At the very same moment this blog goes on line a meeting of ‘the great and
the good’ will be starting in the Abbey Wood Community Centre on Knee Hill to tell the
local traders what Bexley and Greenwich Councils have done for them over the past
four months since the issues blighting Wilton Road were
highlighted here last September.
Someone mischievously brought my Tweet on the subject to the attention of the Leader of Greenwich Council who is also the Abbey Wood ward Councillor and she orchestrated a flurry of activity. For a few weeks police and litter wardens could be seen every day. Police foot patrols and litter wardens were absolutely unknown previously.
In 2015, before the shop front replacement programme began, the Councils insisted on a Traders’ Association being formed, without one negotiations with shop owners would have been near impossible. The owner of the mini-cab company set up the Abbey Wood Traders’ Association (AWTA) and became its Chairman but he was very new to the area and didn’t know its history. For that reason he asked me to attend his meetings as a guest and adviser. By February 2016 I had been appointed his Secretary as he called it. In reality a glorified minute taker at meetings.
Because of that I have from time to time been able to tell you a little of what has been going on in Wilton Road although sometimes things had to remain confidential. I have retained audio recordings of all the meetings over very nearly two years. I have heard both Councils and the police make their many promises and almost none of them have been fulfilled.
The traders were promised that they would be sitting on little gold mines once the Crossrail station opened but nothing could be further from the truth. Rail passengers mainly exit on to the flyover and unless perhaps you live in Abbey Wood Road (from the Post Office Greenwich side) there is not really any reason to use Wilton Road.
The Launderette has gone, the ladies’ hairdressers has been put up for sale, so has the Indian restaurant and a fourth premises looks as though it is going the same way.
There are mixed views on what can be done to rescue Wilton Road as a shopping destination and a couple of months ago I heard a Greenwich Council officer pour cold water on every idea put to her. It was very depressing.
After a few false starts the Traders’ Association Chairman managed to secure a major meeting with the Councils and that is what is happening right now. There is a certain amount of apathy. My guess is that the trader turnout will be under 50%, they have heard it all before and they are as cynical about the meeting as can be.
A shop owner who does not intend to go has been saying that Council officials have been pressurising him by saying there might be a risk of terrorism in Wilton Road and it needs to be discussed. Sounds far fetched to me but that is what he said.
So what am I doing writing this blog and not preparing for the meeting and the minutes?
That’s an easy one to answer.
The Councils told the AWTA Chairman that he could not have his meeting if I was present. They were not prepared to have me writing the minutes, they must be under their control. Nor did they want to risk what they had to say leaking into the public domain.
Council officials seem to be incapable of working out the consequences of their actions and zero understanding of human psychology. Over the next few days every trader who attends that meeting will likely give me their opinion of it. Without an obligation to keep what I may have heard at the meeting confidential I will now be free to pass on anything I hear.
At the next regular meeting of the AWTA on 7th February I am currently inclined to tender my resignation. My guess is that I will be free to pass on more of what goes on in Wilton Road than I can while holding a minor position on the AWTA Committee.