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Bonkers Blog March 2016

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22 March - Good questions and sometimes poor answers

Adopting the same format as before, here are Councillor Francis’s questions about the disposal of Old Farm Park. It doesn’t really matter what he asks, Council officers will always tell him there is nothing to worry about. It is what they are paid to do and the Council’s tanks must be allowed to crush all opposition.

Questions.


Old Farm Park
• “Do the population per hectare figures include all planning permissions in the area?”
• Are the Site of Scientific Importance issues protected?
• The Cabinet received the usage numbers taken over the summer holidays in November but “we took a decision to survey the park and the numbers in October and I wish to ask officers why we thought it was appropriate to survey in August…” public applause masked the remainder of Councillor Francis’ question.
• “If we were Judicial Reviewed on this, have we considered other alternatives?” Objectors have said why did you not consider selling off Burr Park or Webster House. Are we clear in making this decision that we are legally robust?”
• “There is this strange part on Page 69 where we dispute the figures in the House of Commons Library. The MP quoted the figures in the House of Commons Library and we disputed them, who is definitely right and who is definitely wrong?”
• “Trees again. I’d like something on that.”
• “My normal question on the size of alternative parks”.
• “Are we quite clear that our objections on [nearby] planning applications are not the same as the residents’ coming forward tonight and therefore we are not contradicting ourselves?”


Answers.


• The population per hectare figures were calculated “on the same basis” as West Street and Wilde Road. “They use the latest population projections.”
• “Yes I can confirm that the area of the extended SSI has been identified in our latest review and has been excluded from the site for disposal.”
• “The report does not dispute that the survey was undertaken in the winter, neither does it dispute there was usage. I think the issue is about that there are other suitable parks in the area and I wouldn’t disagree that had we undertaken a summer survey the figures would have been higher. We did the survey in the winter not to prove there was a low usage but the fact is there is capacity in the park. (Ms. Ainge’s recorded comment has been reviewed many times but I am no nearer to understanding the point she may have been trying to make.)
• “There are a lot of [alternative] sites which are being considered. It is not a case of either or, we are considering everything.” (From Deputy Director Jane Richardson.) “Burr Farm is educational land and it may form part of our plans for the future”. (So population growth in connection with the Growth Strategy cannot be taken into account, but the possible impact on educational requirements can be.)
• The HoC Library figures are not up to date.
• The fate of “established trees will be dealt with through the planning process.”
• “Norman's Rec is 3·6 hectares and we don’t seem to have the other figures.”
• “The Council did not object to the loss of open space at the Gaelic Sports Ground.” It was alleged that it was a public objection that referred to the loss of open space. Councillor Francis may have disputed this but his words were lost in the noise from the public gallery. He later provided evidence that he was probably correct but it was dismissed on the grounds that the objection was not about Old Farm Park. The Council officer appeared to entirely miss the point that an objection apparently deemed to be valid at the nearby Gaelic Park could not apply to Old Farm Park. The officer claimed that this was because the criteria applied in Greenwich (Gaelic Park is just over the border) might not be the same as in Bexley. Another glib answer. The chairman saved the day by saying “we will move on”.


However there were no more answers due so it was time for non-Committee member councillors to have their say. More soon.

Note: One Hectare is almost 12,000 square yards.

 

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