Sunday, February 01, 2015

Kort Propulsion.

The photo above was taken by me on Friday lunchtime - click on it for a larger version. It shows the Erith Boathouse, home to both Erith Rowing Club, who occupy the ground floor, and also to Kort Propulsion, the world famous marine engineering and consultancy firm whose high tech offices take up the first floor and overlook the River Thames. I had a meeting with Dave Parsons, the Managing Director of Kort Propulsion, along with his Mother Rose, who also works for what is a genuinely independent, local, family run firm that does business worldwide. Kort Propulsion have been operating for around eighty years, and have been based in Erith for quite a while; they were originally based in the Bank Chambers building, close to the bend in Colebrook Street, opposite to the old Blockbuster store (more on that later). About four years ago they moved to their current riverside location, next to the old Erith Police Station, in the building that used to house the River Police unit. Kort Propulsion was originally founded in 1935 in Germany; once war broke out the licence with the German originator was suspended, and after the war the company was established as a purely UK based enterprise. Kort was then owned and operated by R and H Green and Silley Weir, a ship repair company based mainly on the River Thames and in Falmouth. Current owner David Parsons, along with his father Norman Parsons and colleague Malcolm Breeze, had a wide range of experience in marine engineering and production. Kort was subsequently bought out by P and O for several years, until the Parsons family arranged a management buyout of the company. Nowadays David Parsons is the Managing Director, and runs the worldwide business from their Erith riverside headquarters. The company has strong business links in such diverse locations as India, China, Taiwan, Romania, Egypt, Greece, Portugal and Ireland, and is widely regarded as the "Rolls - Royce" of marine engineers. They export their specialist knowledge around the planet - any it is ironic that very few Erith residents are aware of the existence of such a world - class company which exists on their doorstep. There will be a further feature on Kort Propulsion next week. 

The photo above shows the interior of the old Manor Fish Bar in Manor Road Erith, taken almost ten years ago to the week. Click on the photo for a larger view. The classic 1950's marble - effect formica was very easy on the eye, and back then was kept immaculately spotless and clean. More on the fish and chip story shortly. Both the Bexley Times and the News Shopper reported the jailing of the crook who I caught illegally fly – tipping pallets full of rotten bananas in the recycling centre behind Morrison’s supermarket in Erith. Unfortunately both publications got the details of the sentencing wrong; I wrote to both reporters, correcting them, but no updates have yet been forthcoming – it does seem to me that both papers are guilty of “don't let the facts get in the way of a good story”. I have noticed that over the last year or so, the emphasis that the News Shopper places on stories has changed. I suspect a change in editorial policy away from “hard” news, and towards a more tabloid “fluffy animals and human interest” format. Last week the headline on the News Shopper website was “fox photographed eating a discarded kebab”. Not exactly Pullitzer prize winning stuff, I suspect you will agree. Instead they are running a series of articles, one of which is entitled “Nine of the best fish and chip shops in South East London and North Kent”. The only local one is the Frying Pan in Parsonage Manorway, Upper Belvedere. I have not tried the place myself, but the omens are good – not only does the place get a very good write – up in respect of the quality of the cooking, but the shop also scores five out of five on the Scores on the Doors food hygiene rating system. It is a pity that central Erith no longer has a dedicated fish and chip shop. The nearest one is the Pom Pom Fish Bar in Alford Road, just off Fraser Road, well on the way to Upper Belvedere. There used to be a fish and chip shop in Manor Road, which in the late 90’s / Early 00’s was excellent – I used to be a regular customer. Over the years however, it changed hands several times, and with each change, the quality of both service and cooking declined. Eventually a couple of years ago the place closed for good, and the shop was unoccupied for several months. It was then taken over and refurbished, and then re-opened as the King of the Grill kebab and burger bar. It does serve the odd bit of fish, but it is not the same thing. Still, it gets a very creditable four of of five on the Scores on the Doors rating system, and it seems to keep pretty busy.

On the subject of crime, the general perception seems to be that levels of crime are high and the level of “on the ground” policing is down. In reality this is not the case – at least according to the statistics recently published by the Home Office. It turns out that the level of reported crime in the London Borough of Bexley is the joint lowest in Greater London – a distinction shared with the London Borough of Harrow. You can see the breakdown of reported crime levels in the annotated map above – click on it for a larger version. The cynic in me would say that the map only shows the levels of reported crime – not the actual level of crime – and it may well be that people in Bexley just don't think that crimes are worth reporting, and thus the figures are skewed – I really could not say. If you have any insight into this, please drop me a line to

There seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel as far as the widening of the Bexley Road bridge over the railway adjacent to Erith Station. The project was due to have been undertaken some time ago – all of the roads that meet at the hideous fish roundabout are two lane, but any traffic turning into Bexley road has to filter down into a single lane as it crosses the railway bridge. This choke point causes all sorts of congestion problems, especially at rush hour. Traffic can be seen standing waiting for several hundred yards back along Bronze Age Way when the situation gets really bad. Many local drivers know to avoid the area, especially on a Friday afternoon because of this. Bexley council have managed to secure a nearly £3 million grant from Transport for London to fund a number of local travel initiatives including further “improvements” (I use the word loosely) to Bexleyheath Broadway, work to improve transport connectivity around Slade Green, and work to improve provision of cycle lanes and pavements, along with what I understand to be the long delayed work to widen the road across the aforementioned bridge. You may recall that only a few weeks ago I wrote that I thought that the only way the bridge widening would ever get done would be if TFL put their metaphorical hand in their pocket, as Bexley Council are currently cancelling or closing as many public services in the North of the Borough that they think they can get away with.

Some good news for Erith Riverside Shopping Centre; the long empty unit that was occupied by Blockbuster before they went bankrupt may have a new occupant before much longer. A planning application has been submitted to convert the unit from retail use and into a children’s soft play centre. I am unsure if the application has been submitted by the same company that applied to do the same to one of the never occupied since they were built units directly on the opposite side of the road, facing Erith Health Centre, but the application looks very similar. Whilst I am no expert in such things, it would seem to me that the area could do with such a facility, and anything is better than an empty and dilapidated shop. Another building that has been the subject of speculation is the former White Hart, also known for a relatively brief period as Potion, before the place closed down under a cloud. Locals have seen activity inside the empty building recently, and there has been speculation as to whether squatters had moved in. From my understanding, a private security company does visit the former pub on occasion, and lights are sometimes seen from the first floor function room, which I suspect are connected to a timer. Despite the note on the frontage of the building which states that the property is protected by a security firm, I seriously doubt that anyone is on site for any length of time, as the associated costs would be prohibitive. There has been speculation as to the eventual fate of the White Hart / Potion building. I originally heard vague rumours that it was to be converted into an Indian restaurant, but nothing has appeared on the planning application website, and I now suspect that the rumour was more wish fulfilment than anything concrete. Anyone who buys the place will need to invest a King’s ransom on refurbishing the building, and installing all new facilities – the place had been run into the ground – only the bar area (the part seen by the public) was given a cheap makeover when Potion took the place on. I won't rant on about how they illegally ruined the frontage by ripping out the acid etched glass and locally made green glazed tiled fascia, to be replaced by hideous plate glass, as I have covered this on more than one occasion in the past. Any new owner will have to restore the frontage to very close to the Victorian original – which will also cost a fortune. I know that many property developers would love to get their hands on the site, as it would be an excellent place to build a block of flats with a clear view of the River Thames. The White Hart / Potion is not only a locally listed building, but located in the Erith conservation area, and thus (I hope) immune from such vandalism. Having said that, Bexley Council are so venal and money grabbing that little would surprise me – if a developer came along and offered the right kind of package, it would not be beyond imagination that the building would become de – listed and planning permission granted. Hopefully that is a worst case scenario, and something better for the local area will eventually happen. Time will tell. Other nearby planning applications have been submitted recently, but for reasons which will become adequately clear in due course, I will not mention them now. Suffice to say that a lot of stuff is happening locally, and it is going to be very good indeed, and far more in keeping with both historical and contemporary Erith.

Some people have expressed shock at the midweek announcement that the Tesco store in Picardy Street, Lower Belvedere is to close in March. I have to say that I was not surprised in any way. When Tesco announced the cancellation of the construction of new stores in both Bexleyheath, on the site of the old Bexley council offices, and the proposed new store in Lowfield Street in Dartford – the source of so much bad blood over the last few years, due to well – founded accusations of Tesco “land banking” the proposed site and leaving the road blighted with empty and derelict buildings. I understand that things got so bad that Dartford Council ended up coming up with an ultimatum to Tesco, essentially saying “build on it or lose it”. The Tesco store in Lower Belvedere has never really been that popular, certainly when compared to the well – loved Co-Op that used to occupy the same site. The feedback that I have heard is that Lower Belvedere locals used the Tesco as there was no alternative – for those without cars, and maybe with limited mobility, the small Tesco had a monopoly on trade. That is, until Asda opened across the road, taking over part of the existing B and Q superstore site. As soon as that happened, it was next to inevitable that the expensive and poorly stocked Tesco would fold. I am only surprised that it has taken so long, as I understand the place has been unable to break even for quite some time. I feel sorry for the staff, many of whom were former Co-Op employees who were taken on when Tesco bought the store. I would imagine that some if not all will be able to find employment in Asda, as the store is very successful – I have been told “off the record” that the Lower Belvedere Asda has reduced the volume of trade in the Erith Morrison’s by close to twenty percent, which I can well believe. Competition is benefiting the consumer, though not always the Tesco employee. I wonder if another retailer will take the old Tesco store? I would imagine that no other supermarket chain would want to operate what is essentially a large convenience store so close to a large and very well run Asda – it would make no economic or business sense. What other kind of retailer would be interested I the unit remains to be seen. I would not wish to see the building standing empty for any period of time. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

Bexley Neighbourhood Watch recently made the following announcement:- Thamesmead could be in with a chance of winning £900k thanks to the Mayor of London's Big Green Fund, but we need your help! Peabody, along with Royal Borough of Greenwich and Sustrans has put forward a stretch of the Thames Path in Thamesmead to a public vote, to canvas support and win funding to help the area reach its full potential of becoming a bustling route for commuters, walkers and cyclists with fantastic views of the river. It would also make a fantastic spot for local residents to get out and enjoy, as well as improving access along the river. However, some sections of the path need improving, in particular to make it passable during winter. The Thamesmead Thames Path Transformation project would enhance the pathway and also create designated look out points along the river; mini green havens with seating and information on the rich local wildlife, habitats and history of the Thames. The proposed scheme is competing with seven others for a slice of the money. We know how passionate residents are about Thamesmead, why not show it by voting here.

A horse has been rescued from marshland this week, following the death of a foal last week which was reported in the News Shopper. On Thursday a horse was found up its neck in water on the Slade Green Marshes, just off Moat Lane. Unlike the previous rescue where the animal died of exposure and hypothermia, the adult horse survived and was treated by a vet. Horses have been grazed and housed on Slade Green Marshes for hundreds of years, and periodically incidents of this nature are reported. From my understanding the horse in question was owned by a responsible person, and it managed to escape the enclosure it was housed in. This seems to be the exception, rather than the rule though; most ponies and horses in the local area are “fly grazed”, and in some cases completely abandoned (an offence under Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and the Animals Act 1971). The problem, as I have previously outlined, is that these animals have no intrinsic value, and cost a lot to look after properly. My observation last week that if Britons started to eat horse meat, it would have the effect of creating value in the animals, and thus mean that they would be far more likely to be looked after in a responsible way was not intended as a controversial talking point, but as a serious but pragmatic solution to an ongoing problem. We are going to see more incidents of the nature described above, unless some drastic changes are put in place.

Another local organisation in the news are the Friends of Christ Church Erith (FOCCE); a secular group dedicated to maintaining the fabric of the Grade 2* listed building located on the junction of Bexley Road and Victoria Road, Erith, within sight of the hideous fish roundabout. FOCCE aims to promote the church and hall as a centre of the community, and as a social resource for those of all faiths and none. It also aims to preserve the historic building and raise money for maintenance and improvements to the available facilities. Christ Church provides a vital social service to the area in a very practical way; it co – runs the Bexley Food Bank in conjunction with the Queen Street Baptist Church, the Trussel Trust, St. John's Erith, and plenty of local volunteers. The Friends of Christ Church Erith are currently recruiting new members. If you would be interested in joining this very worthwhile organisation, you can click here to see how you can get involved. Membership is £10 a year for an individual, and £15 a year for a couple. Corporate members are also sought – the membership for companies and other organisations is a very reasonable £50 a year.

Something that Maggot Sandwich readers may find of interest:- St. Augustine's Church (Slade Green Road, Slade Green, Erith, DA8 2HX) are hosting a Choral Concert by an a cappella choir 'The Ensemble of Friends' and a barbershop quartet 'Double Take' at 7pm on Saturday 7th February.   The conductor and director is Douglas Coombes (who has been awarded an MBE for his services to music). Douglas appears on television and contributes to programmes such as Songs of Praise, and he broadcasts a regular music programme on local radio.   The last 'gig' for the choir was the annual Barnardo's concert at St. Paul's Cathedral ! There are still some tickets available (£4 each, pay at the door, refreshments are included). It will certainly be a different way to spend a Saturday evening.

The construction of the Crossrail terminus at Abbey Wood is now proceeding apace; fellow local Blogger Malcolm Knight of Bexley is Bonkers regularly covers the work, complete with photographs. Crossrail will provide a vital new means of travelling around Greater London and the surrounding counties. The impact on the use of the North Kent Line may well be to substantially reduce the number of passengers – this is also in view of the report this week from the News Shopper, who state that Southeastern Trains have the worst customer satisfaction rating of any train company in the United Kingdom. The News Shopper reports that the National Rail Survey questioned 27,000 passengers last year, and Southeastern was bottom of the list with just 74 per cent of people satisfied - an 11 per cent drop compared to the previous year The company - which recently had its franchise renewed to general astonishment - ranked lower than any other UK train operator. The survey figures also show a gradual rise in the number of delays and cancellations on Southeastern services over the past twelve months. Customers highlighted a lack of sufficient room to sit or stand on the company's trains, and dissatisfaction with staff availability the way the company deals with delays. All in all a very poor performance indeed. How Southeastern got their franchise renewed is beyond me. If any reader has any insight into the situation, please drop me a line to

The end video this week is a real treat; it show the workshop and stores used by "Mythbusters" presenter Adam Savage, who when he is not presenting the TV show is a real life Hollywood movie prop - maker. Do give it a watch and see what you think.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the heads up about the Thames Path. I hadn't heard about this. I have copied the link onto my Facebook page and will highlight it in my next blog post.