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London Borough of Culture

Bonkers Blog July 2015

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London Borough of Culture

14 July (Part 3) - Saving the Splash Park. Imposed conditions near impossible to meet

Bexley council’s response to their Splash Park consultant’s report went up on their website yesterday in the form of a report to Cabinet. There is a meeting scheduled for next Tuesday.

The content of the consultant’s report was covered in some detail in June. It listed the water quality problems and some expensive solutions.

Faye FrancisThe natural inclination of a council that said it didn’t want to spend any money on repairing its infrastructure and objected to the £20,000 a year (less kiosk profits) the park had cost to maintain was never in doubt. They unilaterally announced its closure last Autumn and only an energetic campaign led by Faye Ockleford and the three Belvedere councillors headed up by Daniel Francis (Labour) has kept the bulldozers at bay.

Every uncaring Conservative will have been asking themselves “what are we doing spending money on kiddies’ entertainment?”, hence councillor Tandy’s outburst, “the Splash Park has got to go”.

The cost of fixing the Splash Park’s problems are undoubtedly high. Estimates vary but they are all in the same ball park as what a Chief Executive with little to do and under investigation by the police for Misconduct in Public office costs each year, or if you prefer, what the Conservative councillors refused to give up when UKIP suggested slashing allowances by a third.

To add to the woes the consultant’s estimate of the ongoing running costs were higher than anticipated, in the region of £40,000 a year.

From the outset, Bexley council has said that Splash Park renewal must be cost neutral and whilst money has been identified which might just be sufficient to save the park, the responsible cabinet member refused to ring fence any of those sources. Belvedere is not a Conservative council’s favourite place, presumably that money will head south.

CraskeFrom every point of view the outlook for a rejuvenated Splash Park was never good. Putting councillor Peter Craske in charge may have been the last straw. He is now advocating a commercial venture or decommissioning. His absolute priority is no money can be spent.

To allow commercial interests to come forward the formal decision will be deferred to the Autumn but Craske intends to strike a hard bargain if he cannot be seen to kill the Splash Park now.

He wants a ten year bond, total risk transfer and insurance.

Any Conservative of the Slash and Burn persuasion, happy to preside over a cultural desert will see Craske’s point of view. What is a council doing running a paddling pool? They don’t run sports centres or gymnasiums, they don’t any longer run museums, they wanted nothing to do with Bexley’s historic buildings and they tried to sell off the allotments. If they can they will relinquish control of libraries too. The council’s ambition for Bexley is that it become a lifeless dormitory town at the end of Crossrail with the increased tax base preventing it falling to bottom place in the council tax league table.

The last thing Craske wants to do is run an entertainment facility for people who might not vote for his party . The same mind set, in reverse, that saw Craske spend money on CCTV in low crime Bexley village and none in Thamesmead.

For a Peter Craske document the cabinet report is remarkably free of outright lies. The most notable is Craske‘s reference to the Splash Park being supported by only “a small number of Bexley residents”. For someone who refused to meet any campaigner how would he know anything about the numbers?

5,719 people on Facebook would beg to differ, a number five to ten times larger than Bexley council has in the past taken as a ringing endorsement of its budgets etc.

Deputy council leader Alex Sawyer who said several times that he didn’t want to see the Splash Park closed will presumably be bitterly disappointed. A ten year banker’s bond to cover the failure of any commercial enterprise must surely be its death knell.

I take no pleasure in being a told-you-so know-it-all, I hate the idea of the borough becoming a Philistine’s Paradise and I am not at all confident that the Splash Park will not see high rise accommodation with stupendous views across the Thames.
Thames view

This photo from only half way up Heron Hill.

The covenant that prevents building on the site appears to be nothing but a myth.
Covenant
It stops nothing being built on the site apart from another public house.

Bexley council’s Press Release.
Bexley Times report.
News Shopper report.

 

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