Sunday, February 05, 2012

Bexley college.

The photo above shows the combined residential and retail block on the corner of Erith High Street and Pier Road. The residential flats above the retail units have been let and occupied ever since the building reached practical completion, but despite much marketing by the owners, not one of the retail units has managed to find a tenant. As previously mentioned, I don't think that a small, independent retailer would have the financial clout to occupy a unit and get it operational in any viable way, especially in the current harsh economic climate. I think it will need to be the likes of Nandos or Pizza Express (though we already have a Domino's takeaway just around the corner in Erith Riverside Shopping Centre) - in the unit right next to the dedicated bus drivers toilet - nice. Interestingly, the centre has also just publicly announced that it  has two prime location advertising hoardings which it is prepared to offer a couple of months' free use of to a local not for profit organisation. More on the subject here.

Mentioning Erith Riverside Shopping Centre leads me to something I was told by one of my most reliable sources of local information; on Thursday night, at approximately 9pm a man in his late 20's entered the Paddy Power bookmakers, in what years ago used to be the Midland Bank. Accounts say that the person was extremely drunk, and became abusive to both other customers and staff. When he was asked to leave he became violent and kicked through the glass panels on two doors. Staff called the Police. The individual made a run for it, with officers in hot pursuit. The great news is that the fugitive was caught in Morrison's car park.

I was only thinking that over the last year or so, the incidence of fraudulent "beggars" on trains and the underground had now almost totally ceased; whether this is due to the vigilance of the British Transport Police, or that the predominantly Roma exponents have now sucked as much cash out of the capital as they think that they can get, I don't know. Anyway, I was on the tube on Wednesday when I encountered a scruffy man panhandling for cash on the Northern Line tube train we were sharing. He was using the very same script formerly used by fake beggars on the line, even down to the announcement that he had only 49p towards his homeless hostel fee. It does not surprise me that the regular commuters studiously ignored him. If he was genuinely needy, how did he afford the fare for the tube? He either paid it and lied about his income of 49p, or he jumped the barrier, and was almost certainly caught on CCTV.  Either way he was a deceiver.

My posting last week covering the refurbishment of the Woolwich Co-Op may have been a little hasty; it would appear from the comments of a couple of readers that the situation with the Art Deco building is still far from certain. There has certainly been a degree of confusion about the plans for the site. More information as it becomes available.

On a much sunnier note, it is looking now almost certain that Bexley College will relocate to the old Erith Tram Shed, brown field site in Walnut Tree road - see the photo above of the very location. A meeting of Erith town centre forum last Wednesday put its’ support behind the college’s plans to pay for their move to the Walnut Tree Road site, which is currently waste land, by selling its’ old site in Tower Road, by the Pom Pom for redevelopment for 192 residential houses. As I have written in the past, the move into Erith seems to be a Win/Win for all concerned. The college gets to be located in a transport hub, right next to Erith Railway Station, a lot of buses (the 99, the 469, the 428, the 229 and the B13) stop very close by. Erith Riverside Shopping Centre would benefit from students spending money at lunchtime – there is Mambocino’s coffee shop and diner, the Starburger place in Cross Street, Town Kebab in Bexley Road, as well as the old stagers, McDonald’s and KFC in Manor Road, all of whom would benefit from the additional trade. In fact, all the shops in the town centre would see their trade increase – something to be welcome in these straightened times. I hope that if the move does indeed go ahead, that the old Erith Library, gifted to the town in 1906 by the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie gets used as a study centre. The building has been laying empty and unused since the library service relocated to the hideous and airless new library building opposite the Health Centre. The old building in Walnut Tree Road also was home to Bexley Council for Racial Equality, though they became the victim of budget cuts. It was only relatively recently internally refurbished to a very high standard, including computer networking. The handsome Edwardian building would be absolutely ideal as a study centre for the relocated college – being right opposite, and needing little more than a tidy up and lick of paint to be ready for service.

I am astonished that a fairly large number of people have objected to the creation of a new Asda store in Lower Belvedere, adjacent to the B and Q super store (before you ask, why I have not used an ampersand between the B and the Q, it is because Blogger throws a strop if you use ampersands - they are a database control character). The plan is to divide the B and Q store in two, with one half continuing to be a B and Q, whilst the other half would be Asda. Apparently the council has received 375 objection letters, and a petition of 409 names. I find this curious – the area would clearly benefit from a supermarket, as there is nothing else in walking distance – the small Tesco convenience shop in what was the Co-Op building is over – priced and under stocked, and not at all suitable for undertaking a “big shop”. The nearest other big supermarket is Morrison’s in Erith – a bus ride away. All I can think of is that the traders in the block of small shops adjacent to Belvedere Station have clubbed together, along with as many of their friends and relatives as they could recruit, in order to create the objection. I really do not think that many residents of Lower Belvedere would be anti a convenient, well stocked and reasonably priced food outlet within a short stroll of their abode. The new store would create approximately three hundred permanent full and part time jobs. Both buildings are set back from the highway, and away from residential properties, so the argument about noise is a bit redundant. I think that people who objected due to perceived noise should think back to when the site was home to Erith and Belvedere football club – and the noise and disruption they could generate during the football season. Still, according to an impartial and independent opinion poll taken in the area, 87% of the 1,000 people interviewed thought that opening of Asda would have a positive effect on local jobs. Update - since I wrote the piece above, Bexley Council have rejected the application by Asda, though they have not thrown the application out completely; it looks like the plans will have to be amended before being resubmitted. More news as it happens.

Bexley Neighbourhood Watch have just issued the following warning message about an Email scam that is currently doing the rounds:-

We are aware that an email entitled 'Population Census: a message to everyone - act now' is being circulated, allegedly in the name of National Statistician, Jill Matheson. this email demands individuals provide further personal information, supposedly for the Census and threatens fines for non-compliance. This email is a scam and a hoax. It has no connection whatsoever with the National Statistician, the 2011 Census or the Office for National Statistics. We believe the links in the email could download malware to any computer where the user clicks on the links. This could put your personal data, including financial information at risk. Anyone receiving this, or similar emails, should delete them, not open any links and certainly not provide any information. For more information on how to protect yourself from this type of threat, please see If you wish to, please report receipt of any such suspicious emails to The Office for National Statistics takes the protection of personal census information extremely seriously. collection of census data was completed last year and no further requests will be forthcoming from them relating to the 2011 Census. Please tell your friends and family of this type of scam, we have had this information verified by Action Fraud.

There has been some coverage in both the popular press, and on the Maggot Sandwich of the recruitment efforts currently being made by the Security Services. I recently covered the code created by GCHQ designed to be broken by budding amateur cryptanalysts (the solution of which could be found by Googling for the answer page, which had not been hidden from the search engine’s web crawls – slapped wrists for the recruitment agency that commissioned the website). Anyway, MI5 are now recruiting. Many years ago, I went for a job with the “MOD”. I turned up at a scruffy and anonymous office building in Gower Street, not far from Tottenham Court Road in the West End. Once inside, the offices were equally scruffy and down at heel – very similar to the Probate Office I visited a couple of weeks ago – so it just goes to show that very little changes in the civil service. Anyway, I had an interview for a junior data processing assistant, took a very simple test, and then was told that if I passed, I would be subject to security vetting. As it happened, due to a rather dodgy relative, I did not pass the vetting – and to be honest, I was not bothered; the office was not the kind of place I would have wanted to work. I thought little more about it. A few years later, I borrowed a book on the history of MI5 from Thamesmead Library. Lo and behold, amongst the photos in the book was a shot of the very office building I had visited for my interview with the “MOD” – I had actually been for an interview with MI5! Nowadays the Security Services are a lot more subtle and sophisticated in their recruitment processes. MI5 have a website where you can complete a real time online exercise to determine if you are made of the right stuff. The only thing is, several intelligence experts are of the opinion that the exercise is incorrect in several of the "correct" decisions it requires. You can read all about the online test, and an account of where it goes wrong by clicking hereMI6 are also recruiting, as you may have seen if you read the full page,  yet incredibly discreet advert in the quality daily papers this week. You can read more about how to apply to MI6 by clicking here.

The trains were not too bad on Wednesday morning – 2 hours and 25 minutes door to door from Pewty Acres to Watford, where my company have their main data centre. The Watford office is a campus type, three storey early 80’s grey glass building about two minutes’ walk from Watford Junction station. The ground floor is being refurbished and converted from open plan office space to client meeting rooms. In a couple of months the old St. Albans office is due to close (I understand that the lease has run out) and the staff are being moved into Watford to consolidate into one North of London location. All the staff (the company main IT department) who were based on the ground floor have been moved up to the 2nd floor, where I occasionally sit when visiting. Effectively the headcount on the floor has tripled. The loos have suffered consequently. I have taken to “toilet tourism” – going round the building looking for an isolated and quiet bog for a tranquil session of porcelain bus transportation.

I am wondering how all the contingency planning for transportation and travel during the disruption caused by the forthcoming Olympic Games is going to pan out. I have a sneaking suspicion that we could end up with a similar situation to the Millennium Bug; There was concern and hand wringing articles in the Daily Mail about how electricity generating stations would fail, trains would crash, and airliners fall out of the sky. Of course none of this came to pass. I wonder if the dire predictions of transport deadlock may scare so many people from travelling that in the end London’s transport infrastructure will actually be quieter than normal. Time will tell.

The video clip this week is of Canadian prog rock supergroup Rush, playing live in Holland; I saw them at Wembley Arena on the same tour - you can see my photos by clicking here.


  1. Pewty in M.I 5?
    "The Name's Pewty, Arthur Pewty. Licence to blog!"

    Sorry Mr.P' I have to totally disagree with you about your view on Asda.
    It's developments like that which totally kill local small businesses. Look what happened when B&Q opened, 2 local Hardware stores closed within a year. Yeah there a "gap" for a large multinational supermarket in the area but does the area really need it or is it going to be a square peg rammed into a small hole?
    Morrison's in Erith was a perfect fit as it had the space and the roads and the town cried out for a supermarket but Lower Belvedere isn't the same thing.
    I don't think anyone has complained about noise (unless it's people who live on Station Road North as theres no other residental roads near the delivery part of the store) but it's more about the amount of traffic on the local roads, the jobs "smokescreen", the impact on local business and the impact on the local area (I'm not talking tree hugging rubbish but things like say in 5 years time Asda push to go 24hr how that would impact on the area).
    Lets face it most people are going to answer yes if you say "do you want a cheap, convenient supermarket" but are they thinking about the impact that's going to have? I'd say no.

  2. I have 3 main complaints (yes I hold my hand up I was one of the people who complained by writing to my local council AND I answered negatively to the phone survey Asda conducted when they rang me at random) which are; the traffic problems, as Picardy Road is too narrow to deal with all the traffic that will use it. I regularly get stuck behind buses for upwards of 10 minutes trying to negotiate the bend and the bottom junction. Lets face it the nearest "proper" supermarket is Erith (Morrisons), Thamesmead (Morrisons) or Bexleyheath (2 Asda's, a Sainsbury's, a pending "Super Tesco exxxtreme" etc). That Asda would capture traffic not just from Lower Belvedere but parts of Thamesmead, Slade Green, Upper Belvedere, Streamway, The Pantiles, parts of Abbey Wood, even the 100's of people who will move into the Bexley College tower block…and once built there's only so much you can do with the size of the roads in the area. You often say how the units in Erith aren't able to be filled. Well with a huge supermarket chain opening up down the road there's even less of a chance of filling them.
    Think about it:
    If a Party Shop opens in Erith - "Oh Asda's have less choice but it's cheaper, I'll go there when I do my shop"
    If a Florests opens in Erith - "Oh Asda's and Morrison's do have less choice but it's cheaper, I'll go there when I do my shop"
    If a Toy Shop opens in Erith - "Oh Asda's have less choice but it's cheaper, I'll go there when I do my shop"
    If a Charity Shop opens in Erith - "Oh no, not another one in Erith!"…er…well you get my drift!

    My second complaint is the impact on local businesses. We already have a Tesco Express as well as 5 corner stores right next to the proposed development, an Offy just up Picardy Road and at the top of the hill in The Village a Bugdens, a Co-Op and God knows how many businesses that would be effected (Walkabout, the Florists are 2 that spring to mind). A multinational is hardly going to hurt from not building one store but the effect of building one on the local area will be like dropping the QE2 into Belvedere Splashpark and as for the arguementy that theres no "decent" supermarkets within walking distance, well there never has been and people have seemed to manage. Anyway Tesco's/Wallmart/Sainsbury's wouldn't be happy till every man, woman and child have their own individual supermarket…but I digress.

    The third complaint is the long term effect on the area. Who knows what that'll be? Asda could swallow the whole of B&Q in 5 years time or go 24hr and think of the impact that would have on the area. By that time the stores ingranded in the area and it will be near on impossible to have any effect.

  3. I cannot help but think that a large number of objectors to the ASDA proposal are people who leave their car in the B and Q car park for free and get the train from Belvedere to London etc. Only a few days ago I watched half a dozen passengers get off a train and head straight to the car park. B and Q do not regularly patrol or charge, ASDA will for sure as they do at Bexleyheath. It is only a matter of time before cash strapped Bexley council start charging for the free on street parking around the station roads.

  4. I sat up a bit when I saw your comment about the "noise and disruption" Erith and Belvedere FC could generate during the football season. Are you serious? I only became involved with the club during its last 10 years or so at Park View before moving in 1999, and in that time they never had a big enough crowd to generate much noise and disruption! On one occasion v Gravesend they had over 700, usually it was a fraction of that. If you remember otherwise I'd be interested to hear it.