Sunday, July 13, 2014

The regeneration of Erith Quarry.

The remodelling of Manor Road continues, and locals report that it is not a happy experience. The second phase of work to the section of road between Appold Street and Frobisher Road has now begun, and on Tuesday evening the contractor, FM Conway blocked off the rat run from James Watt Way via Appold Street into Manor Road, with barriers, cones and large “Road Closed” signs at both end of Appold street; they also erected barriers along the footpaths on both sides of the road, and finally they placed barriers and traffic cones across the road at the Frobisher Road end of the road closure. Within a couple of minutes, irresponsible motorists removed the barriers and signs so that they could continue to use the legally closed road; in doing this they knocked over the barriers that ran along the footpaths, making them impossible to use by pedestrians. The Police were notified, and some time later a single worker from Conway was back on site to put all the barriers back in place. As soon as he had gone, selfish motorists once again removed the barriers and cones so that they could continue to illegally  use the road – despite the fact that there were deep holes where the manholes had already been dug out prior to the road surface being removed. I have had detailed reports of a woman  with a small child in a buggy being sworn and shouted at by a biker illegally using the pavement to try and circumvent the works. If this was not enough of a concern, FM Conway seem to  have a very relaxed approach to the whole project.  Workers seem to begin sloping off at around 3.30 in the afternoon, and on numerous occasions only a handful of staff have actually been on site. It strikes me that Conway are trying to do the whole thing “on the cheap” by keeping their overheads (staff costs) low. No overtime, little weekend and no evening works, even if this does cause a problem both to local residents and motorists alike. It was also suggested to me that Conway are shifting staff from the Manor Road site to the Fraser Road site in the late afternoons. The Fraser Road site operates from 7pm until 2am, and I have had reports of some of the same faces being seen at both locations at different times of the day. If this was not bad enough, some irresponsible bikers are continuing to illegally ride motorbikes up and down the footpaths on Manor Road, as they are too feckless and lazy to follow the posted diversion, and would rather break the law and endanger pedestrians. Only yesterday morning I saw a obviously wealthy bloke on a giant Harley Davidson rumbling down the very part of the pavement seen to the right of the photograph above (click for a larger view). As you can clearly see, there is absolutely nowhere for a pedestrian to jump out of the way, as the metal fences block moving in the to the road to avoid a speeding motorbike. Locals are encouraged to take photographs when they see such criminal activity, and to send them to the Erith Watch website here. The Police will take action where they have clear evidence of illegal activity taking place, which in cases such as this can involve the offenders' bike being crushed should they be caught again. Only two weeks from the start, the ten week Manor Road remodelling project has already slipped by a week.  How much more inconvenience local residents will have to suffer is unclear at this point. Locals are having to keep their cars in Morrison's car park, as there is absolutely no (legal) vehicular access to the section of road in the photo. Once the works are completed, the road should be superb, and a real boon to the area; it does seem to me that the price that local residents are having to pay in terms of inconvenience is exceptionally high. Better project management and communications from F.M Conway and the Council could remedy this, along with the arrest, prosecution and bike crushing of the illegal riders. I can also say that most bikers are very responsible. I know many do take the diversion, and I have even seen some getting off, switching off their bike's engine and pushing the bike along as a pedestrian, which I am sure neither I or others have any trouble with whatsoever. As is often the case, the minority tarnish the image of the many, and everyone suffers in consequence.

As regular reader will be aware, the Maggot Sandwich likes to do its' bit for the local community. This week I am publishing an appeal for information and photographs. You can read more here:- "Next year (2015) sees the centenary of the completion of the building of the tower,  and the installation of the clock and bells for Christ Church Erith. I am doing research at the moment with the intention of putting together a display for next year. What I would love to see, if such a thing exists, is a picture of the tower under construction during 1914-15. We have a picture of the laying of the foundation stone  on June 13th 1914 and pictures once the building work was completed in June 1915 but nothing in between. The pictures we have are largely accredited to JB Major of Pier Road Erith, a local photographer (and probably a sidesman at Christchurch) who seems to have had various addresses in Erith in the preceding years so it seems  most likely that any photos during construction would be by him. So far I have drawn a blank in the Parish Archives both in the church and those now held in the Local Studies Centre and in the local newspapers of the day". If you have any information or relevant photographs, you can contact Rachel via myself at the usual Email address:-

You may have read this week in the news that a large number of documents have been released from the Mitrokhin Archive relating to Soviet espionage over the last eighty or so years. The archive has been the property of the Churchill Archive Centre at Cambridge University since they were handed over by MI6 after they had been analysed in the late 1990’s. At over two thousand closely hand written pages, the Mitrokhin Archive is the largest academic record of Soviet era spying known to exist. It was created by KGB Major Vasili Mitrokhin during his thirty years as a KGB archivist in the foreign intelligence service and the First Chief Directorate. When he defected to the United Kingdom in 1992 he brought the archive with him. One of the conditions of Mitrokhin’s defection was that the documents were to be released into the public domain when they were no longer likely to endanger any operations. This has now happened, and much historical detail concerning KGB operations in the West is now open to public study.  Long time readers may recall that I wrote about long time Nursery Avenue in Bexleyheath resident, British communist and covert KGB spy Melita Norwood back in October 2011. At that point it was thought that she was not really very important and that MI5 had not had her arrested as they felt that she was not a high risk to security – they had only found out about her spying activities in when the Archive reached their hands, by which time Norwood was an old lady (she died in 2005). The publication of the Mitrokhin Archive would seem to give lie to this, however. Melita Norwood was a civil servant at the British Non – Ferrous Metals Research Association (a research organisation that conducted work ostensibly into areas such as the effects of corrosion in pipes and seawater cooled condenser tubes used in warships; there is also some debate that the organisation was a cover for British nuclear weapons research, though there is contradictory evidence regarding this).  She had access to the safe that contained documents graded as secret and above, and photographed thousands of pages which were handed over to her KGB masters. The Mitrokhin Archive says that Norwood, far from being a minor and not very significant figure in Soviet espionage, was actually the most important and highly regarded female spy in KGB history. She had been secretly awarded the Order of the Red Banner and granted a lifetime pension of £20 a month. It seems to me that the KGB would not have given her this very prestigious award simply for passing them information on rusty warships.  The Order of the Red Banner was the highest award of Soviet Russia, subsequently the Soviet Union, until the Order of Lenin was established in 1930. Recipients were recognised for extraordinary heroism, dedication, and courage demonstrated on the battlefield. The order was also awarded to individuals as well as to military units, cities, ships, political and social organizations, and state enterprises. In essence the award was not given lightly. Despite the contradictory evidence, I find the claims that Norwood stole many of Britain’s nuclear secrets and enabled the Soviets to create their own nuclear weapons to be very credible; it is ironic that this person, acknowledged by the KGB as their finest female spy would live for much of her life in a comfortable if unremarkable semi detached house situated in Nursery Avenue in Bexleyheath. After her story came out and Melita Norwood gained a degree of infamy, my Mother saw her on a local bus on a couple of occasions, and felt sorry for the old lady who was often the target of loudly whispered gossip by fellow travellers. She did what she did for ideological reasons, and was quoted as saying “I did what I did, not to make money, but to help prevent the defeat of a new system which had, at great cost, given ordinary people food and fares which they could afford, a good education and a health service”. It is not known if at the time of her active spying career if she knew of Stalin’s state sponsored programme of mass murder or the millions he consigned to Gulags, or indeed the incredible repression and shortages undergone by all but the political elite. It may well be that she was naive and credulous – as many Europeans were prior to World War II.  Whatever the reason, she went to her grave knowing that communism was dead and the belief system it engendered was thoroughly discredited.

South Thamesmead is due to receive a £225 million shot in the arm from the Peabody Trust, an organisation set up by American philanthropist George Peabody in 1862. The money is to be spent redeveloping the area around Abbey Wood Station, which will also have the South East terminus of Crossrail.  It would seem that the trust wants to tart up the area around the station to try and encourage people to move into the town. On top of this, they are kicking off a project to attract investment to build upwards of ten thousand new homes, of which around half will be on the river front. In short Thamesmead is going to be gentrified. I suppose that it was only a matter of time before something like this was on the cards; the proposed cross Thames bridges at Beckton to Thamesmead and Rainham to Lower Belvedere would provide cross – river access to both ends of the proposed new riverside housing, in an area that has always suffered from poor communications (part of the reason that Thamesmead has not been the success that it was initially hoped for). Peabody Trust boss Steve Hewlett said in a recent interview with the London Evening Standard “Thamesmead has the potential to be London’s major garden suburb, with beautiful green spaces, first class amenities, excellent schools and rapidly improving transport connections”. What Hewlett is fully aware of, but reluctant to comment on is that there are considerable problems with developing the Thamesmead riverside area; right next door you have Crossness Sewage Works, with a revolting smell that can linger for weeks when the temperature rises above normal, there is a main sewer running under the site, making foundations difficult to lay, and there is very poor road connectivity with Woolwich. These are all contributory reasons why property in and around Thamesmead has been especially low in comparison to other locations in outer London. One side effect of this is the proliferation of speculators buying up existing houses and flats in Thamesmead. Not that they expect to make much from renting out the properties, but that they hope to cash in when the developers want to knock the unsightly, brutalist concrete buildings down to make way for the proposed shiny new housing, and need to buy off the existing owners. The problem of lack of desirability is compounded by the fact that Thamesmead has little structure – there is no recognised town centre as such – and the retail park where the large Morrison’s super store is located is the only poor substitute. In the fifty years since Thamesmead was first built, it has only attracted around forty thousand residents, mainly because they could not afford to live anywhere else that was in such relative proximity to central London (Thamesmead is only nine miles from Charing Cross). The former GLC planning department intended Thamesmead to be a thriving new town with over sixty thousand residents, and to date this has never been realised. Maybe the Peabody Trust can add a little sparkle to the town so that more people actually want to live there, rather than live there as it is the only place they can afford.  The risk of this is that if property prices eventually start to rise, those on lower incomes may be forced out.

After seeing my piece on the original Erith Swimming Baths last week, local resident Alan Magin sent me the following memory of his own experiences:- “ I remember using this swimming pool in my first year at Brook Street School for Boys, 1963 would have been the year! Swimming lessons were a morning occurrence, with the changing rooms facing the pool. A bit of a nightmare when the class nuisance pulled your curtain aside when you were standing there starkers!  We loved the feel of a not overly large pool, that boasted water temperatures of 70 degrees! It had a fixed diving platform at around four feet at the deep end. I am assuming that the ladder in the photo may have taken you to a diving platform? A little high in my opinion!

South Eastern Trains have published their draft timetable in advance of changes to the train service on the Dartford to London via Greenwich rail line. From January 2015 there will be major, long term disruption to services on this line, which will affect all users. Commuters in particular will be hard hit. The main changes are that from January 2015 to August 2016 Charing Cross trains will not stop at London Bridge Station. Early morning Charing Cross trains will divert to Cannon Street. From August 2016 until December 2017, Cannon Street services will no longer stop at London Bridge. Long term, Greenwich line services will go to Cannon Street rather than Charing Cross Station. The reason for all this disruption is the massive £6.5 billion Thameslink Project, which includes the complete rebuilding of London Bridge Station, which is already well under way. This is on top of the disruption that has been caused by the rail engineering work being carried out between Abbey Wood and Plumstead for the Crossrail Project and the South East terminus at Abbey Wood. There is a feeling amongst some locals that much of this work is going to disrupt their lives without actually giving them anything in the way of benefit. We have just had the second planned total weekend shut down of services on the North Kent Line; if you want to get into London by train during these outages, you need to get to Plumstead, as this is where services are starting and terminating during the engineering works. More weekend shut downs are scheduled to follow. All of the work is vital to reinforce and expand the rail transport infrastructure in the South East, and the Crossrail development will especially be impressive when it is completed. The problem is that little thought or effort has been expended to make local peoples’ lives bearable in the intervening period. On top of this, people who are not regular commuters seem to be unaware of the long term changes to the local train services. I have heard of people turning up at Erith Station on Saturday morning, expecting to get a train into town, only to find a notice redirecting them to the rail replacement bus service that was running from the stop adjacent to Erith Riverside Gardens. There has been some laudable coverage in the News Shopper, but very little from other sources. As I have covered in the past, the reason that the platforms have been extended at most of the stations on the Dartford via Greenwich line have been extended is to allow twelve carriage trains to be used on the line – until the extension, ten carriages were the limit. There will be fewer, but longer trains from January 2015 – that is, if South Eastern Trains have successfully solved the power problem. They did not factor in the additional current drain when they came up with the plan to use longer trains. It was eventually found out that the existing power supply would have not been up to the job of providing motive power to the extra long trains, and had nothing been done to improve the situation, they would have moved at little more than walking pace. Fortunately this was discovered, and I understand that the electricity supply has now been beefed up to cope with the increased current demand. This reminds me of what happened in the early nineties when the Networker trains were first deployed on the North Kent Line. The Networkers were slightly larger than the old wooden “slam door” trains they replaced. It was only when the rail company of the time began late night test runs that they found out that the Networker trains were too big to fit through the tunnel between Woolwich Arsenal and Charlton. The tunnel had to be re – engineered at great expense to permit the new trains to run without getting stuck. What seemed like an elementary concern turned into an expensive and embarrassing oversight. The fact remains that transport infrastructure in South East London and North Kent has to improve to cope with the further influx of residents that the area is attracting. Locally we have Erith Park, phase one of which will be completed in a few short months; on top of this the area of former loam pit sandwiched between Bexley Road and Fraser Road in Erith is to be redeveloped as a large new housing estate with approximately a thousand properties. A public notice has been published this week that invites local people to an exhibition outlining some of the proposed developments on the long abandoned brown field site:-

The Quarry has been identified as suitable for development by Bexley Council. This public consultation is being run by the Anderson Group, an Essex-based developer, who bought the site in January and whose team is working up ideas in preparation for a planning application. We would like to share and discuss our ideas with you and your members. They are still at an early stage but include the construction of new homes and a new primary school along with a grassland area and ‘green corridors’ through the site to protect its ecology. We hope that you will be able to join us at one of our public exhibitions, which take place at Trinity School, Erith Road DA17 6HT on:

Saturday 19th July: 11am – 4pm
Tuesday 22nd July: 4pm – 8pm

If you are unable to attend on the above days you can view the proposals on our website – – from Wednesday 23rd July. You can also register to receive updates on the project via our website or, alternatively, leave us your contact details at the public exhibition. Please note that we will be holding a second consultation event after the summer once we have taken on board residents’ comments and worked up our proposals in detail. If you have registered via the website or give us your contact details at the exhibition we will let you know where and when this event will be held. Alternatively, you can let us know your interest by contacting me, emailing or by calling Ed Grieve on 020 7025 2309I will be attending on the Saturday, and would suspect that quite a few locals will be too. Look out for me with my camera; I reckon I will be on site from around 11.30. Do come up and say hello. 

One of my regular readers, and occasional contributors who prefers to remain anonymous dropped me the following observations which I am passing on as I believe they will be of interest to the wider community:- "When Morrisons took over the old Deep Wharf, I had a meeting with their estate manager and suggested replacing the floating pontoon, that had originally been erected in the 1970s (The attachments are still there) He informed me the the original had been sold to one of the Scandinavian Countries, but they did hope to replace it. It has not happened. Over many years to my certain knowledge the idea of using Erith as a port of call for pleasure boats has been discussed, my River friends tell me there would insufficient demand. To some extent this is verified by the fact that even now Thames Clippers only call at Woolwich during the "Rush Hours". By a coincidence only last Thursday after making a visit to St. Thomas's Hospital we decided as it was coming up to 5pm we would catch the Clipper at Waterloo Pier and travel to Woolwich. With travel cards it cost us only £6.30. BUT what was supposed to have been a pleasure trip was a nightmare.  The boat was packed to the gunwales. We managed to get seats aft. Accompanied by three foul mouthed drunken men,and 50 or so screaming schoolkids. We couldn't help but notice the look of disgust on the faces of the City Gents who boarded at various points,unable to find seats at all. The drunks alighted at Surrey Quays, and most of the rest at Greenwich. It was only then could we enter the main saloon and sit at the front for the remaining five minutes of the journey. By which time there were less than a dozen passengers. This was followed by an equally uncomfortable ride with standing room only on the 99 to Erith. I am so glad I am no longer a London Commuter". I must admit that until now I have only heard very good things about the Thames Clipper Service; I can only surmise that this was an untypical event. I strongly feel that the whole area would benefit from the clippers extending their run to Erith Pier, especially with the massive rise in the local population that will be happening over the next five years or so. So may housing developments are either underway, or in the planning stages, that the transport infrastructure will need a total rethink - and this is not limited to the two proposed East of London river crossings that I have previously covered. The River Thames needs to be viewed as a resource to be used, rather than purely a barrier to transportation as is currently the case. 

The end video this week was also suggested by a regular reader. There has been some heated and somewhat misdirected discussion on YouTube about this very clip. Some viewers thought the sketch was made as the Not the Nine O'Clock News team knew about the subject of their satire's proclivities back then; the reality is that it was an innocent poke at his early 1980's kid's TV show, which was so boring and tedious that children did not want to have anything to do with it. Nowadays there is a whole additional layer of meaning following what has been revealed during his court case. Please feel free to leave a comment below, or to Email me at


  1. Re: Thamesmead regeneration - as you are already aware, I live in an Edwardian terrace in Abbey Wood and Thamesmead was started at the end of our gardens (and appears to be the very last bit they will knock down and rebuild - if ever they do!)

    House prices in our - unprestigious - little road have already begun to rise very quickly indeed. I'm just looking forward to the new Sainsburys!

  2. I live in Thamesmead and am on the South Thamesmead Regeneration Committee. I can assure you that other than the rest of Binsey Walk there are no plans to demolish any more concrete stock. Peabody has decided that the current plans for the old Tavy Bridge site are lacking and are starting again. Improvements are planned for the rest of existing buildings. All of the towers and houses are to be retrofitted with insulation and new windows etc. You will appreciate this is a long term project and will not happen overnight.