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Bonkers Blog February 2016

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19 February - Giving with one hand…

To improve the Public Realm around Abbey Wood station once the new Crossrail station opens, £6 million has been earmarked. That would make the contrast with the adjacent Wilton Road far too great and to make it look a little more enticing, £300,000 was offered by the GLA and both Greenwich and Bexley Councils. (£150k. plus two times £75k.)

The initial exchange of ideas ranged over changes to the paving, the parking, maybe some benches, certainly some trees, possibly a proscenium arch, improved shop fronts and maybe interiors too. Step by step most of that has fallen by the wayside.

Wilton RoadFollowing public consultations, meetings with and design presentations to the newly formed Traders’ Association and latterly individual shop owners, offer letters have been sent out by Bexley and Greenwich Councils to shop owners during this past week.

Ever since the design consultants met with individual traders I have been hearing stories to the effect that a third of the money has gone already with nothing at all to show for it.

How true this is is hard to say but it was alleged that it hadn’t all gone on design consultant fees but that the Councils had been charging for their services too.

I might have taken it with a pinch of salt but having seen one of the proposals for the Bexley side of the road I was shocked to see that Bexley Council was adding £900 to the bill for the planning application at that address.

This is for a shop front redesign - actually just replacing what is there already - that is entirely a council proposal which the shop owner is not especially keen on.

To take back £900 for rubber stamping something that Bexley Council has already approved is extraordinarily mean spirited. The offer forbids the shop owner from making any changes to Bexley's proposed design. Perhaps his story that £100k. is already “missing” from the fund is true.

It was reported that ten applications were made from each side of the road which suggests that circa £18,000 of the Mayor’s money might be clawed back by the councils in planning fees alone.

I understand that one trader has already told his council to take a jump and I spent a couple of hours yesterday trying to persuade another not to do the same.

Probably both councils have wasted a great deal of taxpayers’ money on administration fees and getting uncompetitive quotes from favoured suppliers but telling them where they can stuff what is left of the money will do no good.

These people have made careers of wasting money and any suggestion that so much more could be done with the money if spent more carefully will cut no ice. Traders may as well take what is on offer and accept the unwanted new awning, or whatever. After all, it is not their own money going down the drain and taking a principled stand would jeopardise the whole project.

The views expressed to me may not be those of the Traders’ Association.


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