Tony Palmer shows himself to be an ignorant man if the piece I saw on Ealing Times this week is any guide. Moreover, he is a rude man. Just read his piece and make your own mind up. He is rude to Ealing and its people, rude to the council, its councillors and officers, rude to an MP and he patronises Save Ealing Centre calling it â€œwell meaningâ€.
When I call Palmer ignorant it is not a casual insult it is a judgement I can stand up very easily. Palmer is ignorant of both the political and economic implications of what he is saying.
His first target is the councilâ€™s work on the Local Development Framework (LDF). Mr Palmer is not the only person to find the LDF process unexciting. The council is legally required to follow this process. Hopefully the new Coalition government will give councils some freedom in this area soon. It is a bit of a red herring though.
Palmer is fixated on the station. He says:
Clearly the station and its redevelopment is the key, and why the Council therefore has such a golden opportunity. The only thing that can be said about the present station is that anyone arriving there now is so horrified that all he or she wants to do is get straight back onto the train and get the hell out of here.
So we need a station that is gateway to our Borough, something so spectacular and welcoming that it would attract the very people we need â€“ businessmen, entrepreneurs, artists, residents who are happy to arrive and not flee in panic.
Perhaps he sees the new Birmingham New Street station as a model? If so he needs to explain where the Â£600 million is coming from. Not from Crossrail. Although I am certain we should be arguing to get a better station at Ealing Broadway out of the Crossrail project it is quite understandable that the Crossrail programme is not going to weigh itself down by trying to re-engineer every station on its route.
He talks about levelling our town centre and calling it a piazza without explaining where the Â£100 millions would come from. He fails to explain how a concert hall would compete with Wigmore Hall, half an hour away on the Central line, or the Albert Hall, half an hour away by car â€“ and you can park for free on a single yellow line if you time it right. You wonder if he ever goes to these venues. The reason we have no concert hall in Ealing is the same reason that we have no department stores in Ealing â€“ there is too much truly world class competition nearby. Palmer suggests underground car parking (horrendously expensive). Has he been to Springbridge car park lately? I have never not been able to find a space there.
Palmerâ€™s la-la land vision fails to explain how one of the busiest roads in London just disappears. The 207 bus route running along the Uxbridge Road is reckoned to be the busiest bus route in Europe. It just ends at Palmerâ€™s piazza. We may not love the Uxbridge Road but designing around it is a huge challenge.
What Palmer is suggesting is that the Council should spend money it hasnâ€™t got to buy a site it cannot afford so that it could then borrow some Â£100 millions to develop it. The kind of work required to move major roads and build a public transport interchange are in the Â£100 millions territory too. Palmerâ€™s vision has a price tag in the order of Â£500-Â£1,000 million. It is unaffordable nonsense.
If he is interested in the financial realities of local government he might take a look at the budget set by the outgoing Conservative administration which is still in force, the next budget being tabled for discussion next week. If Palmer looks at Table 13 he will see that the total capital programme over four years amounts to Â£250 million of which Â£110 million is dedicated to school building, mainly primary schools. Palmer makes his living around classical music and he may want the council to build him a concert hall but the council is legally obliged to provide school places first. Once it has done that it will hopefully want to follow the Tory lead and prioritise road repairs and improving basic amenities such as parks.
It is self-evident that Palmer is rude. It is not hard to prove that he is ignorant into the bargain. According to the piece Palmer has been a local resident six years. I suggest he finds somewhere else to live.