12 November - Rats and squalor is Bexley councils preferred option - click any image for photo gallery (2 images and site plan)
is a rather curious entry on the councils
list of Listed Buildings
published last month; it is for The Harrow Inn on Abbey Road, curious because it was
demolished in 2009, a victim of the Labour government allowing imposition of
full business rates on unoccupied buildings and Bexleys avarice in promptly
applying it. We now have the bomb-site shown here. What is needed is a nice
modern building, something elegant and graceful to transform this run-down area
of town. Something light and airy, curved to fit the site and maybe lots of glass.
Well it could have been like that but Bexley council turned down the plans. Why? They said the site was too noisy.
There are approved standards for noise in buildings and noise levels are graded into four bands. The Harrow Inn site fell into the third category and a building there would need careful and expensive sound insulation; the developer knew that and employed the services of a leading specialist in the field, but the council was intransigent and said it only approved buildings in areas graded in the first two noise categories. Like far too much of Bexley councils operation that wasnt strictly truthful. The new flats at 16-72 James Watt Way, Erith, when measured with approved equipment were 3db louder than Abbey Road at its worst and fell into noise grade 4. Not surprising with a six lane road on one side, five on another and the railway running alongside. Those flats were approved by Bexley council just before the Abbey Road ones were rejected and when challenged Bexley council claimed not to know anything about the earlier approval. Very suspicious.
My experience of making a planning application is limited and not in Bexley. It was turned down in direct contravention of The Town and Country Planning Act which ensured the decision was eventually overturned. When I subsequently discussed the matter with my solicitor he said Did you offer them something?. On enquiring what he meant he repeated the phrase and added, you know; some money. †
I have obtained a plan of the proposal for Knee Hill (see gallery) and when you next see a rat scurrying across this derelict site and wonder why it is left as it is, blame Bexley council. It could have been home to smart new flats and helped bring the area up and be good for local businesses, but Bexley council imposed a noise rule they arbitrarily and inconsistently apply. At least there was no under-hand business, well not at the Abbey Road site anyway.
† Mr. Wood, Clifford Cowling & Co. Fleet, Hants. Hart District Council.