After the Open Day last week we are informed that the Labour councillors were all “at a pre-arranged meeting”. However there is another opportunity for them to visit the site this coming Wednesday when the Old Parkonians are hosting a Blood Donation session and I’m sure our comrades will want to do their duty to support the National Health Service which is only safe in their hands. Oakfield is not just a place for sport and healthy activity but also a place for social and community service.
Also last week, on Thursday, we had a Full Council meeting. Below is a picture of the previous administration, just prior to the meeting, under whose jurisdiction the plans to develop Oakfield were hatched, with the £6 million grant to the Frenford clubs (the Chair being Nicholas Hurst, a former Conservative councillor) to move to the Port of London site in The Drive and Cricklefields.
And let us not forget that statement by the former Deputy Leader of the council, Ian Bond, that it was always the intention of the Conservatives - notwithstanding the view of the ward members - to proceed with the sale of Oakfield had they won the 2014 local election.
During last Thursday’s meeting the council leader, one Jas Athwal, was asked if a site for 800 homes could be found elsewhere would Oakfield be left? “No” was the answer. Those homes would be in addition to, not instead of, as the target set by the GLA for houses is only half of Redbridge’s assessed need.
OK. So why isn’t the plan addressing the “assessed need” and what does this mean for the other “rejected” proposals for the Wanstead/Woodford corridor, increased density in the King George/Goodmayes Hospital area, and the pockets of identified Green belt land? Should we be doing all of them?
Chris Nutt of the Save Oakfield Site campaign reports:
Green Belt - The CPRE has issued a Press Release on Oakfield etc. and followed this with a good letter to Tom Copley, the GLA’s Labour Party chair of the Housing Committee. He is about to produce a report on the ‘housing crisis’ which we think will say the crisis of affordability is not the same as a crisis of housing supply. We will also write to him and say that there ARE alternatives; there is no need to build on precious Green Sites; development doesn’t increase affordable housing; there is no gain for local community and building on Oakfield will not solve the housing crisis – it takes away an asset from the local community.
Planning Policy - We have also both made a submission to London Assembly’s ‘Environmental Pressures of London’s Growth’ investigation. I focused on the difference between the planning process theory and how it appears to be working (not working) in practice!
Full Council Meeting - the Meeting highlighted the following:
- Even if 800 new homes can be built on other land not yet identified, they will not replace Oakfield. In other words they want to build on Oakfield regardless of the need for housing! This shows that they want Oakfield for the money it will bring in from an asset sale. They will therefore be on dodgy grounds when trying to convince the Planning Inspectorate that the various studies are genuinely objective and impartial.
- Helen Coombs (Chair of the planning, economy & regeneration committee) said that the Playing Pitch Strategy review (PPS) is with the various sports governing bodies (Sport England, FA, ECB, RFU etc.) to ‘sign off’ on the "quantity" of playing fields that will be needed. We knew straight away that it MUST also consider the "quality" of playing fields. But in any case the whole answer was misleading. We have now been told by Sport England that the PPS is not in the process of being signed off. Helen Coomb is mistaken. There was a steering group meeting on 8 September to sign off the data collection stage. Further meetings are schedule for 6 October and 6 November. They may have a first final draft of the PPS for the 6 November meeting at the earliest.
- This would appear to mean that the Council cannot consider the overall Plan until very late this year or next year, unless they drop the proposed changes to Oakfield.
- Only one labour member raised his hand, as opposed to the many conservative members, when asked who had visited Oakfield! We have written again to the Labour leader and Councillors to re-iterate that we (SOS) are a non-political campaign group and would like to show them around. They have declined the offer which is a shame as they are clearly out-of-date in their perceptions of who and how many use Oakfield.
- We asked whether there will be a free vote on the Plan and it seems this is undecided at present.
Whosoever it is, is going to have to convince the Planning Inspectorate, the London Mayor elect and the Secretary of State and in all three we have a say.