"Serious concerns" following rejection of Erith housing scheme
PUBLISHED: 17:00 16 August 2018
"Serious concerns" have been raised following the rejection of a council-led housing scheme in Erith.
Bexley Council’s plans to concrete over two open spaces in Bronte Close and Wilde Road for flats were thrown out by councillors last week.
Residents packing the public gallery cheered when councillors voted against the authority’s scheme – despite it being recommended for approval by officers.
Despite changes from a previous attempt to have the scheme approved, the planning committee unanimously voted against the council’s own proposals.
Now, Labour leader Daniel Francis has said the refusal raises serious questions over the council’s housing schemes.
He said: “Within minutes of the refusal, I wrote to the acting chief executive seeking clarification on how much money this whole sorry mess has cost our residents and will be asking further questions once this has been clarified.”
The sites have been earmarked for developments since 2015, and the potential to build on them has been included in the council’s development company Bexley Co’s business plan.
Transfers to Bexley Co would take place “if and when it is considered appropriate”, but it was the council who submitted the rejected scheme for Wilde Road.
The Labour leader said there were questions as to why the scheme was included in the council’s capital programme, only for it to then be campaigned against by cabinet members who authorised officers to spend money on it.
He added: “Residents will want to know why the council never pursued our recommendation to transfer the sites to Bexley Co and allow the development company to bring forward applications for housing, rather than the council bringing them forward.
“This is the first application to have come forward since Bexley Co was formed and shows the complete lack of political leadership there has been to bring forward the council’s own housing schemes.”
At the planning meeting last week, it was suggested that a smaller development would suit the sites better, following from the “disappointing” proposals put before councillors by officers.
The sites have been earmarked for development to help the council raise cash, and to provide extra housing for the borough amid the capital’s housing crisis and the council’s plans for growth.
A council spokesman outlined the authorities position following the rejected proposals.
He said: “The council’s application for 12 homes on open space close to Wilde Road, Northumberland Heath was refused last week by the planning committee. This was despite a number of changes to the plans to reduce impact and an officer recommendation to approve.
“The application was dealt with openly and transparently following the usual planning process throughout. It was submitted by the council in the same way as all other schemes.
“Given the express intention to secure new homes on the site at some point and the fact that the sites have been registered as Assets of Community Value (ACV), the formal ACV process has been activated and notices were published on Thursday, August 8.
“This process takes six months for any bids to be received – if qualifying parties record an interest – at which point, the future of the Wilde Road sites will be reviewed by the council, alongside the planning position.”