Happy-ish Endings

Something else I’ve been talking about with Rod has been the ongoing saga of David Herbert and his fight against Greenwich Council to save his house. If you’ve been on Mars or something and don’t know the story, it’s that house that’s covered in scaffolding, all by itself in the middle of Creek Road, just up from the Lord Hood.

We’ve talked about this several times before – but what it boils down to is a proposed development where the houses around 258 Creek Road were demolished to make room for said construction work, but David Herbert had no intention of budging. He liked his house and didn’t see any reason why he should move for something that was hardly life-threatening – it was a block of flats, for dog’s sake.

The demolition of the surrounding houses was done without reference to No. 258 – and as a result the house started to collapse. Greenwich Council compounded it all by planting fast-growing trees. They admitted there might be a problem and went as far as to put up scaffolding, but dragged their heels about actually fixing the damage – presumably in the hope that the not-spring-chicken who lived there would just give up and move away.

As more and more scaffolding went up, though, David Herbert got more and more angry – and less and less inclined to move. Petitions, meetings, court cases, the lot – and all the time, he continued to open his ramshackle bookshop inside on an ad-hoc basis.

I visited the place every so often – and marvelled that anyone could live in a place like that – it seemed to lose another amenity every time I went.

But now Rod tells me that David Herbert has (temporarily at least) won his fight to have his house restored to at least some kind of habitable state. Rod saw a bunch of workmen outside and they told him that the Council has finally – five years after admitting fault – decided to underpin the house and reinstate some utilities – at the moment it doesn’t have running water or gas. Rod says ” I doubt that the work which is happening will do more that just stabilise the building and run in a few basic services etc, so the damp, the visible cracks in the masonry and the missing/warped floorboards etc will probably remain.”
All this sounds like good news – and I guess that I am pleased for David Herbert – he finally got what he wanted from the council and greedy developers. But I’m inclined to agree with Rod – is this really a triumph for the Little Man – or is David Herbert a victim of that old saying “be careful what you wish for – you might get it?”
Rod tells me that Herbert will get no compensation for his house being ruined and having to live in squalor for five years when all the time Greenwich Council admitted they were at fault. I’m pretty sure the guy hasn’t the kind of cash needed to fix-up this dilapidated, semi-derelict Edwardian pub – which will mean that an elderly man will be living in poverty even after winning his battle.

I’m with Rod when he says:

“It’s his life and his home, but part of me wishes that when the property market was at it’s height and the developer approached him to purchase his land (which is approximately 20-25% of the possible, available, Bardsley Lane area), that he had screwed them to the wall and negotiated a really outrageous price from them, because they were so desperate for the land, bought himself a nice comfortable little house and put the rest of the money in the bank.”

I tried to email David Herbert or his friends – but have had no response…

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