Here’s the ugly new Pinnacle Hill development in Bexleyheath, on the land surrounding the new council offices in the former Woolwich Building, courtesy Tesco and builder Bellway. A shining example of how to minimise the homes for nature in new developments and support car dependency.
We know even once common wildlife like House Sparrows and Bees are declining. We know the sight of greenery improves health. We know vegetation helps remove pollutants. We know hard surfacing increases localised heating which is even more of a problem in a warming climate. We understand that we ought to be minimising rainwater run-off. So instead the Council allows this dismal piece of ‘design’, setting an appalling example in a Borough already massively disfigured by reason of hundreds and hundreds of front gardens having been trashed and covered in hard surfacing for multiple car parking.
A huge list of so-called Council policies could be quoted to suggest that this sort of sub-standard product should not have been allowed, but here are just a few, all from the Local Development Framework, which is supposed to be the strategic ‘bible’ for what does and does not happen:
Policy CS01 Achieving sustainable development
h) maintaining and improving the best elements of Bexley’s suburban character by ensuring new development reflects or, where possible, enhances the unique characteristics of these areas, including residential gardens and the historic
Policy Policy CS16 Reducing the need to travel and the impact of travel
The Council will seek to minimise the need for and distances people travel, thereby reducing the time, cost and environmental effects of transportation and improving accessibility and quality of life for Bexley residents
Policy CS18 Biodiversity and geology
g) Seeking opportunities to provide for greening of the built environment, including green roofs and walls in new buildings.
Quite apart from its own greenwash, there is no evidence here that the Council has read the extensive GLA-level policies on green infrastructure, which are in any case toothless – even though many are reasonably good in themselves.
Frankly, it is difficult to see how providing space for 3 cars per dwelling encourages a reduction in environmentally damaging travel behaviour, or makes efficient use of increasingly limited land (especially once you factor in the additional land take in road space and destination parking that this number of vehicles implies). It will be noted that the site is adjacent to the Borough’s major shopping centre, numerous bus routes and not a million miles from a railway, it’s certainly an easy cycle ride to Barnehurst station.
Bexley may have the second-highest car ownership in London, but 40% of people here do not have a car, but are saddled with the myriad disbenefits of an excessively car dependent society.
Looking at a number of recent developments around the Borough, there appears to be a lack of leadership in planning, and an absence of obvious support from elected members, for vigorously pursuing the Council’s better ‘green’ policies in a sustained, unwavering and coherent fashion, in order to deliver the Council’s own (somewhat inadequate definition of) best practice at all times. Given the challenges of the 21st century, that isn’t good enough, especially given the fundamental flaw in Bexley’s underlying approach to ‘sustainability’ anyway, which is based on ‘sustaining’ the consumption of ever more resources.
Oh yes, and not satisfied with allowing the unnecessary removal of a row of healthy Lime trees in this development area, close to where Pinnacle Hill joins Watling Street, the Plane trees by the old Council offices are going to get the chop as well as part of this deal with Tesco, leaving only the couple by the Marriott hotel.
A GREENER BEXLEY NEEDS GARDENS, NOT CAR PARKS