Unlike the Old Manor Way playground people and those from the Splash Park campaign who have been very noisy, not once did I hear anything directly about the similar campaign being conducted in Sidcup.
There, as elsewhere in the borough, no one likes the idea of selling off parks and open spaces. “Once sold you can never get land back” and “it is pure folly to sell off the family silver”. Both comments heard yesterday evening outside the Civic Offices where a considerable number of residents had gathered, accompanied by hoots from sympathetic motorists passing by, to voice their opinion on the proposed sale of the park in Old Farm Avenue. Incidentally, both comments came from Conservative councillors.
The deputation was led by new councillor Rob Leitch who has in his first year in office moved well away from being a one trick pony confined to singing the praises of Sidcup High Street’s regeneration to a bundle of energy making his mark on the town both in the council chamber and in his ward.
He has been championed by long time councillor - she’d kill me if I said veteran - June Slaughter and both were out on the council steps along with councillor Aileen Beckwith clearly demonstrating which side they are on.
I don’t to be honest, know much about Aileen Beckwith. That will be because she has never done anything silly enough to get herself noticed. She smiles and acknowledges my presence which is a big advance on some I could name. The name Aileen has turned up in blogs only half a dozen times from which you may draw your own conclusion.
Councillor Slaughter presented the petition signatures to the Chief Executive. There were 2,500 and something. The actual number was lost due to the inadequate microphone system which continued to misbehave throughout the evening.
Councillor Leitch sponsored the deputation and Mrs. Tracey Bridge who was spokesman was allowed to speak for five whole minutes.
Her theme was that Bexley council is only the custodian of our land charged with looking after it for the benefit of residents. It is not for them to sell it off for short term unprincipled gain.
In the recent past Bexley council has refused nearby planning applications on the grounds that that corner of the borough has insufficient open spaces. Old Farm Avenue Park is home to bats, slow worms and peregrine falcons.
It was a hard hitting speech and no doubt supported by every Bexley resident. You may listen to it and the preliminaries here.
Following that councillor Leitch asked if Bexley had done anything to improve
Old Farm Avenue Park.
Mrs. Bridge said the council had planted over 2,000 trees in 2003 which are only just reaching maturity. The aim was to improve conditions for wildlife. In 2013 the recommendation was that the park was given Grade II status.
Councillor Beckwith asked Mrs. Bridge to list the type of people using the park and she launched into a long list of sporting and other activities.
Prearranged questions and answers sometimes have their uses.
I wasn’t at first sure how councillor Slaughter asking Mrs. Bridge if she knew the sale proceeds were intended to safeguard other parks was supposed to help her case but Mrs. Bridge said she was aware of it, and went on to cast doubt on the legality of the scheme. The money cannot be ring fenced. I think Mrs. Bridge’s response could be summarised as she did not believe a word that Bexley council said. Wise woman.
Councillor Beazley (UKIP, St. Michaels) asked Mrs. Bridge if there were plans for residents to take a greater interest in maintaining the park in future years. There were.
And with that, mayor Sybil Camsey wrapped up proceedings and almost every member of the public left the building which means they will not have heard council leader Teresa O’Neill OBE (Ordering Blind Endorsement) say this…
I’m afraid she was imploring her loyal followers to stick with the faith and sell Old Farm Avenue Park regardless of the protestations. To hell with bats and slow worms. Profit before People and Peregrines. Vile woman.