Bromley councillor clarifies his tweet aimed at campaigners who do not want Beckenham Library to move

By Lachlan Leeming BBC Local Government Correspondent

A senior councillor has moved to clarify comments made on Facebook concerning a controversial development.

Bromley Conservative Cllr Nicholas Bennett was talking about the relocation of Beckenham Library from its current site and commented “Homelessness just a rumour (sic) put round by those with nowhere to live” underneath a picture posted by the Save Beckenham Library Facebook group on Monday.

Several responses to the councillor’s comment expressed confusion at what he meant, with union Unite’s Bromley branch even issuing a statement demanding the West Wickham ward member clarify his post.

In response, Cllr Bennett told the local democracy reporting service that it was intended as an “ironic comment”, and accused protestors against the planned library relocation of “putting books before homes”.

“People who are protesting against this are protesting against new homes for those families,” Cllr Bennett, a Conservative who served as the MP for Pembrokeshire from 1987 to 1992, said.

He added there are currently 1,600 homeless families in the borough, and this project – which would see the library relocated to Beckenham Public Hall, with the current site then developed into council housing – would provide much-needed social housing stock for the authority.

“That’s why the council are proposing this, so we can build 40-odd homes (for them),” he said.

In their statement, Bromley’s Unite union branch called on Cllr Bennett to explain the meaning of his comment, adding that it was the first time he had spoken publicly on the controversial proposal.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “We live in a time where people often have remarks attributed to them falsely, sometimes by having identities hacked – so first of all we would want to hear from Cllr Bennett as to whether he accepts that the comments are indeed his. We are happy to give him this chance.”

“It is with some irony that the comment is made in connection with the closure and relocation of a library. Our members in Bromley Libraries have been on strike since 6 June and this is the closest I have heard him come to commenting about a library.”

It comes as a protest was held on Tuesday, a week after nearly 100 residents gathered to discuss their concerns over the move.

Critics say the new site is just a third of the size of the current one, while its relocation would take it away from a community “hub” which includes the nearby Beckenham Spa and Venue 28.

A decision on the proposal is set to be made by Bromley’s executive committee at their November 27 meeting at 7pm.

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3 thoughts on “Bromley councillor clarifies his tweet aimed at campaigners who do not want Beckenham Library to move

  • 26 November 2019 at 10:00 pm

    Councillor Bennett refers to forty flats that the Council wish to provide for social housing.
    In fact the proposal is not for social but for ‘affordable’ housing.
    Forty six flats are proposed, of which ‘a proportion’ will be affordable; at this stage, we do not know how many.

    In the case of another recent equivalent redevelopment in this area, all of the ‘affordable’ flats were bought off plan by buy-to-let investors.

    I work with a local charity supporting people who are homeless or struggling to make ends meet.
    This proposal will have no impact whatsoever on their plight. In fact it was represents a wanton destruction of a public amenity as a sacrifice to the Gods of private greed.

    Rather than attempting to make feeble jokes on Twitter, Mr Bennett might do better to elaborate on the back-door-round-the houses profit that this means to him and his corrupt Cabal.

  • 27 November 2019 at 10:45 pm

    Shame the conservatives sold off our social housing stock under Thatcher and now have to bulldoze a Library to build more.

  • 28 November 2019 at 1:27 pm

    Whilst Cllr Bennet states that the 40 odd flats planned on the site of our library will all be for the homeless, at the meeting on 27/11/19 this has become 20 odd (or 50% of the development) flats that can be entirely paid for by housing benefit. Is the number going to go down any further? No doubt, because once the land is sold to developers they will do whatever brings the most money in.
    There are other sites in Beckenham where the council could easily build 46 flats for the homeless, such as the plot of land next to the railway behind the Churchfields Recycling Centre. This plot has been unused and empty for at least 5 years and is currently for sale.


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