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‘Travesty’ plan approved for Erith’s ‘green lung’

PUBLISHED: 07:00 04 March 2020

The proposed development on the corner of Macarthur Close and West Street, Erith. Picture: LDRS

The proposed development on the corner of Macarthur Close and West Street, Erith. Picture: LDRS

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One of Erith’s last remaining green spaces is set to be developed into housing in newly-approved plans which one councillor slammed as “an absolute travesty”.

Despite opposition from within its own ranks, Bexley Council's planning committee signed off on the proposal for West Street Park, at the junction of Macarthur Close and West Street.

The proposal will see 30 new two-bedroom and one-bed flats built at the site by BexleyCo, the council's development arm.

While councillors were told the homes would provide much-needed new housing in the borough, not all were enthusiastic about the scheme, which won't include any affordable housing.

Cllr June Slaughter said the park was "a green lung in an area surrounded by terrace after terrace".

"In recent times we've learnt how important open spaces are to people's mental health and how green spaces are vital for environmental reasons," she said.

"From the government down to Bexley Council we're realising the need for planting trees, not removing the beautiful trees on this site.

"I think it would be sacrilege to build on this site."

"To remove these trees would be appalling and to build on this site would be an absolute travesty."

She was backed by Erith ward Councillor Nicola Taylor, who called the park "a green oasis" for surrounding residents who she said have been "blighted" by developments in the area.

She said her concerns about the development were confirmed when she spoke to a group of boys who said the park was where they play football, with no suitable alternatives close by.

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Not all councillors spoke against the proposal, with Cllr Howard Jackson backing the scheme.

"We do have many families waiting for housing in temporary accommodation and many other families needing places to live. Small developments like this, which is so small the viability study shows it's not viable to put affordable housing there, are part of an overall council strategy to provide that very basic need for a place to live for its residents," he said.

"I take on board the loss of open space is never particularly popular….that's why this committee needs to weigh up the pros and cons of the development and decide do we…reject this and say in good conscience to every one of our residents that we're not going to build on this site for that reason."

However, Cllr Alan Downing warned the development could result in "blocks and blocks" of housing in the borough.

"Everyone's concerned about lack of housing in Bexley and I agree that we've got to help people build their own home. But we've got to put this in reality. Do we want Bexley to just look like blocks and blocks and blocks where people can't kick a football?" he said.

"I think we've got to make a stand here, yes we want to help people and give them somewhere to live, but do we want them to live where there's nothing to do, no trees, where we've ruined the local parks?"

Their protests were to little avail though, with the majority instead voting in favour of the move.

Members had earlier been told the park was previously occupied by housing for more than 100 years until 1984, when the dense terrace houses at the site were demolished.

Ocean Park was within 300 metres of the site, a BexleyCo representative said in response to concerns about the loss of the park.

While a section of trees would be removed for the development, they would be replaced by 13 "high quality" trees, councillors were told.

The building won't contain any affordable housing, with BexleyCo to instead pay the council £100,000 for projects elsewhere.

According to BexleyCo, local buyers will be prioritised first when the units are sold off - with the new homes to also be affordable "in the context of the London market".

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