Bromley Lib Dems will strongly oppose the proposed re-development of the Walnuts centre. We firmly believe this proposal, in its current form, is not the right way forward.
We have three key concerns, namely:
- The height and size of the development.
- The length of the disruption to complete the work.
- The lack of a plan to invest in services to cater for the new residents.
There is no doubt that Orpington needs sustainable development and investment, and that without investment the Walnuts will continue its fall into disrepair and disuse. However the size and nature of the proposed development - and the height of the proposed towers - is completely out of place in our town. From experience, allowing one tall building often means that other tall buildings follow as developers quote the first as precedent.
The development will mean years of construction work in the area, which will cause massive disruption to residents. In addition, the nearly 1,000 new flats, with approximately 2,000 new residents, will need services: parking, public transport and schools to sit alongside it, for which there is no current plan.
The Lib Dems therefore cannot support a development of this size in the area.
We could however consider supporting a slimmed-down version of the proposed development. But we would need assurances about the necessary increase in services, about easing the disruption for residents, whether there will be a like-for-like replacement of the leisure centre, and importantly whether the apartments are genuinely affordable, rather than investment properties. There is a real lack of detail about the residential units in the existing plans.
The Lib Dems do acknowledge that there are various positive elements in the proposed development: the investment itself is most welcome and the Walnuts is badly in need of revitalising; the developers’ plan to encourage new retailers with a range of different sized units and rental models seems promising; there is potential to improve public spaces and access to priory gardens; the buildings are planned to be net zero carbon with solar power, roofs will be greened, and there will be 1800 cycle parking spaces.
However, without clarity on whether the new housing at the centre of this plan genuinely meets Orpington’s needs, the Lib Dems cannot support the existing proposal.
The Lib Dems are asking for your views - you can fill in the survey here. They will submit the findings to the Council, to the developers and report back online.