Eltham residents welcomed the news that Labour-run Greenwich Council decided to withdraw two local sites from its flat building programme following objections by local Conservative Councillors.
At the March meeting of Full Council, the Labour Councillors revealed that they had bowed to pressure from a campaign organised by Eltham Conservatives to remove from the “Site Allocations Local Plan” the Mecca Bingo building and the Marks and Spencer’s car park. The proposal to build on these two sites in Eltham and on the Council site opposite the Orangery attracted to most responses (61 out of 256) of any part of the Council’s plan, which aims to lay out where the best places to build flats are across the Borough.
Fight not over for Mecca Bingo
However, the battle to keep the Mecca Bingo from being turned into flats is not over, as hidden in the subsequent Local Plan was the statement “existing policies provide sufficient guidance regarding future development of the site” suggesting the Council retains the ambition to close down the businesses despite resistance from local residents.
Victory on Marks and Spencer’s car park
Better news was that the Marks and Spencer’s car park has finally been removed from the Council’s building plans. Originally ear marked for closure in 2012, the proposal to destroy the Marks and Spencer’s car park was objected to by the store, residents and local Conservative Councillors so it is a huge victory for everyone to have it finally removed from the Council’s development plans. The neighbouring site (opposite the Orangery) remains ear-marked for flats (and is not objected to) but this becomes a more interesting development as the old builders yard is now back on the market, so the Council could combine to two sites to create a more cohesive plan.
The value of Opposition Councillors
Interestingly this whole process once again proved the value of having active Opposition Councillors as only sites in the south of the Borough (including the Aldi in Kidbrooke Village) were withdrawn from the process. In areas like Plumstead where the consultation revealed concerns about the future of businesses on the High Street as a result of these plans, the concerns were brushed aside with the phrase “The relocation of existing businesses is already addressed in the allocation.” It seems to be an unfortunate fact that where there are only Labour Councillors, residents’ concerns are widely ignored on the basis that the party will still win elections so there is no need to change course.