Bellway has submitted its finalised scheme for housing on the old Council HQ site on the Broadway. There are a number of welcome nods to sustainability but still too many contradictory elements falling short of what should be done. The usual claim is made that the development will improve biodiversity over what exists at present. It is stated that the planting will be largely indigenous and of local provenance, yet none of the 9 tree species listed are native, and only four of nine ‘herbaceous’ species are (a rather bizarre mix of native ancient woodland ground flora – with no statement as to sourcing), plus a handful of sun-loving exotics, not one of which will deliver much wildlife benefit. This goes against the recommendations of its own ‘Ecology report’. Although living roofs are promised, a step forward, these are not going to recompense for the size and nature of the current ‘brownfield’ expanse, and some of this roof space will be covered in decking. Overall, the plans deliver too much sterile hard-surfacing. None of this will help feed the House Sparrows which roost next to the adjoining multi-storey car park, and which should be shielded from as much disturbance as possible during construction, given their decline in London.
Five of the seven mid-sized London Planes still standing on the Broadway side of the site will now get the chop. As usual the Council’s mantra that these sorts of things can be addressed through the planning system means that anything vaguely natural actually gets treated as having little or no worth at all if it stands in the neat-and-tidy way of developers.
The opportunity to have a zero-carbon development at the heart of the Borough’s ‘capital’ has been fluffed. Instead Bellway will pay the Council for not hitting that benchmark. We are interested to see what mechanisms are used and what projects are going to be implemented by Bexley’s leadership to ensure that the £675K promised is spent on serious energy-saving measures elsewhere in our area. For this sum it could actually build a few zero-carbon/Passivhaus homes to prove to itself that this standard is indeed possible, even in this part of the world. Yes, we are nearing the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century …
The warm words on sustainable transport, given the well-connected location, are undermined by a sales prospectus plugging the ‘ease’ of getting to the likes of the M25 and Bluewater by car, illustrating that companies still have a better understanding of ‘green spin’ than the comprehensive green approach now needed.
These and other issues have been addressed in more detail in the Bexley Natural Environment Forum submission to the planning department on the scheme, reproduced below.