Councillor Slaughter’s own ward, Sidcup, she was pleased at the prospect of a small cinema on the old Blockbuster site but a good deal less enamoured about moving the borough’s second busiest library to smaller premises in the High Street. The existing library has parking spaces and a large forecourt. The new one will have neither.
Cabinet Member Peter Craske said he had not even thought about moving the library yet.
There was a reference to the Wilton Road (Abbey Wood) traders’ meeting in January, the one where, as their then Secretary, I was excluded by order of the Council, Greenwich as far as I know. The official report is that the area is now a “much safer and nicer place”. Six weeks after it took place the minutes of that meeting have still not been made available to any of the Wilton Road traders to whom I have spoken in recent days.
The former Harrow Inn public house site in Abbey Wood is targetted for a planning application by Peabody in March or April 2018 but Councillor Hackett said the promised (at a traders’ meeting I attended) consultation had not taken place. What is going on? There was no proper answer, Danny will get an update from the responsible Council officer.
The rebuild of Harrow Manorway is still expected on time “despite Greenwich being a little slow”. There are differences on “waiting restrictions”.
Railways received an honourable mention. Abbey Wood station was said to be now providing step-free access to Southeastern services. (Currently station access is step-free only via a long diversion.)
Councillor Seán Newman (Labour, Belvedere) said the lifts failed far too often. A report on a Crossrail extension to Ebbsfleet is on course for submission to the Treasury in May. Seán said that “98% of Bexley’s Growth Strategy hangs on Crossrail. Is the Secretary of State listening to Bexley, I have heard not”.
Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer said he had received no reports of lift failures at Abbey Wood station and that his report to the Secretary of State will be forceful but he had no idea of what he may be thinking. He was “not going to roll over”, he will fight for residents “tooth and nail”.
Councillor Newman also raised the possible loss of the loop line services under the new franchise arrangements. There will be no Sidcup line services to Cannon Street so how can they run? Cabinet Member Sawyer said he too had some concerns about the loop line but suggested that Councillor Newman should not be a train spotter concerned with points etc. and instead “get a life” like he has.
Cabinet Member for Regeneration Linda Bailey confirmed that her “Growth Strategy is predicated on infrastructure. It will be devastating is we don’t get Crossrail [the extension across the borough]. We will have to really fight to get this. It is absolutely essential.”
She sounded quite emotional about the subject and finished by saying the Crossrail extension is “a no brainer”.
What a huge pity that Bexley Council took so little interest in the project ten years ago. Without the intervention of Labour MP Teresa Pearce it may not even have come to Abbey Wood.