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Bexley council chiefs reveal first four open spaces to be sold off as authority attempts to balance the books

PUBLISHED: 14:22 18 November 2015 | UPDATED: 13:09 19 November 2015

Bexley Council Offices

Bexley Council Offices

Archant

The council has approved the start of the procedure to dispose of several open spaces in Erith and Sidcup

Council chiefs say they are hoping to cash in to the tune of millions of pounds as they confirmed this week the identity of the first four patches of open land they intend to sell off.

But critics have hit back at the council having to sell “the family silver” to “make ends meet”.

Bexley council cabinet approved the start of the statutory procedure for the disposal of three open spaces in Erith and part of a park in Sidcup following a meeting on Tuesday night.

The land is almost certainly set to be built upon. And there are likely to be plenty more to follow with some 27 sites being identified earlier this year as surplus to requirements.

The sell-off comes as the council juggles its finances and stares down a £34m projected deficit by 2018 due to massive cuts in funding from central government.

Don Massey, cabinet member for finance and corporate services explained: “The financial pressures we face are unprecedented and likely to increase. We have to tackle a large projected deficit so we can continue to meet our legal responsibilities.”

The four pieces of land which will be sold first will be West Street Small Park, Wilde Road (east) and Wilde Park (west) – part of Northumberland Heath – in Erith and the eastern half of Old Farm Park in Sidcup.

But Rebecca Pullinger from the London branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), criticised the move. She told us: “It is extremely lamentable councils now feel they need to sell off the ‘family silver’ just to make ends meet.

“The point of having a plan-led development system is that local needs can be identified and a range of possible sites for appropriate development evaluated. Identifying sites to raise funds cannot be said to constitute plan-led development.

“Small green spaces provide essential ecosystem services, such as flood prevention and climate regulation. Some of the proposed spaces to be sold are likely to be valuable pocket parks for residents, some of whom are already raising objections like those at Old Farm Park; or havens for wildlife.”

A council spokesman told the Bexley Times said: ““We hope to achieve an annual saving of £0.71m as a result of the open space disposal programme. The saving will be achieved by using the income generated to avoid financing costs and will avoid the need to further reduce the grounds maintenance of parks and open spaces in the borough.”

How do you feel about this? Let us know by sending in your thoughts to our reporter Luke May - luke.may@archant.co.uk

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