On 16th April I said I planned to
count the number of empty shops on Broadway; that was before the Bexleyheath Business
Improvement District (BID) Manager,
Ian Payne announced that there were 14,
so Friday morning found me walking from the new Civic Offices and Marriott Hotel to Upton Road and
back snapping at everything that was either closed, or looked closed or was in the process of closing down.
I was caught in the act by none other than Ian Payne himself. Being spotted around town by council officers is not unprecedented, David Bryce-Smith (Deputy Director Housing) has briefly acknowledged my presence but all other noses have been stuck firmly in the air. David, I’ve just remembered, is the only person at any council meeting who carefully walks behind the ‘press table’ so as not to obstruct the view when exiting the chamber mid meeting for any reason. I hope I don’t get him into trouble for revealing his consideration for those who pay his salary.
Ian Payne, as you might guess if you read last week’s blog, is quite unlike other Bexley council personnel. He didn’t know my name - it’s on the Contact page Ian - but he stopped and congratulated me on the blog. He said his daughter thought it got his character just right; how honest is that? The man is absolutely brimming with enthusiasm for his job and we must have stood chatting for 15 minutes or more.
The contrast between the reaction of this man when faced with the political blogging phenomenon (it’s not yet reached his home town of Bromley) and his political boss, Teresa O’Neill, is amazing. Ian effortlessly made a friend and ally but when I first started blogging, Teresa O’Neill marched straight up to the police station to see if she could have me arrested for “criticising councillors”.
Her apparently corrupt friends (I base that adjective on new official information that has come my way which I cannot reveal) were only too happy to oblige and issued a warning to me and John Kerlen who at the time had been blogging for less than a week.
It was a year or so before the Independent Police Complaints Commission ruled that Bexleyheath police had no grounds on which to succumb to O’Neill’s demands and had disregarded their own procedural safeguards. Not one officer was punished for this little bit of police corruption and so they went on to do the same but on a bigger scale when councillor Peter Craske’s phone line was shown to be the source of homophobic obscenities.
How different things might have been if Bexley’s council leader Teresa O’Neill was not a power crazed control freak.
Ian Payne was not only keen to tell me more about what was happening on his beloved Broadway but happy to answer questions too. Perhaps he is unaware of Bexley council’s minimal transparency policy. I’ve had Conservative councillors speak to me briefly only to hurry away making excuses if Teresa O’Neill is seen on the horizon.
I asked Ian about footfall (because his explanation on Tuesday could have been more comprehensive) and he said there were three ‘beam counters’ above Broadway that measured it. I said I had just noticed his office on Broadway (see second photo) and he explained that it is not his office but a derelict shop and he had got so fed up with it he arranged its decoration himself.
The BID extends from the Marriott Hotel on Gravel Hill along Broadway to Lion Road, opposite the Esso filling station. My walk extended further and thereby found rather more than 14 closed looking premises. I know Wise’s furniture store is closing soon because as a former customer they sent me a letter about it.
There were four shops no longer trading in The Mall too, though one of them may have been undergoing a refit.
the above pictures gathered together portray a certain amount of dereliction a
comparison with the previous
similar feature exactly a year ago indictes a fairly rapid turnover. On the
other hand that first feature showed only twelve shops and this time there are
When Labour councillor Seán Newman said of Mr. Payne “You painted a very rosy view of Bexleyheath but it is not one that I recognise” he may well have had a point, but I doubt anyone could have done more than the energetic Ian Payne.
When Mr. Payne was addressing the Public Realm Committee last Tuesday he commented on the number of shops investing a lot of money in Bexleyheath and said the Games Workshop was one of them and a valuable addition to the high street. It’s not a door I shall ever pass through but I shall take his word for it. It looks smart, I’ll give him that.
I suspect that if there is anything not quite right about what is written above, Ian Payne will let me know. Whilst he is keen to play down his role as a Bromley councillor I doubt he will adopt Bexley’s prehistoric approach to public scrutiny any time soon.
Note: Looking at the photograph, I’m not absolutely sure that Toni & Guy is permanently closed but it certainly gave that impression at the time.