The Places Scrutiny meeting dealt with more than the crooked consultation on selling parks and the repercussions of the bin tax. Mrs. Richardson’s review of borough growth and regeneration was yet to come and usually worth waiting for.
Her first item was about Thamesmead. Peabody has finished the design for the next phase of building around Coralline Walk and Tavy Bridge and a planning application is to be expected “around February”.
Just the other side of the railway line the Wilton Road Christmas Market came in for a mention and 20 traders have made applications for grants which are to be assessed today. (11th December.)
In just under two minutes Jane Richardson had covered all of her brief. It’s hard not to like Jane’s approach to reporting. Clearly spoken, interesting, brief and to the point.
Shop vacancies in Belvedere are under review. Up the hill in Nuxley Road or at the bottom of the hill where the Tesco had shut, local councillor Seán Newman wanted to know. Ms. Richardson spoke only about Lower Belvedere and “Tesco were being exceptionally coy as they are entitled to be” but it was making her job difficult.
Cabinet member Linda Bailey said there were plans for more Farmers’ Markets in Erith and elsewhere.
Councillor Brian Beckwith (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) asked for an update about the possible regeneration of Blackfen. Mrs. Richardson said she was bidding for £130,000 so there was no scope for very big changes. The cooperation of local businesses is being sought, help with future maintenance may be required.
Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) asked how many of the 20 Wilton Road bids came from each side of the borough boundary which runs down the middle of the road. The answer to that was unknown but it was hoped that all business that “put in a constructive application would be helped in some way”.
Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) asked about “the massive void we have just down the road from here”. I thought at first he had found another big crack in the Broadway blocks but it transpired that he meant the hole on the ground that Tesco had left behind.
He slipped in a comment about the failure to include an overage clause in the contract as advocated by Labour at the time of the land sale. For some unaccountable reason the Conservative councillors decided that laughter was the best response to being outmaneuvered by Tesco and the resultant probable loss of a revenue stream.
Stefano went on at some length commenting on the lack of basic infrastructure to support the new houses in Slade Green and the fact that social housing had increased by only 32 in the last couple of years.
Ms. Richardson did well to remember all the questions. She said that in Slade Green provision had been made for infrastructure growth but there was no money to build it.
On the subject of Tesco’s void “the owners have received a number of offers but they have chosen not to share this yet”.
Acting Chief Executive Paul Moore was able to add a little meat to the bare bones. He “was in discussion with Tesco, the future would be mixed use, a combination of retail and housing. I will decline the opportunity to open up the box on what we could have done, there was another deal we could have done. In terms of that site going forward I expect some news coming forward in the new year and as soon as I can release that publicly I will share that with members”.
Councillor Val Clark mumbled almost inaudibly and aimlessly but it was something about congratulating staff. Always a good move when failing to find anything worthwhile to say.
Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) was pleased to have seen the market come to Erith and that Parkspring Court and Pier Road might gain tenants for the long vacant units there.
He also asked why all the town centres apart from Northumberland Heath had Christmas lights. Ms. Richardson said they had all been offered money but North Heath did not respond. She had chased them three times and the ward members too. The Northumberland Heath councillor chairing the meeting managed not to blush.
Councillor June Slaughter was concerned about government proposals that would allow local authorities to build starter homes on green belt land. Ms. Richardson was suitably cautious in her reply but councillor Gareth Bacon was of the opinion that Bexley’s green belt was often “scrub and really worthless land”. Some “looks really untidy and something like that may benefit from some building development”.
The chairman ruled no more questions and moved on to more boring matters. Whilst they did not come up for discussion the Agenda covered some subjects which may be of wider interest.
There is a lease is to be granted to a third party for Erith’s Carnegie Building. There are unspecified changes afoot for “street parking arrangements” and after beginning to issue penalties for moving traffic offences (U-turns etc.) last August, Bexley council’s greed for money is to be extended. I imagine that “Extending the method of enforcement” can only mean that the fixed CCTV cameras installed at taxpayers’ expense to enhance their protection is now to be turned upon them in order to further persecute the population. Life under this council gets progressively more oppressive.