After councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) made the point that conducting a user survey at Old Farm Park during a wet week in October showed a lack of forethought on a project that had been in the planning for a whole year, the OBE (Outclassed. Bested. Eclipsed) allowed councillor June Slaughter to say her piece. A decision she soon regretted if her contorted face was any guide.
Councillor Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) apologised for the absence of her colleague Rob Leitch, detained by his day job, and then got straight down to business. “Bexley’s Open Spaces Strategy”, she said, records that “the borough faces the biggest challenge associated with population growth and the effective provision of parks an open spaces will be essential if the quality of life is to be maintained and enhanced.”
“A key objective of the London Plan is to accommodate London’s growth without encroaching on open spaces. The strongly held views of residents are being ignored.”
“Paragraph nine of the Land and Property Framework stipulates that no land can be disposed of without the approval of the appropriate cabinet member yet the decision set out in tonight’s Agenda apparently passes to the General Purposes Committee for [quoting from the documentation] the final decision whether or not to dispose of the four sites.”
She said that their written authority seemed not to allow that and that the committee could not be regarded as impartial at that late stage of the procedure.
Mrs. Slaughter had not missed a mistake in the presentation to cabinet. The map of the land to be sold which was included in the Agenda did not match the written statement alongside it.
Councillor Slaughter also took issue with the report’s emphasis on the claimed “relatively high level of publicly accessible space in Bexley”. However the Department for Communities open spaces database showed that Bexley was in fourth from bottom position among the Outer London Boroughs. She suggested that the cabinet was relying on statistics that had been manipulated.
For another example the Sidcup area was said “to have an overprovision of open space without the Sidcup area being defined”. The alternatives to Old Farm Park were across railway lines and very busy roads and at least ten minutes’ walk away.
The council’s report also makes it clear that “the area is deficient in natural and semi-natural open space”. Councillor Slaughter ridiculed the suggestion the developer might be made to mitigate the damage by turning the portion of Old Farm Park that is to escape his clutches into a new natural habitat. “But that is exactly what it is already.” Neither did residents like the suggestion that a formal children’s play area might be installed there.
Councillor Peter Craske did not escape the kicking. He had complained earlier that the campaign group did not engage with him but it was Craske who declined the invitation to meet with them.
The council claimed borough wide support for selling open spaces but as councillor Slaughter reminded us, only 394 people took part in that first consultation and what is more, Bexley council was at the time keeping the identity of those open spaces a closely guarded secret.
In March this year the council’s planning committee rejected an application for development at a sports ground “just down the road from Old Farm Park” for “absolutely the same objections made by the residents for Old Farm Park.
“The savings cannot be ring fenced.” (June is diplomatically putting the boot into Alex Sawyer’s idiotic speech now.) “Old Farm Park should not have to be sacrificed to bear the cost of the maintenance of parks throughout the borough when there are alternatives that could be pursued to meet the costs”.
The cabinet squirmed and began planning their revenge on the loose cannon in their midst. (See Tweet above.)
Well deserved rapturous applause followed but with one exception, not from the Tory benches. Councillor Aileen Beckwith (Sidcup) said she “totally agreed with everything councillor Slaughter just said. We are trying to represent residents”.
The only official response to the onslaught came from Deputy Director Toni Ainge who said she had “struggled” to find councillor Slaughter’s Department of Communities’ open spaces figures. She alluded to the fact that statistics can be manipulated. Well she should know!
Councillor Beazley (UKIP, St. Michael’s) made a reference to Bexley’s Listening to you slogan and noted that Bexley’s financial black hole stretching out to 2018 is exactly the same as Britain’s daily contribution to the European Union.
His colleague Lynn Smith (UKIP, Blackfen & Lamorbey) made the point that all the Conservatives had already voted for the budget cuts, “everything since was a pointless exercise” especially so with the General Purposes Committee being dominated by Conservatives. Pointless exercise? I think Lynn must be a Bonkers reader.
Lynn was rewarded with applause from the public gallery and groans from the Conservatives. The OBE (Outwitted By Erudition) effectively said tough. “The Conservatives are in power”, like it or lump it, she gloated, as if she was speaking on behalf of ISIS in Raqqa.
I suspect I know whose head will be on the block next.