I did something I had never done before. I attended one of the Community Forum
meetings that are held occasionally across the borough. My local one is held in
the Belvedere Community Centre which is leased by the Forum from Bexley Council.
In the gloom of the early evening it presented a somewhat austere and forbidding exterior but it no doubt serves its purpose of providing inexpensive accommodation for activities. A youth club, various classes and a place for children to enjoy their birthday parties.
On the agenda were presentations from the police, Tom Smith (Bexley Council) who knows everything there is to know about the Lesnes Abbey regeneration, and Cory Environmental about their much loved incinerator.
The talk by the police was of ‘blink and you will miss it’ brevity and I must have blinked. There was nothing worthy of a report here.
Tom Smith was entirely different, he probably should have gone on the stage with a stand up act, instead of being some sort of bridge between Bexley Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Regular BiB readers will know that the Lesnes Abbey landscaping contractor went out of business in June which has put the brakes on things. (Tom said July so he doesn’t know everything after all!)
However Tom forecast that the Visitor Centre would open by the end of October and showed some photographs that suggested the inside is far more advanced than the ground around it. The building contractor has taken on the landscaping of the area most closely associated with the Centre.
A tender has gone out for the operation of a refreshment bar. Tea, coffee, ice cream and cake but nothing cooked because of hygiene rules, at least that is what I think Tom said.
I would recommend the Abbey Café. It is no more than five minutes walk away (opposite the Post Office) and serves a very nice coffee for £1. I bought a meal in there a couple of weeks ago and there was so much on the plate I couldn’t quite finish it and it set me back only £5·80.
But enough of the adverts.
It was an interesting talk by Tom Smith who told me more about the Abbey’s history than I had heard before but I think the only thing I learned about the regeneration that I had failed to notice was that there are more wood carvings hidden away in the woods than I had so far discovered.
The main news, perhaps the only news, from Cory was that they are going to ask Bexley Council to vary their planning conditions which currently limit the amount of waste that can be delivered by road each year to 85,000 tonnes. Most of it is delivered by boat but there is a possibility that the owner of one of the upstream wharves may close it which would adversely affect electricity generation. The contingency plan is to seek permission to bring in another 110,000 tonnes of rubbish by road which translates to another dozen lorries a day mitigated to some extent by the fact that some of those lorries are already on the local roads taking their loads to alternative facilities.
It seemed to be a sensible move for a commercial organisation to take and a dozen lorries will be neither here nor there once the Thames bridge is built but it produced a vociferous backlash from a tiny minority of the locals. It droned on for ages until the Chairman was forced to put a stop to it.
After that, Councillor Gill MacDonald (Labour, Belvedere) had a few words to say; first about the replacement for the Splash Park and then that the Health & Safety Executive was taking an interest in the demolition of Ye Olde Leather Bottle. However it was not impossible they would take legal action so she rightly decided that no more should be said.
The Council’s plans for the new children’s play area to replace the Splash Park are probably best illustrated by the Council’s leaflet. It is only a consultation document and has already been much criticised so what you see on the leaflet might already be seriously out of date.
Finally a man who objects to the sale of the tiny park at the end of Napier Road asked for support for his campaign to save it. Please object and sign the petition. There was muttering from the back row that Bexley Council takes no notice of petitions but that is of course not a reason not to try to influence the Philistines.
If someone builds on that scrap of land it will create the most appalling traffic hazard because of the adjacent dog leg bend which is only tolerable now because the open space affords a clear view.
The speaker referred to hundreds of people already signed up to his campaign but unless he can find a mine shaft underneath he is going to have an uphill struggle.
The patch of land is so small that it cannot be worth much. It might be a better strategy to start a fund that could buy it when it inevitably goes on sale.