Paddy Ashdown

Bromley Liberal Democrats share the sadness of the whole LibDem family at the news yesterday (22 Dec) of the death of Paddy Ashdown following a short illness.   

Vince Cable spoke for all of us when he said "This is a hugely sad day for the Liberal Democrats and for the very many people across political and public life who had immense affection and respect for Paddy."

Former leader Tim Farron said Paddy Ashdown had "saved and revived the Liberal Democrats at our lowest ebb ... we owe him our very existence".  

Tributes to Paddy have poured in from across the political divide and beyond.   As a party we owe him a huge debt, individually we all have our personal recollections of an energetic, inspiring and remarkable man who loved his country and was committed to serving it to the very end.    The voice of liberalism has just become slightly quieter.   

The party have set up an online book of condolences - you can add your name and comments here: www.libdems.org.uk/book-of-condolence-paddy-ashdown


Bullers Wood for Boys gets Planning Approval!

So pleased to hear that Bullers Wood School for Boys has won their appeal against Bromley Council’s decision to revoke their planning permission - the school will now be built on St Hugh’s playing fields, Bickley. A huge personal thanks and congrats to the core parent #BWSFB campaign team who worked tirelessly to achieve this result, never taking no for an answer despite the many bureaucratic and often unnecessary obstacles put in their way. Many questions about the financial and human cost of this drawn out process remain (the school first applied in July 2016), but for now, this news is a very welcome early Christmas Present to many. 

You can read the Planning Inspector's decision in full here.

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Public Inquiry into New 10 storey school at 1 Westmoreland Road Concludes

The public inquiry into whether a 10 storey secondary school with no playing fields should be built on one of the Borough's busiest and most polluted junctions concluded on Friday 23 November 2018. Lib Dem campaigner, Rhian Kanat, spoke at the hearing as part of the residents group opposed to such a large school on this site. You can read her speech in full here.

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There was disappointment amongst the local residents who have campaigned against locating the school here.  The Council failed to defend its refusal of planning permission, leaving local residents to try and fill in the key gaps in the defence, and the Council's transport expert did a U-Turn a week before the hearing and then gave evidence that he had "changed his mind" and no longer believed the school could be refused on transport and travel grounds.   Rhian Kanat commented: "It was a great pleasure to work with and support the core local residents group who led the campaign against this school, all of whom spoke intelligently and passionately at the hearing but the council's behaviour was nothing less than disappointing."  

The other major issue working against the Council at the hearing was the role of their own Draft Local Plan, which allocates the site for Education Use with specific reference to a 6-8 Form Entry secondary school on the site. This was used to great effect by the school's legal counsel to make cogent arguments that the Council itself had already approved a school of the size, height and scale of this proposal when it approved the draft local plan (given that it would be impossible to get a 6-8FE school on such a small site without a very high rise building). It was also repeatedly noted that the Area Action Plan for Bromley Town, another key piece of planning policy, designated the site for a tall building. It is hugely disappointing that the same Development Control Committee of the Council that refused the school planning permission in December 2017 had not also effectively challenged the designation of the site for a school in the Draft local Plan that they approved in June 2016. In fact the minutes of that meeting show that whilst several amendments were proposed, no comment was passed on this site being used for a large secondary school.

The Inspector also noted that there had been a public consultation about the Draft Local Plan and no residents had commented on this site's designation as part of that consultation. However, residents were never specifically alerted to the plans for such a large school on this site, despite Bromley Town's Conservative Councillors having been consulted about the Department of Education's plan for a 6-8 form entry school on the site.   It is surely the role of ward councillors to alert residents to policies in such a complex document that might impact residents.   Instead, residents only became aware of the plans for this school when planning permission was applied for in January 2017, conveniently, although perhaps not coincidentally, just a few weeks after the public consultation on the draft local plan had closed.

We remain hopeful that common sense will prevail, and the Inspector will uphold the Council's refusal of planning permission for this high rise school on this site, but the Council's defence was certainly far more of an uphill struggle than it needed to be. The Inspector's decision will be known on or before 18 February 2019. 

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Bullers Wood Update - Appeal against Bromley Council's refusal of planning permission under way.

The appeal against Bromley Council’s decision in January 2018 to refuse planning permission to build a new school on St Hugh’s playing fields in Bickley is being heard this week (6 to 9 November 2018). The major revelation from the first day was the Council’s U-turn on a key reason for their refusal. Having maintained that the impact on local traffic as a result of the new school would be “severe” and therefore qualify as a valid planning ground to refuse permission, at the 11th hour the Council team admitted that in fact the traffic impact would “fall short of severe”. One can only guess at the waste of public funds arguing for that point only to concede it at the last minute. 

The Planning Inspector deciding the appeal has confirmed that her decision will come down to road and pedestrian safety only; so looking at crossings of Bickley Road and the fact there is a narrow pavement on one side of Chislehurst Road only. We have always been of the view that if improvements need to be made here they are within the gift of the Council (funded under s106 by the ESFA/school) and so should not be a grounds to refuse but instead a condition of approval. If we are right about that, whatever the outcome of the appeal it seems an avoidable waste of public money (costs of such an appeal would easily exceed £1m).

The hearing will however hear from all those who requested to speak and on all issues including the shortfall of school places without the new Boys School and impact on residential amenity. It is notable and disappointing that no Tory Cllrs (who represent the wards closest to the school site and most in need of a local boys school) will speak at the hearing despite repeated requests by the school and parent campaign even those who had been very vocal and supportive of the school in the run up to the May local elections.

The hearing runs from 6th to 9th November inclusive 10am to 5pm at the Civic Centre, Stockwell Close, Bromley and si open to all members of the public.


Bromley Well Represented on Brexit March

Bromley Liberal Democrats joined people from other parties, and many people from no party, in the historic march of 700,000+ people through Central London on Saturday calling for a People’s Vote. 

 The Lib Dems travelled up by train collecting members along the route from Orpington Bromley and Beckenham.   We knew something special was happening as the normally empty mid morning train filled up to capacity with people travelling to the march” said Rich Wilsher, one of the organisers of the Bromley contingent.  “There were people of all ages, some family groups, some with placards, some with face paint and some just came as they were, all just wanted to go there and be counted.”

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