With more than 20,000 new houses planned for Bexley the pressure on green spaces is immense. Last Tuesday showed that
Bexley Council is prepared
to be ruthless in its quest for money and there is a danger that its
transition from being against major growth to enthusiasm for it will result in the pendulum swinging
too far in the other direction. Growing the tax base may be essential but no one
wants to see a concrete jungle.
The Labour and Conservative candidates for London Mayor are both proclaiming their green credentials. A letter from Sadiq Khan (Labour) this week told me he “will always protect the green belt from development”. On Twitter Zac Goldsmith (Conservative) has said “If elected, I’ll stand up for our Green Belt and protect Greater London’s precious green spaces”.
I am not inclined to believe him. Boris Johnson has broken nearly all his pre-election promises and carefully eliminated them from the web. However among those I remember are not raising the Congestion Charge, keeping tube ticket offices open, not cutting the fire service and restoring the rush hour Blackwall Tunnel contra-flow. I heard him promise no more speed humps at a meeting in Bexley.
Zac Goldsmith may claim to be in favour of green spaces but he failed to stand up for Old Farm Park, nor for that matter, did James Brokenshire, the local MP, appear to do so.
The Conservative candidate was out in Northumberland Heath this morning with his campaign bus promising more houses and cleaner air. Alongside him was Bexley Councillor and GLA Member Gareth Bacon. Only two days ago, Councillor Bacon voted for Erith to lose one of its fire engines. More homes but a reduced fire service. It’s just the sort of muddled thinking that makes the prospect of growth in Bexley a worrying one.
How will Mr. Goldsmith reconcile building more houses, preserving the green spaces and cleaner air as his bus promises? The answer is that he probably can’t. He is keen on electric cars which is a good thing but he is also keen on extending the Congestion Zone. I heard him enthusiastically pushing the case for road charging across London during an LBC interview before Christmas; now one of his leaflets accuses Labour rival Sadiq Khan of wanting to do the same thing.
Zac Goldsmith has promised that “London’s Green Belt and Open Metropolitan Land will enjoy the highest possible protection. New planning guidance will be issued within six weeks of Zac taking office to guarantee those spaces are protected”. (Click the image for his guarantee in full.)
That guidance will come too late to save Old Farm Park, but what about elsewhere in the borough?
Despite the encroaching warehousing and industrial building the Thames marshes remain the biggest open spaces in the borough, but for how much longer?
Cory Environmental, a name that some might regards as deeply ironic, wants to build right next to a nature reserve.
Both Bexley Wildlife and The Thamesmead Grump have something to say about that, the latter with its usual collection of excellent photos of the birds to be seen near the river.
Cory themselves claim that Great Crested Newts may be found there, which may not be true, but there are red listed birds in evidence. Bexley Wildlife reports that the planning application fails to mention that.
As part of a publicity campaign there will be a 'protest' meeting at the nature reserve at 10:30 on Friday 1st April, the main purpose of which is to take a photograph of the event for publicity purposes, so obviously the more who can get there the merrier.