A MEETING to discuss the planned Thames Gateway Bridge public inquiry broke up in uproar when the inspector walked out.

The angry inspector, Robert Barker, had just announced he was not prepared to adjourn the inquiry, due to start in June, until the autumn to allow objectors more time to prepare their case.

As he tried to reassure objectors, a woman from the Green Party snatched the microphone from his table and as she was chased around the table told Mr Barker the inquiry would be a sham.

She shouted: “This whole thing is a scandal. The bridge is being railroaded through. You are not listening to people.” Before he walked out, Mr Barker had spent two hours listening to pleas from residents and pressure groups to put back the date of the inquiry.

They claimed many residents on both sides of the river still did not know about the proposal to build a bridge across the Thames, linking Beckton and Thamesmead, nor how it would affect their lives.

They claimed they were having difficulty getting hold of inquiry documents and were not being notified of changes and additions.

A large number of Bexley residents and groups, many of whom had not been officially notified, turned up at the pre-inquiry meeting, held at Charlton Athletic FC’s ground, The Valley, and demonstrated outside beforehand.

They were surprised when Bexley Council announced it would be an objector at the inquiry.

The council had said it supported the bridge in principle, as long as satisfactory measures were put in place to reduce the effect of the extra traffic on Bexley’s roads.

News Shopper understands it is now objecting because it has not received the assurances it was looking for to protect Bexley residents.

The Bexley officers at the meeting were unable to make representations on whether the inquiry should be postponed because they had no instructions from councillors.

Mr Barker said the proposers of the bridge, Transport for London and Greenwich and Newham councils, who had approved the planning applications, had met all their legal duties.

He also indicated he would like to hold evening meetings in Bexley and elsewhere so residents could have their say.

Objectors who will speak at the inquiry, due to start on June 7 at The Valley, include a number of environmental and transport pressure groups such as Transport 2000, Friends of the Earth, People Against the River Crossing and wildlife and Local Agenda 21 focus groups.

A number of residents and other groups also plan to speak, including Thames Gateway Forum, St Michael’s Residents’ Association (Welling), Manor House Residents’ Association (Sidcup), Friends of Danson Park, Action Group Against the Bridge and Second Site Property Holdings.

Also due to have their say are the Port of London Authority, Simon Wolfe Foundation, Bexley Federation of Residents’ Associations, British Motorcycle Federation, Saints Residents’ Association (Thamesmead) and the Woolwich and District Antiquarian Society.

With a general election in sight, a number of prospective Parliamentary candidates have also said they want to speak against the bridge.

The pre-inquiry meeting broke up with less than half its business completed.

At the time News Shopper went to press it was not known whether the meeting will be reconvened by the inspector.