Bexley’s Cabinet not only
approved the Belvedere Beach last Tuesday but they
also agreed to sell four more relatively small parks. (Land near Holly Hill
Road, Gable Close, Maiden Lane and Kempton Close.) This was the end of a process
which started more than two years ago (October 2014) when Bexley Council decided it was a good
idea to scare the life out of 27 communities by putting 27 parks on a For Sale list.
The Council claimed that the sale had been given general approval by residents in the 2014 consultation which was another of the regular deceptions. The parks weren’t named until February last year and it’s easy to approve the sale of an unnamed park which cannot possibly be the one at the end of your own road.
The sale was said to be to raise enough funds to ensure that those that remained could be maintained to a decent standard. The idea proved to be hugely unpopular with various campaigns organised, most notably at Old Manor Way and Old Farm Park.
Possibly fearing the electoral consequences Bexley Council has abandoned plans to sell more than the eight now approved for disposal.
One has to ask who dreamed up this idea. Why 27 parks when eight is now said to provide enough money?
Once again it was Cabinet Member Peter Craske who had to stand and make the excuses all of which you will have heard before. “The decision is in the long term interests of the borough” but he “absolutely understands why you might upset” if you happen to live near one of these parks.
For justification he said that Labour when in power “sold two libraries, a school playground and tried to sell every single allotment in this borough” and had not come forward with any alternative proposal to park sales. He said “they are opposed to all land sales” as if that is an unfathomable and disgraceful position to adopt.
Cabinet Member Don Massey said that his colleague “was quite right. There was a budget deficit to face” and that 18 of the sites for sale “had been dropped because of technical issues”. Funny that there has been no mad scramble to plug the budgetary hole that they might have filled.
Cabinet Member Linda Bailey also “understood why residents get upset but we have to look at things as a whole”. She said that a lot of residents had complained to her within the last few days “but nothing has changed my mind”.
Councillor Joe Ferreira said that the Napier Road site had been removed from the list “at the last minute” due to the protests and its low value. He suggested that the Holly Hill Road site was no different. It had little value and there were protests so he made “a final plea” to Peter the Park Pilferer.
And a fat lot of good it did him.
Councillor Cafer Munur (Conservative, West Wickham) did what he usually does, thank the Council Officers for the work put into the proposals to flog off the parks. “it was a necessity. It is a difficult decision but one I am comfortable with.”
Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) said he took the same position as the Deputy Leader of the Council Rob Leitch. That he was opposed to all sales of open spaces. Like me he was very puzzled by the fact that no one had any idea of the value of the land at the outset but instead plucked the number 27 from the air. It might have saved a lot of anguish not to mention time spent at meetings if a little more research had been done.
Stefano corrected Craske’s report that Labour had sold two libraries, it was only one and one of the Conservative’s first acts was to close three mobile libraries.
Councillor David Leaf again put in his twopennyworth feeling the need to thank Council officers once again. He said that the 18 sites with “issues” were discovered only when those officers checked the sites. Did he really say that? Better check the tape again.
Yes it seems he did. “They looked at each site incredibly closely and those where there are issues with them have decided not to proceed with them and that is why we are left with a much smaller number of sites.” Labour had “no idea” and Sadiq Khan came to Bexley “and said he would stop these things yet we have heard nothing since. He doesn’t know where Bexley is and clearly does not care about this borough”. So Mayor Khan does not care about this borough because he hasn’t saved the parks? I’ll let you twist that one round and fire it back at Councillor Leaf.
There is, he said, a large park close to Holly Hill Road and that Councillor Borella’s opposition to land sales was “rank hypocrisy from the party opposite”.
Cabinet Member Craske repeated what he had said a few minutes earlier. That the Labour group had not come up with any alternative proposals.
The sale was nodded through unanimously in just eighteen minutes.