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Bonkers Blog June 2018

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20 June - Lull before the storm? Possibly

This evening marks the beginning of the Council meeting season. A Scrutiny meeting.

Blogs
You must have noticed that blogs have been infrequent since the local election in May; the reasons are varied but one stands head and shoulders above the others. I have frequently said privately and occasionally publicly that if Bexley Councillors stopped lying Bexley-is-Bonkers would whither and die and with the election out of the way and the meeting season not yet started even the most prolific of Bexley’s liars has not found the need to do so.

Whilst the idiotic fringe led by Councillor Philip Read continues to label me a Labour troll if his comprehension skills were a bit greater he might have noticed that any support for Bexley’s Labour Group does not go beyond the rebuttal of the lies that he and his ilk tell about Labour policies. If he has read what I think of Mayor Sadiq Khan how can he continue to believe I am a Labour activist?

Relatively minor contributors to the reduced level of blogging are the constant trips to East Ham - every two days for the past three weeks but with luck now stretching to three or four day intervals, and maybe the Maxine Fothergill effect. I don’t often think about that any more but earlier in the year the stupidity of Kent Police dampened my enthusiasm for blogging. They are still refusing to investigate Maxine Fothergill’s untruthful harassment statement, unless of course they simply cannot be bothered to tell me anything. When they responded to an enquiry from my MP three months after she made it her description of their reply was extraordinarily diplomatic. “Very poor” she said.

For the record, Kent Police is still investigating why one of their Sergeants fell for her lies hook, line and sinker

The News Shopper
Until two or three months ago a copy of the News Shopper was reliably delivered to my door every week but now that it isn’t I am afraid I haven’t given it another thought. However today I noticed - via Twitter - that they are reporting that 50 Bexley staff have been given £800,000 in gagging agreements. Doesn’t surprise me at all, I have met some of these people. A very small number have consciences and live to regret their blood money, for in some cases that is what it is.

As a result I have heard how the Council Leader herself has been involved in high level cover ups of major mismanagement and possibly criminal behaviour but in every case I have recommended that the ex-employee sticks to the agreement - especially when the money has been used to pay off a mortgage.

Anonymous messages
Useful though the Anonymous Contact facility can be it occasionally creates a dilemma. Some lead to a blog which then indicates to the writer that his input has been found useful but a few that look good turn out not to be so useful. Ignoring them will look rude but the only other way to respond to anonymous messages is via the blog. This blog appears here only to avoid appearing to be ungrateful for the input. It will not make a lot of sense to anyone but the sender.

An anonymous message provided an analysis of various things that a Conservative Councillor had apparently written which on the surface appeared to be less than honest. There are some Conservative names which I would automatically link with dishonesty and deception - only a small number, but they do exist. This anonymous message was not about any of them, in fact it was critical of someone for whom I have a high regard.

Because of that I forwarded the message to the Councillor concerned. With commendable speed I was sent an expression of, if not quite horror at what had been published, at least a degree of shock.

34 minutes later a more detailed response dropped into my Inbox. It included evidence that an original hand written draft had been very carelessly transcribed by a Council Official resulting in an inaccurate publication which could be construed as having something to hide.

A second similar but much older ‘allegation’ was made against the same Councillor. It provoked a near identical response and again with supporting evidence. This time the inaccurate transcription was both very small but very important. The error was made by a third party not employed by Bexley Council. It will be possible to correct the first set of mistakes but not the older one.

As the Councillor said, “the lesson is to do things for myself in future”.

I trust this will satisfy the anonymous messenger and demonstrate that in my opinion Bexley’s comment “[the Council] has serious issues with Malcolm Knight” (†) is entirely the fault of a few individuals at the very top of the Council.

† Friends have told me that this was said by a Council Officer addressing a meeting earlier this year when, for reasons which are not totally clear, the subject of Bexley-is-Bonkers cropped up. Since my website only reports as best it can what Bexley Councillors do and say, how can I be a serious problem to them? Unless of course they know that some Councillors are still up to no good.

 

16 June - The company they keep

While Bonkers was looking into the first of several allegations made against former Bexley Councillor Maxine Fothergill and before I came to the conclusion that she may well have been the subject of a revenge attack by the enemies she had made within the Council, I was copied into some correspondence between her business associates who were on opposite sides of a property business argument. It was notable mainly for the intemperate language used by someone purporting to be an auditor and an accountant.

Ray Robson who won the libel case against Maxine Fothergill for her admitted lies was called “scum of the earth” and a lady who supported him and wrote to Kent Police earlier this year in my defence was called “a stupid girl”.

The correspondence began in January 2016 and I am still being copied into the explosive emails. I am not exactly sure why but can only conclude that friends of Maxine wish it to be known that they are still battling on her behalf.

Unfortunately the ins and outs of the property business are well beyond my comprehension so there is no possibility that I can judge the intricacies of the rights and wrongs of it, but some facts are inviolable.

I met Ray Robson last November but apart from that I don’t know any of the protagonists. For character references I only know that Ray and his fellow litigant Hayley Warnes persuaded the celebrity solicitor Mark Lewis to take on their case on a no win no fee basis and he in turn persuaded a Court that Maxine Fothergill lied, indeed she admitted as much.

So what her friends hope to achieve is hard to fathom except that some sort of revenge appears to be on their minds.

Their language has not improved and Ray Robson continues to be known as “scum of the earth” in correspondence which has been sent to the leading lights of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the object presumably being to persuade them, as Maxine Fothergill tried to do earlier, that she is more worthy of membership than those she libelled.

What sort of accountant refers to an RICS member as “scum of the earth” as well as “warped, deluded, mentally deranged and in need of psychiatric help” in an email (13th June 2018) to the RICS and 20 of his business associates?

The same accountant goes on to accuse Hayley Warnes of fraud, the lady who was deemed innocent by Kent Police and paid £40,000 in damages by Maxine Fothergill.

“I believe there was fraud at Mariners Walk and other Estates in 2014 and in light of the evidence contained in my Witness Statement this was, in my opinion, committed by Hayley Warnes, Ben Quaye and others acting in association with them. I believe the evidence against them is compelling”.

The evidence has already been before both the police and the High Court. The libel madness apparently extends beyond former Councillors into her circle of friends.

Another of the accountant’s gripes is that surveyor Ray Robson makes no secret of the fact he would like to see Maxine Fothergill’s AMAX Estates out of business and who can blame him for that?

 

15 June - Eastside Quarter. If it proves to be an eyesore blame Councillor Val Clark and Mayor Khan

Yesterday evening Bexley Council’s Planning Committee approved the Broadway tower blocks which will dominate the skyline for miles around after not a single word was spoken in their favour. Why was that? Because under the authoritarian Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan Planning Committees no longer have real power over major housing developments.

Firstly I should perhaps declare an interest, I think the Eastside Quarter designs for 518 dwellings are quite attractive but only in the same way that I think The Shard is quite attractive, it doesn’t mean I would like to see one built at the end of my garden. Thirteen storeys sets a dangerous precedent aimed at turning Bexley into the new Lewisham; what hope is there now for preventing Lesnes Abbey being placed in the shadow of the 14 story tower proposed for Knee Hill where it will severely damage the views of a distant City skyline?

While various Council Officers provided an illustrated description of the plans I took the opportunity to read the Agenda and found it littered with figures that conflicted with Bexley Council’s requirements or Sadiq Khan’s diktats.

Bexley aims for 35% affordable homes and Bellway claims that it will not be able to make a profit if the figure goes above 22%. (81 rented units, 29 shared ownership.)

Bexley Council is acutely aware that its transport infrastructure is poor by London standards generally and for many residents a car is essential. Khan aims to force us all on to bikes and buses. He wants to see no parking provision whatsoever in the Eastside Quarter but because his Zone 1 plan for the whole of London is not yet in operation Bexley’s Planning Officers have been able to compromise at 208 spaces.

The Council sets standards for amenity space and the distance between overlooking windows. Bellway Homes has failed on both scores, albeit by only around 10%.

Nevertheless Planning Officers accept and support all of these shortcomings probably because they know the rules and regulation and the vindictive ways of the GLA under Khan better than most but their unwavering support frequently suggests that working hand in glove with major developers may influence their impartiality.

But enough of my thoughts, what did the speakers at the Planning Committee have to say?
Committee
Two members of the public were allowed three minutes each to object to the proposals but their case came across as more emotion than fact and unlikely to carry much weight. For that Cabinet Member Brad Smith (Bexleyheath ward) stepped into the breach and made an excellent job of it. He said the current situation was that Committee decisions “had been taken over by the Mayor and this is not right”.

Smith“High rise, high density, no parking is not right for Bexley. We are not the same as Inner London Boroughs with strong and varied transport options and setting this as a precedent will encourage it to spread and become normal in Bexley. The Mayor of London is out of touch with Bexley residents. It is an early warning sign of what the Mayor plans for Bexley and we only have to look at Lewisham to see what that is.”

The plans are “oppressive and completely out of character with anything in the surrounding area. Bexley’s Growth Strategy says that tall towers are not appropriate for this area”. (It mandates no more than eight floors.)

Councillor Smith went on to criticise the lack of parking provision and politely ridiculed the developer’s sales pitch which refers to the proximity of the A2, the South Circular Road and the M25 and Bluewater being less than 15 minutes away - by car.

Bad though he believed Bellway’s proposals were he was aware of Khan’s ambition to make them even worse and later this proved to be the crucial factor.

Every following speaker was critical of the proposals along very similar lines. Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup.) said the parking provision was “woefully inadequate” and Councillor John Davey (Conservative, West Heath) said he was “totally opposed to the eyesore sticking up.”

Labour Councillors were particularly critical of the lack of affordable housing but they won support from Tories too. New man Howard Jackson (Barnehurst) simply didn’t believe that Bellway couldn’t make a decent profit out of 518 dwellings to support more than 22% affordable homes. It was “ridiculous”. He doubted the Planning Officer’s assurances that 208 parking spaces would be more than enough either.

A whole hour of such criticism went by before Councillor Andy Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) returned to what had been worrying me. The danger represented by the real villain of the piece, Sadiq Khan. “If this is refused and it goes to the Mayor he can in effect rule zero parking. That is the reality we have got to think about.” He too doubted that “a scheme of this size could not support more than 22% affordable housing”.

Councillor Dourmoush’s dire warnings about what havoc Mayor Khan could wreak on Bexley struck a chord with Councillor Linda Bailey and when Chairman Val Clark called for a vote it was she who proposed approval but not before Clark reminded the Committee of how “someone in another place” could interfere with their decision. Councillor Bailey was seconded by Councillor Dourmoush, both protesting that they did so very reluctantly because “the alternative could be even worse”.

Councillor June Slaughter said that what the Chairman alluded to was “absolutely appalling. If we don’t make a stand we won’t achieve anything. We might as well not bother to hear this application and just accept Officers’ recommendations. If we don’t make a stand we will never make a difference locally.”

She is right of course but that is the reality of electing a Mayor more interested in political correctness than the wellbeing of citizens. The Chairman ignored Councillor Slaughter. I suspect the decision had been pre-determined.

Three hands went up to approve the application and presumably the Chairman processed the mental arithmetic quickly so she stuck her hand up too to create a four all draw, she then voted in favour again as Chairman.

When Councillor Val Clark successfully aspired to be Bexley’s worst Mayor ever she constantly harangued members of the public with her claimed forensic knowledge of the words of wisdom in Sir Walter Citrine’s ‘ABC of Chairmanship’. So much so that I bought my own copy.

This is what it has to say about Chairmen abusing their power to vote and change Committee decision.
Citrine

The Chairman would be well advised to think twice before he votes at all.

When the Eastside Quarter appears to dwarf the Civic Centre when viewed from the A2 on the approach to Bexleyheath and its retail space proves as difficult to fill as some Councillors believe it might be, the one person to be blamed will not be Sadiq Khan as it should be but two votes Clark.

Note: The regular Planning Chairman, Councillor Peter Reader, was absent due to a pre-booked family holiday.

 

7 June - Welcome departures

Railway news
Crossrail Thameslink ThameslinkNetwork Rail which has dominated life in Abbey Wood since August 2013 is moving out. Their main depot was part dismantled a few months ago and this week a crane has been busy removing more of their offices.

I have travelled by train on approximately alternate days since Thameslink services commenced through Abbey Wood on 20th May and for the first few occasions went out specifically to catch one; all were cancelled.

I then reverted to just turning up and catching whatever showed up. Once I just missed a Thameslink train and twice found the next one cancelled; apart from that I never saw one. However this morning the Charing Cross train came in late and I could see the Thameslink train behind it so the wait seemed to be worthwhile.

Well it’s a train. Clean, open and quieter with hard seats and no wifi. Southeastern seems to have about 50% functioning wifi at the moment, maybe a little bit more.


Maxine Fothergill
i) Kent Police are still showing no interest in pursuing the various allegations of fraud and theft.
ii) Kent Police has shown no interest in investigating my complaint that the statement she made about me was almost entirely false and therefore a criminal offence.
iii) Kent Police are investigating their own failure to spot that Fothergill’s statement was untrue.
iv) The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has still not dropped Fothergill’s smokescreen complaint that her business rivals who succeeded in their libel case against her are the real villains of the piece.
v) Sevenoaks Court has awarded £324.45 costs for the malicious allegations made against me. The actual direct costs were £1,338.30 with various incidentals on top.

 

5 June (Part 3) - Crossrail to Ebbsfleet. An engineering challenge

I’ve crossed the Thames four times in the past six days, well eight if you are especially pedantic, and the three and a half miles to Newham has taken between 40 and 105 minutes. You can blame Bexley Council for that, more specifically you can blame Council Leader Teresa O’Neill who campaigned vigorously for the relatively small bridge planned by Labour Mayor Ken Livingston to be abandoned.

I am hoping that Crossrail and the District Line via Whitechapel will reduce waiting times and be more consistent overall. Crossrail has sounded the deathnell for Abbey Wood as we know it but there can be little doubt that it will transform rail transport choice while local roads grind to a standstill.

We nearly didn’t get Crossrail either, it was left for Teresa Pearce MP to plead for the Abbey Wood branch in Parliament. Bexley Council was against all forms of borough expansion in the late noughties, how things change. It will be in serious financial trouble if its Growth Strategy is not a success and they acknowledge it will not be a success without a Crossrail extension across the borough preferably to Ebbsfleet.

If only they had woken up to that ten years ago.

There can be little argument that a Crossrail extension must in theory at least be a good thing and today the Thames Estuary Commission appears to be on the brink of giving its support for the project. Support it may well give but how can it possibly be engineered?

CrossrailCan two additional tracks be laid parallel to the North Kent line? The ideal solution but there are numerous obstructions along the way not least of which is the Harrow Manorway flyover.

Fewer than 48 hours ago a senior Network Rail engineer told me that it would have to be taken down along with extensive modifications to Abbey Wood’s new station itself. He showed me the bridge support pillars that stand directly in line with the Crossrail terminal track. I didn’t like to tell him that he told me the same story more than a year ago, clearly no one is changing their mind.

It would be fairly easy to run a single Crossrail track as far as Erith but from there more obstructions get in the way. Not insurmountable but expensive obstacles.

How else could a Crossrail train get to Dartford and beyond? One way would be with retro-fitted third rail equipment, the capability was specified in the contract. Interspersing Crossrail trains with Southeastern or its successor would be a recipe for delays which would impact the frequent interval service across London. Dropping the pantographs would probably waste five minutes too, so where is the time advantage?

Railway enthusiast forums have touted other ideas one of which is to terminate the North Kent line at Abbey Wood. How will that improve connectivity to the east? It would require horrendous delay inducing crossovers outside the Plumstead tunnel portal as it would still be impossible to get two Crossrail tracks under the northern half of the flyover.

The solution to that would be terminating the North Kent line at Plumstead. Suddenly it doesn’t seem like much of a transport infrastructure improvement but we have recently seen railway improvements which are nothing of the sort. Still sounds like a railway enthusiast’s flight of fancy to me. No direct route from Slade Green to London Bridge. It’s slow enough as it is without introducing a change of train.

Getting the Thames Estuary Commission to back a Crossrail extension is the easy bit. There is no simple engineering answer to the extension but political minds are not always practical minds. Perhaps knocking down the new station is the way forward after all.

After all, Abbey Wood residents will all be very tolerant of yet more years of chaos and disruption to normal life, won’t they?

 

5 June (Part 2) - L&Q in the gutter

A return visit to the L&Q house at first suggested things were better. The disabled lady occupier tries to keep it clean and tidy and is not afraid to go around with a paint brush. She is no longer able to look after the garden but apart from that first impressions are not at all bad but the detail tells a different story.

Damp detector Fence As noted following the first visit too much of the house looks as though it has been subjected to the attention of a mad and incompetent DIYer anxious to get away and back to the pub.

Thanks to fresh paint the signs of damp are much diminished but closer inspection shows it bubbling through. Damp in the external walls has caused frost damage and the occasional brick has burst open and surface efflorescence can be seen here and there.

Nothing is done right. A new mortice lock has been put in crooked and the wooden frame has been splintered. Probably vulnerable to anyone with a malevolent shoulder.

Five unearthed power sockets have been taken out of use and replaced with surface fed units. Plastic trunking, some of it already falling off the wall, is a major feature of the decor. Would you willing accept one bodge job on top of another?

The floor tiles remain broken,

Efflorescence Salt Socket Door frame

The lady’s main concern is damp. She puts down salt to deter the slugs and snails and employed a surveyor; his test meter detected 51 places where damp was a problem. The tenant bought her own. (Photo 1.)

She says that when it rains the gutter overflows. It is an ordinary plastic gutter which serves four adjacent houses. At the end of last year L&Q were persuaded to replace it with one of larger capacity. They erected scaffolding - that is how the fence came to be broken - but on the appointed day the maintenance team failed to show up. Then someone else got involved and said the existing gutter was perfectly adequate.

The scaffold was taken away unused.

This video suggests there is something very wrong with the gutter. A possible cause of damp walls may not need a surveyor with a fancy meter, someone from L&Q with some sense and a ladder might be enough.

 

5 June (Part 1) - You don’t often see…

…yellow lines being removed in Bexley but yesterday it happened. The area around Alsike Road in Thamesmead and Fendyke Road in Belvedere was subjected to a very noisy and smelly burning off operation.

The lines were installed more than three years ago to allow unimpeded access to Crossrail storage sites. Whether they were ever legal is doubtful because there were no restriction warning signs but they proved effective and deprived the residents of Fendyke Road of two parking bays and a long length of single yellow line which was converted to double.

In Alsike Road commuters lost 100 metres or so of free parking space.
Fendyke Road Fendyke Road Alsike Road Alsike Road

Network Rail finished their work East of Abbey Wood station last August and the need for parking restrictions evaporated. Residents asked for the ‘temporary’ parking restrictions to be removed but to no avail.

But yesterday they were.

Nine or ten months after it could have been done and more than six months after the Neighbourhood Watch coordinator made his request, Bexley Council limped into action. There was no good reason for inconveniencing residents for longer than necessary but it is what Bexley Council does.

Whether anyone was fined for parking at the far end of Fendyke Road is unknown. I hope not. The yellow lines have no end markers and the nearest warning sign is 200 strides away beyond the junction with Fossington Road.

 

4 June - L&Q. Like it or lump it

Last October BiB reported on the state of an L&Q house south of Welling. Later today I shall go back there to see what if anything has been done to improve it.

Below are some pictures of what the place was like when I last saw it.


I occasionally find myself at my front door key in hand while a young neighbour is doing the same at the flat opposite. My key gives access to a three bedroom detached house which cost less than £70,000 and bought on a 15 year mortgage paid off in a little under five years.


RentAcross the road the rent is in the region of £850 a month and until not long ago five people squeezed into one bedroom. (Halifield Drive is the next road to mine.)

It represents a shocking disparity which is totally unfair and unsustainable yet there is not much I can do about it and it would seem those in power have shown no inclination to do anything about it for the past twenty years. There is evidence that some of those in power hide behind fine words while caring nothing.


BlazerA couple of weeks ago I was invited to see how the other half live in social housing, L&Q social housing in this particular case. I am wary about such invitations because one never know what one is getting into and Dianne Blazer, Bexley’s Housing Services Manager, had reported less than two months ago that there was nothing much wrong with the house. (See below.)

If the name Dianne Blazer rings a bell it is because she was part of the Bexley Council team which persecuted Sidcup resident Rita Grootendorst for the state of her award winning but somewhat unorthodox garden.

She and her cohorts made Rita’s life a misery until a Court put a stop to their shenanigans.

This is what Dianne Blazer thought about the L&Q house, what would I make of it?
report
I found myself at a door with an entry system and waited inside with some apprehension while the occupier slowly made her way down the stairs out of my sight until the very last moment. She was a sixty something lady who clearly took care of her appearance but was blessed with a very wheezy pair of lungs. I later discovered they might be the least of her health problems. Her medical record listed nine ailments of which diabetes, high cholesterol and cancer in remission were probably the least serious.

As one might expect of a disabled lady largely confined to an upstairs room there was a certain amount of clutter and it took a while before the full extent of the problems made their presence known. Maintenance of the house by L&Q has been the biggest bodge job I have ever seen. Nothing is properly finished off, it is as though a bungling amateur nipped down to B&Q and then ran riot with nothing better than a hammer and blunt chisel.


SafetyThe plumbing and electrics are worst affected and I was warned off of touching some sockets for fear of an electrical tingle.

The occupant complained of damp but the weather had been fine and the only signs were a suspicion of it on door mats and paint and paper peeling from the walls.

I have video (which refuses to play on line) of water pouring over gutters and down the walls. There was mildew here and there but not too much of the horrible black stuff.

Ms. Blazer might report that the house is basically up to standard but I bet she wouldn’t want to live in it.

Let’s look at some pictures.

L&Q L&Q L&Q L&Q

There is no fan either up or downstairs but switches exist.

Want to see some more?
L&Q L&Q L&Q L&Q
The plumbing is not up to much either and you have to mind your head because masonry randomly falls from the roof and the eaves.
L&Q L&Q L&Q L&Q
What about the floor and such like? Not good.
L&Q L&Q L&Q L&Q
The damp has taken its toll.
L&Q L&Q L&Q L&Q
The doors are ill fitting and the windows badly sealed. The garden path has subsided and been patched. Redundant pipes are capped and left to provide trip hazards.
L&Q L&Q L&Q L&Q
And whatever you do don’t go up into the roof space.
L&Q L&Q L&Q L&Q
Everything is, as you can see, a bit of a bodge. A young person might be able to improve some things given plenty of money but a disabled lady can do nothing. It’s not just Dianne Blazer who knows about the situation but finds it “in good repair”, so does Bexley Director David Bryce-Smith. Councillor John Waters and David Evennett MP are aware too.

Both politicians have visited and the lady occupier speaks highly of both of them but they can do nothing other than suggest suing L&Q. David Bryce-Smith would probably say that living in squalor in Welling is better than being sent to Birmingham but that would only emphasise how desperate the housing situation is in Bexley.

What has L&Q done apart from bodging every job they have been persuaded to look at?

Their present stance is that they are going to do nothing more to help because a lady with emphysema, fibrosis of the lung and idiopathic pulmonary disease shouted at their carpenter. Ah diddums! Where would she get the breath from?

Another of their excuses is that they haven’t been given “two weeks unfettered access”. Maybe the poor lady does not wish to be homeless for a fortnight. Her only relations live overseas and she would never be able to make the journey.

It’s enough to make one turn socialist until one realises that their house building record is even worse than the other bunch of incompetents.

I suspect this case will require a periodic update.

All house photos 8th October 2017.

 

2 June - Work continues…

Harrow ManorwayThere may be next to nothing going on politically in Bexley but work on its creaking northern infrastructure continues. The A2016 Eastern Way - effectively the Thamesmead bypass - is closed because of a major problem with a bridge and the diversionary route is severely restricted by the road works associated with the Harrow Manorway regeneration.

There have been reports of motorists taking an hour to get out of Thamesmead, certainly traffic queuing up Knee Hill is becoming a far too regular occurrence. Goodness know what things will be like when the Elizabeth Line opens.

The Harrow Manorway Photo Album has been updated and the latest pictures may be seen here.

The most notable development in the past week has been the installation of lamp posts.

This weeked is another with no trains on the North Kent line. The main activity is building a cage around the Gayton Road stairs to the flyover to stop idiots lobbing missiles at passing trains.

Last week another Crossrail train parked outside Abbey Wood station was vandalised.

Latest Crossrail photos. The tiny Abbey Wood station car park is nearing completion. A senior Network Rail engineer told me this week that contrary to what was suggested on the local Facebook group that it is still the intention that the car park will be publicly accessible - if you can afford the fee.

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