Last month, Bromley Council’s Conservative controlled Executive voted to sell the freehold of the Blenheim Shopping Centre, despite opposition from local traders and from Cllr Kevin Brooks and Labour Group Leader Cllr Angela Wilkins, who spoke strongly opposing the proposal.
Selling the freehold weakens any influence the Council has on the site and makes it easier for a developer to turn the shopping centre into flats (indeed- the current leaseholder put in plans for a 14 level Tower Block (which they have not yet applied for planning permission for). Just as we opposed the decision, we will vigorously oppose any application that threatens the future of the High Street.
The SE20 BID, Penge Traders and representatives from Penge Forum have opposed the move Representatives from Penge Forum have also voiced their similar concerns, we believe the Council should have consulted residents before taking any decision. Just as they fail to consult residents on many other matters.
The Blenheim Centre is not any old piece of land. It is the central to Penge High Street, brings shoppers and business to Penge- almost all trading depends on it. The presence of the car park attracts shoppers and new businesses to an area which has no other sustainable parking.
The importance of (free) car parking for shoppers has become even more vital since to installation of the Penge Parking Zone. If shoppers have nowhere to park in Penge, we are extremely worried they will not come and the local economy will suffer. Which is a particular worry given many businesses have been forced to close for much of the past year and are still a long way from recovering.
We are not against any possible form of residential development and would be happy to work with developers as there is a need for genuinely affordable housing in Penge and across Bromley (mostly because the Council has not built any for decades). However, the small amount of income gained by the Council was far outweighed by the negatives of selling the freehold.