Sunday, December 10, 2017

Carnegie scaffolding.

The two photos above were taken by me on Thursday afternoon; they show the scaffolding being erected around the old Carnegie Library in Walnut Tree Road, Erith. Finally this outstanding, historic local building is being refurbished after years of being neglected by Bexley Council. I understand that work will begin in January, though details are somewhat sketchy at present.  More in future updates.

Well, the News Shopper have finally caught up with the scoop that I published last Sunday - the story about Bexley Council no longer supplying recycling hoppers for empty drinks cartons and plastic packaging at their recycling facilities around the borough. The News Shopper have finally reported the story, over a week after I broke it. Cabinet member for community safety, environment and leisure, Councillor Peter Craske said in a News Shopper interview that:- “We pride ourselves on being the top London borough for recycling waste and we urge all our residents to recycle their waste responsibly. Unfortunately, because of the minority spoiling these sites, it is no longer cost-effective to keep them running for the little recyclable plastics and cartons they produce. We hope that residents will continue to recycle as much as they can through their normal weekly collections". I would be not at all surprised if Craske and his council buddies have to backtrack on this decision in the not too distant future. It is almost certainly going to increase the amount of illegal fly tipping in the borough. I understand that Bexley Council spends something in the region of £300 per load of fly - tipped materials that they hire their waste contractor to collect. Bearing in mind that Bexley Council claim to have the highest rate of waste recycling in Greater London, this seems to be a very short - sighted and retrograde move, and one that I strongly feel that they will soon regret.

The congestion situation at the Dartford River Crossing shows no signs of improving; the Woolwich Ferry has once again either been completely unavailable, or reduced to a single ship - the vessels currently in service are at the end of their service lives, and are repeatedly breaking down. New ships are on order, but until they arrive in the summer of next year - and go into service after new mooring berths are constructed - work which will begin next October, all things being equal. The ferry service will close completely during the construction work, so it is quite likely the upgraded ferry service will not actually start until early in 2019. The new ships will be called the 'Ben Woollacott', after a former deckhand on the ferry who died in an accident, and the 'Dame Vera Lynn', after the legendary singer who was born in Woolwich. As of now, we have nearly a further year of disruption and loss of service whilst the old and worn out ships have to continue to provide the much needed ferry service. As previously mentioned, many lorries are unable to use the Blackwall Tunnel, which was not designed for modern, lorry based, shipping container type traffic; consequently many lorries use the Woolwich Ferry - but if this is unavailable, as has regrettably been the case on many days over the last few weeks, the heavy lorries have to go massively out of their way and travel down to the Dartford River Crossing. Not only does this greatly add to the congestion, but it increases the level of air pollution in the area. Historically, the Dartford River Crossing has encountered challenges ever since it was first constructed, and over the course of the years, several interesting and creative approaches have been made. Back in December of 2013, I wrote about a short lived bus service that carried cyclists through the tunnel. Last week I was contacted quite out of the blue by a professional transport expert called John Burch; John and I have known each other for more years than I care to recall, although we had lost contact a long time ago. John had come across the piece I wrote on the specialist bus service, and agreed to write a guest article on the unusual bus service for cyclists using the Dartford River Crossing. John writes:- "The original Dartford - Purfleet tunnel was formally opened to traffic on 18th November 1963. The joint committee formed to operate the tunnel had decided on safety grounds, that cyclists needed to be transported through the tunnel and anticipated such a need for transport that a fleet of 5 lightweight specialised double deck buses were to be ordered. These would allow the service to operate daily every 6 minutes from 0600 – 2200. The Ministry of Transport drew up specifications for 5 vehicles and an invitations to tender was issued in August 1961. The tender was won by Strachans Coachbuilders. The chassis was a Ford Thames Trader with a Ford 6D diesel engine. London Transport had been ordering Thames Traders for its service vehicle fleet at the time which probably influenced the decision of the chassis. The cost of the whole fleet was a little over £12,000. They had 33 seats in the top deck which was reached by climbing two short stairways on each side. The vehicles also had 3 ladder like steps below the stairway to be used to board or alight away from the special platforms. The vehicles reversed into one of a pair of loading bays on each side of the tunnel. These had surrounding platforms for loading the bicycles and to allow ease of access to the top deck. The lower deck could carry 23 ordinary cycles and had a large rear accessed boot area for the carriage of tandems, perambulators, sidecars and tricycles. When they were first constructed the vehicles were found to fail the tilt test because of their strange construction. They had to be extensively modified. The frame height was lowered by using special springs and a non standard front axle, which also gave a wider track. The rear wheel track was also increased. Steel rebound straps having rubber buffers were provided for both axles and the rear springs were fitted with Metalastik rubber spring aids. They were 30’ long, 7’10” wide, 14’ 3” high, with a wheelbase of 17’ 8½” and track of 5’ 10”. Ford had to undertake various modifications to get the vehicles through the tilt test. Then as late as October 1963 the Tunnel Manager raised concerns about the safety of the vehicles. The driver could only see a very restricted view of the passenger compartment and he was worried that anyone moving around on the bus could easily fall from the open stairway. This may have been why the vehicles were fitted with special 9-00-20 (10-ply) tunnel type, with a special tread on the sidewalls to resist scuffing on the kerb. Similar tyres had been used on normal London buses operating through existing Thames tunnels for many years. This work was undertaken at the old Poplar LT garage. The decision was taken to get London Transport to operate the vehicles and the nearest garage was the Country Bus department garage at Dartford. This was my local country bus garage. The vehicles were all based here for maintenance and operational purposes. They were given LT fleet numbers TT1-5 (526-530FJJ). They carried London Transport’s green Country Bus livery, but were always actually owned by the Dartford Tunnel Joint Committee and bore the legend DARTFORD TUNNEL CYCLE SERVICE. Originally four vehicles were required for the service with one spare. I have a copy of the original timetable which allows for a 6 minute headway service, but it soon became apparent that this was far too ambitious. The service requirement was reduced and by April 1964 it was down to one bus. With costs running at £2,550 per month and revenue of only £45 per month the service was abandoned in October 1965. The TT class vehicles were replaced by an on demand Dartford Tunnel Land Rover towing a special bike carrying trailer. I used this later service several times myself at a cost of 6d per single journey! The TTs were stored first at Dartford and then at Northfleet garage before being disposed of. All five TT class vehicles were sold to Don Everall commercial vehicle sales in Wolverhampton in March 1966. Don Everall was a Ford dealership and was also a coach operator running, not surprisingly, a lot of Ford coaches. TT3 was known to have been used briefly by Don Everall as a mobile advertising hoarding for their coach our programme and then subsequently during 1968 as a campaign vehicle against potential nationalisation. This doesn’t seem to have saved their coach fleet from acquisition by the National Bus Company during the late 1970s. There was little interest in purchasing these specialised vehicles from Don Everall. Later in 1966 TT1 was used by Trucks and Palletts (Scotland) Limited based in East Kilbride where it was used in connection with experiments for a pedestrian controlled bus transporter. The battery-electric Bus Transporter was a piece of equipment designed to move buses. It had a lifting capacity of 5 tons and a towing capacity of 10 tons. It was claimed to be a safe, simple and efficient means of towing buses and other heavy vehicles under construction or during repair and maintenance operations. It featured a powered hydraulic lift. I believe that TT1 was acquired to demonstrate this lifting unit. I remember reading reports about this at the time as the vehicle was observed by enthusiasts at the East Kilbride location. I think it may later have returned to Don Everall, so perhaps it was only on loan or hire. Don Everall’s own driving school used two of the TT class vehicles for driver training. One at least was still being used for this purpose during 1967. All except TT4 were eventually scrapped. Their mechanical components were presumably recycled for further use. TT4 was the only other Dartford Tunnel cycle bus to find a new owner. It was sold to Shrewsbury Corporation for, I believe, conversion into a mobile library. Whether this ever actually happened I don’t know, but the vehicle certainly bore the Corporation coat of arms and carried a faded blue livery. Shrewsbury Corporation ceased to exist in 1974 following local government re-organisation, which suggests TT4 was sold by the corporation before then. Nothing more was heard of the vehicle for some years and it was assumed it had been scrapped. In February 1985 I joined a new company set up jointly by Leon Daniels, then MD of London Pride Sightseeing and Peter Newman, Chairman of Ensignbus. I found myself working with a whole bunch of transport enthusiasts and thus began one of the happiest periods in my career. A couple of months after starting there, Leon told me that he and some of the others were planning a few days away and asked if I’d like to come along? He told me that there was something that they were going to see that I might find interesting. So off we went late one afternoon driving to Shropshire. We booked into a B and B in the Marches that Leon had used before. The following day we headed off to a location that Leon wanted to keep secret. He took us to an old quarry where a dealer had stored lots and lots of old Land Rovers and other military vehicles. One of Leon’s colleagues had come across this place several years previously while looking for old Land Rover parts. It was when he had entered the quarry that he found something quite astonishing. Knowing Leon’s interest in buses he passed on the location and Leon later went there and found the vehicle that he had taken me to see. We headed into the old quarry passing derelict old vehicles until we found the vehicle which was parked up against a cliff face. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a TT class vehicle...". Part two of John Burch's story of the Dartford Tunnel Cycle Service Bus will be told next week. Do look out for it; feel free to leave a comment below. or Email me at

After many years of having a policy of closing down public lavatories, I am beginning to wonder if Bexley Council are now beginning to have some kind of rethink. I noticed that when I passed on Wednesday afternoon, the public toilets located on the corner of Heron Hill and Woolwich Road, opposite the Eardley Arms pub, and adjacent to the former Belvedere Splash Park; the toilets were open, and some workers were refurbishing them. The work seemed to be quite extensive, and whilst very much welcomed, it did get me wondering if the council will extend the work to other closed toilets? I know that the public lavatories in Erith Town Centre were not closed for the reasons the council stated - according to Bexley Council. they were closed due to vandalism, but in reality they were closed to save money on cleaning and maintenance. Instead a privately run automated loo was installed opposite the Health Centre. Not only dues this unit charge for use, whereas the previous lavatories were free to use, but it is also out of operation on occasion. Do you have any information on local public toilets, then please let me know by Emailing me at

I wrote last week on the subject of moped criminals, and how it seemed to be that their local activities seem to have been curtailed of late; I gave the opinion that it could at least partially be attributed to the cold and wet weather keeping them indoors. I have since discovered that the Police, both locally and over other parts of Greater London have been very active in combatting these criminals. A new squad has been set up in Central London to deal with the threat from the extremely mobile crooks. Undercover police snatch squads are dragging suspected moped thugs off their bikes in a radical new tactic to combat thieves and smash and grab raiders. Teams of plain clothes officers are mounting ambushes on criminals using mopeds or scooters while they are caught in slow moving traffic as they ride into the West End. They are deploying the snatch squads at traffic “pinch points” and strike when the moped riders are forced to come to a halt. Four thieves on two mopeds robbed people of mobiles in Islington and Camden before police deployed a ‘stinger’ to trap one of the bikes in Islington.  Earlier the same day seven men on mopeds raided a luxury watch store in Fleet Street while brandishing a Samurai sword, bars and knives. The “snatch and grab” tactic is being deployed by officers in Westminster as an alternative to the more risky policy of pursuing moped robbers at speed through the streets. Whilst these crimes are being carried out in central London, there is intelligence that some of the crooks involved are coming from other parts of the capital, including South East London and North Kent. So far, two moped riders have been dragged off their machines by police. One has been jailed for three years for robbery offences and another youth, aged just 14, has been charged with a series of moped enabled crimes. A third youth was also tracked down later and arrested and charged. The tactic is one of several new innovative methods being pursued by the Met to combat the scourge of moped robbers in London. Police are using the “stinger” devices to deflate tyres and a forensic Smart Water spray to mark individuals committing offences so they can be identified later. The spray has been used more than eight times across London in recent weeks. Detectives have been forced to adapt their tactics because of the risks of pursuing scooters at high speed through London’s crowded streets. This new "Get Tough" policy has also started to produce results locally; a well - known local repeat offender called Luke Jervis, aged 28, of Darenth Road, Welling was sentenced at Woolwich Crown Court on Wednesday, 29 November after pleading guilty to dangerous driving. Jervis was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment for driving his off-road motorcycle dangerously, without insurance and whilst already disqualified. In addition to the prison sentence, Jervis received a further five-year driving disqualification and the motorcycle he was in possession of when arrested will be destroyed. The criminal idiot had been illegally riding on Sunday, October 1 between 1pm and 5pm, Jervis had been caught red handed, performing high-speed stunts in Norman Road, Lower Belvedere, on an illegal, unlicenced and uninsured motorcycle whilst being cheered on by a group of around ten young children, aged between approximately 10 and 14 years old. Now the scumbag has been sent down, and the bike scrapped - a great result all around.

Now for the weekly local safety and security reports from the Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly from Barnehurst ward:- "Sadly we have had two burglaries on the ward since our last update. One being in Watling Street and the other in Halcot Avenue We believe that the offences are linked, the properties back onto one another and the method of entry is identical Both occurred on the 1st December between 2PM and 6PM Entry gained by suspect smashing a window in the rear UPVC door and reaching through, opening the door with the keys that had been left internally in the locks. Properties have been searched and electrical and jewellery items removed Please make sure any UPVC doors are securely locked and the keys removed when nobody is at home Unbelievably over the weekend from the 1st December, mindless vandals have entered Mayplace Primary School grounds and have damaged benches, play equipment and toys, if you have any information of theses or any other crimes please contact police or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Join a member of your local team on the Tuesday 12th December,11am at Barnehurst Golf Course to discuss any local issues that you may have or just pop along for a chat We are having a few issues with our Facebook account and the page has not been updated in a while, we are hopeful that the issues will be resolved shortly, we will keep you updated, in the meantime please follow us on twitter @MPSBarnehurst for updates as to what your local team are up to and crime prevention advice". Belvedere ward:- "A busy week for the team this week. We held our quarterly ward panel meeting on Thursday 30th November where it was decided that through December and into the New Year, we will be our focussing on Burglary and Robbery offences and also Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) on the ward. Our next ward panel meeting will take place in February 2018 (the date of which is as yet not confirmed). A member of public recently reported a machete had been found in the upper part of Lesness Abbey woods near to Nelson Road/ Walden Close, which she discovered whilst walking her dogs. PC Green and PCSO Worrall attended the area and located the item which has now been collected and has been requested to be destroyed. After a great deal of work by PC Holmes due to reported crimes taking place, the team were joined by officers from neighbouring wards (Thamesmead SNT, Colyers SNT, North End SNT) and a warrant was executed on the Belvedere Park estate in Lower Belvedere. From this, 3 males were arrested for various offences and there is a great deal of investigatory work to follow. Also, we have also recently been contacted by Councillor Francis who informed us that residents of Ruskin Road have raised concerns around various issues. We have arranged a ‘street briefing’ which will be taking place on Saturday 9th December at 12pm. This will be an opportunity for residents to speak to the team and discuss any issues that they would like to bring to our attention. Finally, our next crime prevention surgery has been arranged for Monday 11th December 2017 at the Belvedere Library on Woolwich Road. The team will be in attendance from 10.30am". Brampton ward:- "Quite an uneventful start to the month. Since Dec 1st we have had 2 shop liftings from the Co-op in Pickford Lane. One residential burglary in Percy Road, where the garage was broken into but nothing was taken. A shoplifting from Wells pharmacy in Brampton Road where cosmetic gift sets were taken. And finally criminal damage to a motor vehicle in Normanhurst Avenue where victim had her tyres slashed". Christchurch ward:-  From a Neighbourhood Watch Member in Gravel Hill - "My neighbour's husband has just called in. His wife was driving her car and turned right into Gravel Hill (from Gravel Hill Close). She saw two youths smashing up the bus stop on the Broadway bound side of the road and she called out to them to stop. They used foul and abusive language and started to run towards her car but they couldn't get across the road and she was lucky to be able to drive away as she was frightened she was going to be attacked. That is all the information we have. It all happened so quickly that it is unlikely that she would have any description of them but it is worth mentioning to the Watch to be on the lookout for this happening elsewhere. It is terrible that people can vandalise things in that way and behave threateningly towards others". Colyers ward:- "Another week has passed and I am delighted to say that for the second week running, Colyers Ward has a zero in the motor vehicle column, in relation to thefts of any type. This is great news. In regards to burglary, there has been just the one in Venners Close overnight from the 2nd to the 3rd December. The porch doors had been left unlocked and so entry was gained into the porch. An attempt was made on the inner door, but access not gained and some damage caused. Cigarettes were taken from a jacket pocket in the porch. We are also aware of a burglary on Northend Ward in Eversley Avenue. I mention it because it is literally one house off our border, so please be aware. It is very important that all doors are locked. Leaving porch doors open is very common and it gives a burglar a chance. Two locked doors is far more of a deterrent than one. Remember, Santa is the only person you want gaining access to your home this Christmas". Erith ward:- "Our issues from the last few months of Theft from motor vehicles has started to decline, so well done to everyone who has followed our crime prevention advice. Burglary has risen a little this week. This is going to be due to xmas being around the corner, Once again please make sure your doors are locked and widows are closed. Do not leave piles of presents under the tree which could be seen from the street outside". Lesnes Abbey ward:- "Good news - PC Moore has joined the team. Burglaries - a burglary occurred on Thursday 30/11/17 in Knowle Avenue. Home crime prevention - When the nights get longer keep the burglars guessing. Make your home look occupied by using timer lights. Motor vehicle crime - Overnight between Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th in Holcote Close, a motor vehicle was broken into and items taken. Incident reported on 2nd December. Check your car security - Have you locked your doors and windows? Did you know that your vehicle is like a shop window ? If you can see ANY property left on view then so can a thief. Take it with you. Don't give thieves a happy Christmas! Out Shopping - Beware of pickpockets. Stay alert and keep your bags close to you. At home - Note frame numbers of bicycles/colour/make. Note serial numbers/make and model of electrical goods. Register your property for FREE and improve your chances of getting it back if it is lost or stolen and help reduce property crime, register at:". North End ward:- "A busy time this past week. Masked men entered McColls in Forest Road last Friday lunchtime while the cash machine was being repaired and took away thousands in cash boxes. Fortunately nobody was hurt during the incident. We had a burglary in Eversley Avenue overnight Saturday, whereby the UPVC door was forced and both cars stolen after the keys were taken from inside the property. 1 car has been recovered. Please ensure if you have a UPVC door to lift the handle AND turn the key and the handle along is not enough to lock the door. 1 theft of motor vehicle in Maynard Close and 2 x Criminal damage to vehicles 1 in Howbury Lane and 1 in Ely Close. A public order type incident occurred on Monday evening at Britannia Close involving several males, reassurance patrols are ongoing and team contact details have been delivered. We assisted our Belvedere colleagues in executing a warrant this past week with 3 arrests made for various offences. The ward officer pulse bus has resulted in several cannabis warnings issued along with a few stop and searches and moving on a group with 2 off road bikes down by Erith Yacht Club. This weekend we are hoping to attend the St Augustines Church Christmas fete from 11am Saturday and from 5pm on Sunday is the annual Carol Service at the same location where we will be hoping our singing skills will be noted! We also welcome back PC James Telfer to our Northend Team giving us 2 PC DWO’s and one PCSO DWO. Please say hi if you see any of us around. The next police surgery is at on Friday 15th December at 1800hrs at the Pier Road Safer Neighbourhoods team base. Please feel free to attend". Northumberland Heath ward:- "We have had a shed burglary in Becton Place on Thursday November 30th. The suspect stole some children's winter coats, a Christmas tree and sentimental tree decorations which cannot be replaced. On Tuesday November 5th between 5pm and 8pm a house in Bexley Road was burgled. Entry was gained was attempting to force a rear window by smashing it and gaining entry using the key. £600 in cash was stolen from the address. Please take extra care during the run up to Christmas. Make your property look occupied when you are out by leaving lights on or investing in some timer switches which you can plug the TV, Radio or lamps in to. Crime prevention advice can be found on the Met Police website. Sadly, in the last week we have had a report of an elderly resident in Penhurst Road being the victim of a scam. A male knocked at their door stating they were doing repairs to a neighbour’s house and that the guttering on the victim’s property could be cleaned for a one off special rate. The Male took £150 from the victim before leaving and stating that he would return in twenty minutes and did not return. We have received two further reports of this taking in Mill Road and Bedonwell Road, luckily the residents did not part with any cash and the male went away empty handed. The team are continuing to focus on anti-social behaviour in and around Dickens Close and are conducting regular patrols and stopping youths loitering in the area. The next drop in Police surgery will be held at the Library in Mill Road Erith on Friday December 15th between 4pm – 5pm". Thamesmead East ward:- "Burglary - Binsey Walk Thursday 28th November 2017 between 10pm - 8am the vacant property in a block due for demolition, pipes, wire and a boiler stolen; Baylis Avenue, Saturday 2nd December 2017 was at Thamesmead Town Football Club between 1230 - 1252pm 1 mobile phone and a watch was stolen from an unlocked changing room. Theft Of Motor Vehicle Southmere Drive on Monday 4/12/17 between 5-7pm by suspect unknown removing victims motor cycle without keys. Thamesmead East and Lesnes Abbey assisted colleagues from Belvedere in the execution of a warrant on Mon 4/12/17 after reports of theft of post on the Belvedere Park Estate. The warrant was successful with 3 males arrested and a large amount of property seized for investigation; The team attended Parkway Primary School on 6/12/17 to give a talk to year 5 about Criminal responsibility, a question and answer from pupils was taken afterwards.  The Thamesmead East Police Surgery will be held on Tuesday 12th December 2017 between 2.30-3.15pm at Thamesmead Library (temporary premises) Binsey Walk SE2 9TR. Shop safe – keep your purse or wallet secure. Always lock your car when unattended, even for a few moments. Never leave items in view in your car or home. Tell your neighbours if you are going away and ask them to keep an eye on your house. Always report anything suspicious".

The end video this week is an excerpt from the popular Canadian documentary series "How It's Made" - which can be seen on several channels in the UK, including Quest. The video shows how the low volume, hand built Caterham Seven sports cars are assembled in the Caterham Cars factory in Kennet Road, Crayford (not Dartford, as the narrator says, but cut him some slack - he's Canadian and not likely to know the subtleties of local geography). Give it a watch, and leave a comment below, or Email me at