I only go to planning meetings if the application is of interest to me,
selfish I suppose but there is no time to go to all of them. Despite my presence
being a rarity the Chairman, Peter Reader, always goes out of his way to make
me feel welcome. He’s always done it even in the bad old days when Bexley
Council was playing all sorts of anti-democratic tricks.
The attraction for me last night was Peabody’s plan to build a ten storey tower accommodating 66 flats where the locally listed Harrow Inn public house stood until 2009. It was my nearest pub and I have only the vaguest recollection of going into it just once with a work mate in the late 1980s.
Peabody was talking about putting in their application as long ago as the summer of 2017 but they took their time and made sure that most local residents and businesses were broadly in favour.
They first exhibited their plans in March 2018 but they didn’t go down with residents as well as Peabody had hoped. In particular the building was too tall at 14 storeys. Peabody went back to the drawing board.
Nearly a year later they were back with four storeys lopped off the tower and most commentators approved. The Abbey Wood Traders’ Association is wholly in favour and looks forward to more retail space becoming available and is confident that one of the big names opening an ‘£xpressֹ’ style store will benefit the whole area which is badly in need of some sort of uplift.
Would the Councillors see things the same way?
Vice-Chairman Val Clark (Falcon Wood and Welling) was pleased to see an application that included affordable homes but was worried for the occupiers of flats that would look out on to the flyover at the same level. Unfortunately none of the available photographs and diagrams showed exactly which floor might be affected; the second looked most likely but the design would put them quite a long way back from the road behind the car park.
Councillor Alan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s and St. James) was less than enthusiastic about the development saying it was going to stand out like a sore thumb and said straight away that he didn’t like it. “It is rather too large and has a horrible overbearing impact on the area”.
Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) “echoed those concerns. It is positively over-powering and if I lived nearby I would feel completely swamped by its extent. It is oppressive in its bulk and its height”. She was also concerned about the health implications of a building with roads on all four sides. “They will never be able to open a window and Manorside Close will be completely swamped. I have enormous concerns about the height of the building and the living conditions.”
Councillor Nicola Taylor (Labour, Erith) made similar comments.
Councillor Howard Jackson (Conservative, Barnehurst) thought the building looked “quite attractive and perfectly fitting for the area”. He had the foresight to see that the area needs a new look and building something in keeping with the run down Wilton Road is exactly what is not needed there.
Councillor Brian Bishop (Conservative, Barnehurst) thought the objections by residents had been “reasonably well” addressed by planning officers. He too recognised that “the area is changing. It is in keeping with the developments going on in that area and the height of it does not distract from village life It will be a very good addition to the area. It ticks all the boxes”.
Approval of the plan was proposed and seconded by Councillors Clark and Jackson. The number of objectors was probably two but not very clear from my seated position and not revealed by the webcast either.
Car parking will probably become an issue; the 66 flats (18 affordable) will be provided with only six spaces for disabled use only, all of them cabled up for electric car charging with only two bays fully equipped at the outset. Everyone but the disabled will be expected to find a space on the surrounding streets. The estimate is that only 15 flat occupants will own a car and Council officers said that sufficient spare spaces are available in the Gayton Road car park and on Abbey Road or further away beyond the CPZ boundary. With the likelihood of a CPZ extension after Crossrail services commence it would seem reasonable to assume that the aforesaid Council officers are a bunch of optimists.