Oh dear. Dear oh dear. This is almost beyond belief. Incredibly, after all the flack Greenwich Council have received over chronic neglect of places in the east of the borough, with Plumstead High Street a prime example, they’ve gone and screwed up the planning process meaning William Hill WILL be opening a branch at the former Barclays Bank.

The inspector has written that they “have serious misgivings about the way the Council handled the planning application”.


A town centre report which Greenwich Council claimed was the basis behind the initial refusal was not presented despite three requests, and yet again at the appeal – which the inspector labelled “clear, abject and repeated failure”.

I was rather naive and didn’t delve into details when news broke yesterday that the Planning Inspector approved the plan after William Hill appealed. I assumed, wrongly, that Greenwich Council would at least be competent enough to be able to handle the process correctly. Wrong. Thanks to Stewart Christie for highlighting this on Twitter.

One bit that sticks out is the inspector revealing how William Hill emailed Greenwich Council on three separate occasions for information and never received a reply. Locals will know that feeling all too well. Plumstead Councillors like Matt Morrow claim they will not communicate on Twitter (putting out endless party propaganda is ok though) and residents should email instead. Yet no replies for 6 weeks isn’t unusual, and sometimes no reply arrives at all.

The conclusion is damning of the authority:

Taxpayers now have to pick up the tab for this. It’s one example of squandering money amongst a long list:

Housing

One reason I didn’t delve yesterday was that I was covering how Greenwich Council are using at least £9 million in funding to buy homes on the market at £400,000 a pop instead of using their arms-length management company or partnering with Housing Associations at a far lower cost (£106,000 a unit). Vast waste and buying existing homes means no net increases in the housing pool. Paying more for less.

Yesterday’s post also revealed how they’re missing targets by a large margin. Urgent repairs are only happening within target 75% of the time instead of 98%. They also have not been checking housing condition when tenants leave meaning its difficult to claim back money for damage.

Parking

A near £10 million whole in the budget over the past five years has meant tax rises or cuts elsewhere. Throughout this time parking issues are endemic due to a very small number of enforcement staff working limited hours.

Random bollard doing its usual job – £122k spent on these recently

TfL money

I wrote extensively about how TfL give Greenwich Council £3.5 million each year for various schemes to improve roads, cycle routes, paths and other elements of the public realm related to transport (which in reality gives a very wide scope with street projects – Greenwich seemed to think it only meant roads). Since this years allocation begun in April not one word of detail has been released on how it will be spent. No consultation at all. There’s been over 10 years of this. Tens of millions. What’s it achieved?

Other councils use it to improve estates, shopping areas and public spaces. In Greenwich borough it’s mostly money to consultants and yet more street clutter.

Developer cash

Around £50 million has come in in recent years. I covered it in January – £11.4 million last year alone came in. Neglected like Abbey Wood and Plumstead have seen money from local developments sent off to Greenwich. Very little has gone into improving very run-down areas. Maybe if some had gone to Plumstead High Street it would not be in such a state and businesses (other than betting shops) would give it a chance.

I’ve also been emailed about more millions possibly not being utilised due to council mistakes. I’m waiting to hear more. It would fit a pattern of mistakes in various departments.

So another bookies for poor old Plumstead. What it really needs is capable staff and councillors fighting for it. Greenwich Council stagger on with their £11.3 million library upgrade, which is probably the last place on the high street that needed urgent work. It’s far from most shops and will do nothing for most of the High Street. It’s all money coming from local taxpayers too – most authorities win external bids to help with expensive schemes but Greenwich rarely seem to win them. I wonder why?

Bexley Council has managed to gain about £10 external funds million for Erith – a similar town in terms of size and offerings over the border. No such luck for Greenwich residents.

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