As already noted, Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting saw a lot of interesting and
probably good stuff announced - although perhaps not enough of it.
Sidcup town centre has been in some sort of turmoil for as long as I have been following such things, usually with a massive impact on traffic flow. It was closed again last Tuesday when I tried to drive through.
The shopping centre has gone down hill and was then dragged up a bit by Mrs. Richardson’s 2014 regeneration plan and now she says it is on the slide again, the ever constant threat posed by out of town shopping centres the internet and the free car parking offered by both.
The major changes that are imminent are the cinema and library with flats included on the corner of Elm Road, the Blockbuster site, and the transformation of the old Manor House into a hotel and spa. The old library in Hadlow Road will be “redeveloped for residential use”.
Ms. Richardson showed a few pictures which may be seen here. Demolition of the old Blockbuster store will commence “in the next few weeks”
Councillor Craske said he was excited by the design of the library and cinema and digressed into the long history of his library success story in Bexley. The increased footfall and visitor numbers; always the spin doctor he once was.
Unfortunately Councillor Craske had forgotten that the successful trend was kick started by the Labour decision to move Blackfen Library into the town centre.
Sidcup’s new library and cinema is scheduled to open in the Summer of 2021.
The debate moved on to digital infrastructure and Graham Ward who is Deputy Director of Infrastructure Delivery or some such thing - when is Bexley Council going to update its staff structure web page as it still refers to several people who have gone to pastures new? - said that BT had provided “significant investment in digital infill”. 11,000 more Bexley homes served by fast broadband.
Councillor Craske said that “free wi-fi in town centres is the right thing to do”. Councillor French was rightly concerned about misuse of the facility with a veiled reference to the school pupils who loiter in the Broadway. Mr. Ward assured him it could be selectively switched off.
In the north of the borough plans for Cory’s waste incinerator to provide district heating were advancing nicely.
On and off street electric charging points were planned and a contractor appointed. Chargemaster, it’s owned by BP.
I should perhaps declare an interest here. I suspect I was the only person present in the Chamber who runs a fully electric vehicle, not one of those half baked and frequently useless hybrids. One currently being seen on TV adverts will do almost a mile without using its internal combustion engine but only if you don’t go over 30 miles per hour or go uphill. Last weekend I did a 300 mile plus trip without having to recharge the battery and entirely on free electricity. I am saving about £1,200 a year on fuel costs and another hundred or so on service charges. End of advert.
Councillor Craske said the borough must be kept “in the forefront” of such developments and Councillor John Fuller agreed, referencing Mayor Khan’s Ultra Low Emission Zone.
Councillor David Leaf correctly said it was difficult to hit “the sweet spot” on some technology projects and not be either too early or too late. He looked forward to the income the concession would generate. “As much income as possible would be greatly appreciated.”
The ins and outs of charging electric cars are far too complex and I doubt anyone at Bexley Council knows much of the subject. Hopefully Chargemaster - not my favourite supplier - will not let them do anything too silly.
Councillor French asked how the locations of street charging points were selected. He was concerned about the impact on “existing parking stress”. The answer appeared to be at the least used parking places and close to convenient power supplies. No word about where might be best for the vehicle owners. The hope is that they wil be spread across the borough and not just in Bexleyheath.
Chargemaster 7kW charging points are double headed. The 13 units to be provided will service 26 parking bays. The expectation is that more will go into Council owned car parks and maybe even faster chargers - 50kW or more - close to major roads.
District heating, free wi-fi and vehicle charging points will not have any impact on Bexley’s budget. Labour Councillors were in favour of all the Cabinet proposals.
Note: Fully electric vehicle owners are a comparatively rare breed in the UK and have formed a variety of user groups. I mentioned Bexley’s plans on a Kent based one and whilst there is always a welcome for any new infrastructure Bexley’s 13 were seen as no more than a gesture. “13 wow, really going for it” from a Plumstead resident. It is easy to criticise but it is a delicate chicken and egg situation. The charging companies have to operate at a profit but there are not enough customers out there yet and most in Bexley will be able to charge cheaply at home or at shopping cenres.
While the supermarkets offer free charging, Lidl has a free 50kW unit, the only thing going for Bexley’s chargers is ubiquity, and 13 is a long way off that.
On a pedantic note, the ‘chargers’ planned by Bexley Council are not chargers, they are merely 7kW power outlets that can have a two way conversation with the car. The 7kW charger is on board the car itself. The 50kW chargers are chargers feeding the battery directly.