A year ago Bexley Council bought a new street cleaning machine and in a
moment of child-like madness christened it Lightning McLean. This time last year Cabinet Member Peter Craske
could be seen proclaiming its virtues and how it was going to
clean up the borough, unfortunately it was not scheduled to visit the northern
extremities. My local shopping street,
given new paving during the Summer of
2017, got steadily dirtier and stained by spilt drink and chewing gum.
The traders complained and last January both Bexley and Greenwich Councils made a number of promises, not just on cleanliness but other matters of concern too. Not a single one of those promises was fulfilled - until perhaps last Wednesday evening when Lightning McLean made an unannounced visit to Wilton Road. Why were the traders not told in advance? Did Bexley Council think that I might be there with my camera? For some reason they don’t like publicity if it is Bonkers providing it.
Since when has cleaning a street merited a publicity stunt involving the Cabinet Member playing with a high pressure hose? When it has not been properly cleaned in more than a year, that’s when.
The accompanying Press Release, dutifully regurgitated in the local press, was full of misinformation.
It says that Bexley cleaning the Greenwich side of the street and vice-versa was “a symbolic gesture”. It wasn’t. The Bexley machine is too big to clean the Bexley side and Greenwich’s much smaller device is more suited to the narrow Bexley footpath.
The Press Release refers to the £150,000 grant from Boris Johnson (when Mayor) without mentioning that he provided more money than either Council who took more than £100k. out of the total of £300,000 to cover their own administrative costs. Then charged the traders 10% of the shop refurbishment costs, something that was not in the original agreement.
Bexley’s Cabinet Member for Resources David Leaf claims “We have almost completed the public realm improvements at Abbey Wood Station and we will do everything we can to support residents and businesses during this period of transition.”
On the contrary, work on the Harrow Manorway flyover is only running two months late but it has done nothing to help businesses which have seen pedestrians directed away from their shops and suffer the consequences of litter dumped over the parapet into their back yards from the newly built walkways.
The work which might benefit local businesses, the revamp of Gayton and Felixstowe Roads which was promised for last February has not yet even been started, although apparently it might be next week.
Greenwich Councillors are similarly clueless.
The News Shopper with no time to look for itself was suckered by the Press Releases. Apparently Wilton Road is a “thriving” shopping centre. As a co-opted member of the Traders’ Association perhaps it would be best if I refrained from comment.
“Wilton Road has restaurants, bars, cafe and is one of the main roads that leads up to Abbey Wood station.” It has one restaurant which has been put up for sale and it has no bars or cafe, although there is a pretty good one in nearby Abbey Wood Road.
Greenwich Cabinet Member Denise Scott-McDonald comes out with a number of trite platitudes as Cabinet Members often do. “Wilton Road has a strong and diverse retail offer (sic) and it is vital that local small businesses look welcoming”.
The Wilton Road traders put on an excellent street market two weeks ago and another is planned for 24th November. How much help did Greenwich Council give and how many obstacles did it put in the way? Again I had better not say but you have probably guessed.
Red tape will always take priority while petty bureaucracy reigns supreme.
Oh, and did the cleaning operation have any effect? Well the paths are undoubtedly brighter and whiter but the deep seated stains have not gone away. Personally I think the most intriguing thing about Wilton Road at the moment is why Jennings, the bookies, no longer has its name over the shop.