Ever since plans for a wholesale redevelopment of 13 sites along Erith’s riverfront were unveiled eight years ago, townspeople have protested. Now, the revival of proposals for the Erith Western Gateway are not likely to please. LINDA PIPER reports.

IN A move likely to provoke fury among local people, Bexley Council has announced plans to build homes on part of Erith’s cherished Riverside Gardens.

The proposal is part of efforts by Bexley to revive redevelopment plans for the riverfront area of Erith, renamed the Erith Western Gateway.

A public exhibition of the latest plans was on show in Erith library in the High Street last week and a news bulletin about the project has been delivered to every home in Erith ward.

In 2009 plans to build high density housing in tower blocks, a hotel and new community facilities collapsed when the chosen developer Crest Nicholson pulled out citing the poor economic conditions.

Then, Erith’s town form welcomed the chance to rethink the proposals, especially the idea of many more tower block flats and said the Riverside Gardens should be excluded from any future plans.

Last month a new pressure group, FORGE was formed to fight any plans to build on the Riverside Gardens.

Bexley’s latest thinking is the redevelopment should be done in phases instead of one massive building project, with the first two sites named as the former Riverside pool and a chunk of the Riverside Gardens, opposite each other in Erith High Street.

Already, Bexley College has announced plans to move onto the former Walnut Tree depot site in Walnut Tree Road.

It hopes to submit a planning application in the summer of next year and to open in 2013.

Council leader claims public has been listened to

The proposal likely to provoke the most anger in the latest Erith Western Gateway plans is the proposal to build on part of Erith’s Riverside Gardens.

In its latest Erith Western Gateway bulletin, delivered to homes across Erith, Bexley Council leader, Councillor Teresa O’Neill declared: “We have listened carefully to the comments many of you made at the exhibition for the earlier scheme and are reflecting them in our new plans.

But ever since the redevelopment was first announced by the then Labour-run council in 2003, townspeople have angrily denounced any plans to build on the gardens.

It seems likely that Bexley’s latest plans for 30 flats in a five-storey block at the western end of the gardens with a cafe or other use on the ground floor and possible a children’s play area, will not meet with people’s approval.

Bexley says it needs the cash from the redevelopment to upgrade the gardens and improve access.

Renewed anger over Riverside Gardens flats plan

THE new pressure group FORGE, set up to protect the Riverside Gardens, says it plans to apply to have them designated as a “town green” to stop any redevelopment.

The group, formed only weeks ago, already has more than 300 members.

A spokesman described the latest plans as “a developer’s charter” and claimed many residents had not received the council bulletin about the plans.

He said the group planned to meet Erith and Thamesmead MP and the three ward councillors for Erith to press for their support.

Doreen Ives, chairman of Erith Town Forum said: “Building on the Riverside Gardens was one of the biggest issues last time round and we don’t feel the council has taken this into account.”

She claimed the council had declined an invitation to explain the new proposals at the forum’s next meeting this month and said the library exhibition times were not convenient for working people.

Mrs Ives added: “The Riverside Gardens are already so small, to take a large part away for flats is unacceptable.”

There will be a mix of houses and flats

THE latest plans for Erith Western Gateway will reduce the number of homes from 750 under the abandoned Crest Nicholson scheme, to 342.

Bexley Council says, in general, building height will be restricted to a maximum of five storeys, but it has left the door open for higher buildings “which have a positive impact on the townscape”.

A quarter of the new homes will be three-storey town houses and two-storey mews houses located together with flats, in a series of small connecting residential roads between Bexley Road and Erith High Street.

The existing low-rise block of 20 homes fronting Bexley Road and occupied by elderly people will be demolished and its residents rehoused.

Around 35 per cent of the new homes will affordable with a mix of rented, shared ownership and intermediate homes. The remainder will be for sale.

Bexley is now talking with developers and hopes to have one in place to build on the Riverside Gardens as well as 50 tower block homes on the Riverside pool site, by the end of the summer.

There are also plans for a new quarter-acre play square among the new homes and a new Erith station square.