In its proposal to ‘remodel’ the borough’s libraries (ie remove four libraries, including Blackfen, from its ‘core services’), Bexley Council states “A significant majority of the borough’s population – 98.5%- will live within 1.5 miles of a library, meaning most residents will live within a short journey of one of the six proposed Council libraries.”
How did the Council arrive at this figure?
I presume they have chosen the shortest distance ‘as the crow flies’ but Blackfen has several obstacles surrounding it: the A2 dual carriageway, the Sidcup railway line and Danson Park. These mean that actual distances between A to B are much further. A few Blackfen addresses tested in the AA Route Planner reveals:
|Address in Blackfen||Distance to Sidcup Library (miles)||Distance to Welling Library (miles)|
|Parish Gate Drive||3||1.9|
|Orchard Rise West||3.3||2|
|Days Lane Primary School||2.4||1.4|
|Sherwood Park Primary School||2.9||2|
|Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Primary School||2.5||1.7|
|Blackfen School for Girls||2.9||2|
These figures do not seem to fit with “98.5% will live within 1.5 miles of a library”.
Even taking into account pedestrian bridges and subways, for most people, walking from Blackfen to either Welling or Sidcup would be considered too far, especially for the types of people most likely to use the library. And there is the hill of Hook Lane to consider, which is not for the faint-hearted! Bexley Council states that 76.3% of Bexley residents have a car – but have any of the councillors tried parking in Sidcup during the daytime lately? Oh, and they’re about to increase the car parking charges too…
Luckily Blackfen is well-served by a 51 bus route. However, this is no use to children on class visits who can currently walk to the nearest library. The time factor means children won’t be able to pop into a library after school. Job seekers using the library computers might not be able to afford the bus fares required to access another library. And by forcing people to visit other town centres, they are less likely to use the shops in Blackfen which could have a detrimental effect on its high street and, in turn, make it a less desirable place to live, which is surely not in the Council’s best interests economically. Local facilities are a key factor in a community’s survival.