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Bonkers Blog December 2015

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10 December (Part 1) - Be afraid. Be very afraid if you live near Old Farm Avenue

For some reason the headlong rush towards selling Old Farm Park reminds me of the similar stampede to sell Hill View in Welling.


OfficesIt’s not quite the same, one open space is a park and the other was not totally green, there was a council office in the middle of Hill View surrounded by greenery but a council office is quiet by day and silent at night and weekends.

However the need to ignore public opinion by selling Hill View in order to shore up Bexley’s spending plans were not much different to what is going on now with Old Farm Park.

In the case of Hill View, councillors wanted the money to finance their own apology for a Town Hall in Watling Street so the planning rules were thrown out of the window too.

Local residents, just like those in Sidcup, formed a campaign group long before the sale of Hill View went through, it’s nine years old now. They engaged consulting engineers, solicitors, went to court and formed a Neighbourhood Forum under the Localism Act. Bexley council initially resisted their plans to do so but the residents' determination was all to no avail. The council marched on regardless. To stop, listen or in any way hesitate may have delayed Teresa O’Neill OBE (Obstacles Banished Emphatically) from becoming the Queen of Watling Street.

The planning meeting was a farce. The site suffered from serious flooding and councillor James Hunt related how “mushrooms are growing up walls”. Councillor Michael Slaughter also said he was very unhappy with the drainage situation. He objected to the fact that two storey houses had bedrooms in the roof space which he didn’t think warranted the two storey designation.


BellwayThe major problem with the planning application was that it breached Bexley council’s proximity rules. 16 metres between blank walls and 22 metres between windowed walls. To circumvent the 22 metre rule conservatories and even kitchens in existing houses were redesignated as not being habitable rooms and so their windows didn’t count. That subterfuge came undone when a council officer conceded that the discounted windows broke the 16 metre rule too.

Five of the ten planning committee members were critical of the application, four said nothing and only the obnoxious councillor Val Clark spoke in favour. However it was approved unanimously. The OBE (Owns Backpassage Exclusively) who must be obeyed rules supreme.

By the beginning of this year, Hill View was a mud bath and this week I decided to go and take another look. Access is not easy but there is a passage between some houses that leads to a couple of bungalows which provide a better view. I knocked on the door of one of them because I had spoken to Ron Brewster who lives at No. 9 before as a member of the campaign group.

His garden is not adjacent to the Hill View plot so his neighbours are perhaps more affected than he is but this is the view that greeted me from his back garden


Hill View
I asked Ron if the block nearest him was three storeys but he said their extreme height was due to them being built on raised ground and the roofs were very steep - to accommodate the bedrooms mentioned at the planning meeting presumably. There were subterranean drainage systems including water tanks beneath.

He let me have a map of the area.
Plan
The remarkable thing about that map is that the tall block pictured above is adjacent to the ‘Avoid overlooking’ planning condition. I asked Ron how Bellway Homes could have got away with that and the answer, apart from the obvious, that they could do what they like once planning permission was granted, was that he believed Bexley’s Planning Control only dealt with minor house extensions and the like, and the larger schemes are handed over to the developer to ‘police’ his own project.

The following pictures were all taken from areas where overlooking was supposed to be avoided, instead ugly blocks dominate the skyline and the small space that separates them from their established neighbours is to become a children’s play area. The tallest block is the so called affordable housing. Prices range from £429,995 to £599,995.
Bellway Homes Bellway Homes Bellway Homes Bellway Homes

Photographs not taken from nearest overlooked garden.

My opinion of Bexley council and predictions for Old Farm Park must have made depressing reading for many Sidcup residents, these pictures will not improve matters. Neither will Ron Brewster’s report that the wrecking of outlooks, not to mention the serious effect on house values, has caused the whole area to go downhill. In some cases, tensions have arisen between residents as a direct consequence.

Once again Bexley council has put its own needs above those of residents. What do you call a council where only one voice out of ten backs a planning application but votes it through unanimously? Certainly not honest, more probably corrupt.

I’d love to find any aspect of Bexley’s infrastructure that has improved since 2006 but every single action taken by this council is either an attack on residents individually, bin taxes, residents’ parking charges, rebanding of parking penalty areas in order to extort more money, failing vulnerable children etc., or on whole areas, silly roundabouts, restricted junctions, parks neglected and public toilets shut. Can it be true that most people still haven’t noticed because the erosion is gradual? I suspect it is.

 

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