I was going to try to sit on the fence on this, but I really can’t. How can anyone explain Nick Raynsford’s baffling interview with greenwich.co.uk where he continues to push the case for unpopular plans to redevelop Greenwich Market – even though the Greenwich Council, led by his own colleagues in the Labour party, threw it out in the summer? It’s baffling, and full credit to Adam Bienkov for putting the questions to him.
It’s jaw-dropping stuff – unlike other contentious issues in SE10, opposition to the market proposals, which included building a 100+ bed hotel on the site, was pretty much unanimous. When Labour and Conservative councillors, usually eyeing each other up suspiciously, unite to condemn the plans, there’s a heavy hint there that hardly anybody wants this to happen.
But this isn’t good enough for Nick Raynsford – who appeared in publicity promoting the scheme.
“I think the Hospital have got good grounds for an appeal.
“In that situation when a scheme has been strongly supported by the officers and it is rejected by the politicians then very often inspectors tend to agree with the professionals and grant the appeal.
“I think this thing will be built. I have no doubt.”
In other words, Nick Raynsford doesn’t care what you think. He doesn’t even care what his fellow Labour members think. It’s bizarre. I hate to think what the Christmas card lists must be like in Labour circles right now. Wouldn’t the dignified response be to accept defeat and respect the views of your constituents?
It’s easy to see sometimes that politicians get out of touch – if nobody draws your attention to a problem, it’s easy to think everything’s okay. But this is beyond that. Raynsford’s got one of Labour’s safer seats (especially with boundary changes that remove sometimes-Tory Kidbrooke and insert always-Labour Plumstead), so maybe he’s banking this won’t come back to haunt him. But maybe this will. And what the hell is an MP doing campaigning for a development like this anyway? It leaves me scratching my head.
One line in the interview was a bit odd, when he condemned Andrew Gilligan’s reporting for the Evening Standard on the issue. Steady yourselves here, but I’m going to defend Mr Gilligan here:
The article he wrote for the Evening Standard showed an illustration of Turnpin Lane, and the argument was, this is all going to get knocked down. Nonsense. The only thing that was going to be knocked down were those steel girders that hold up the roof at the moment which actually protrude into Turnpin Lane and make it a less easy area to negotiate. And the only change would have been rather more elegant supports holding the roof up. And that to my mind is not the product of somebody who has looked at it seriously.
Except… above is a photo of Turnpin Lane, taken this afternoon. Those steel girders form the boundary of the Coach & Horses’ beer garden. So the “protroding into Turnpin Lane” argument is cobblers, because, for half of it, the beer garden does that anyway. And fixing the rest so they don’t get in the way would surely not justify demolition of great chunks of the market.
But whether Nick Raynsford is right or wrong is not the point here. An elected MP should not be trying to force through a development which very few people want to see. Greenwich has already been scarred by enough insensitive development, and the unique character of Greenwich town centre has been diluted over the years, with many independent traders feeling forced out. It’s incredible to see an MP backing developers against the wishes of the local people. It’ll be interesting to see what the response is on election day.