Sunday, January 24, 2016

A windfall.

The photo above was taken by me on Monday; it shows some of the key people behind "Our Erith" - the art exhibition that was launched at Christ Church Erith this week. You can find out more about "Our Erith" and the Friends of Christ Church Erith by clicking here. From left to right the people in the photo are:- Paul O’Neill (Friends of Christ Church Erith Committee), Jim Bennett (Chair, Friends of Christ Church Erith), Revd. Julie Conalty (Christ Church, Erith), Leeni Lear (Chair of Governors, Bexley College), Teresa Pearce MP (MP for Erith and Thamesmead) and Ken Chamberlain (local historian). 

Even though he is now locked up behind bars in prison, Joshua Bonehill, the self described racist, misogynist homophobic anti Semitic Neo Nazi bigot is still making waves. He targeted me with a threatening Email two years ago, which I published in full here. In December 2015 he got sentenced to three years and four months in jail for Inciting Racial Hatred. He's currently serving his sentence in Wandsworth Prison where he does not have web access; instead he has been writing a series of deranged letters to a number of people. One letter was enclosed within an envelope covered in perplexing cartoon drawings of Hitler, aliens beneath a spaceship and the 'Harold Shipman seal of authenticity'. His letters, sent to correspondents on the outside, show his expectation that he will be released from HMP Wandsworth within the next year, or possibly even sooner depending on whether he is granted Home Detention Curfew. The Prison Service has said it is investigating the "unacceptable" incident and he is facing disciplinary action. In his letters, Bonehill also expresses his desire to stand as an MP five years after his release, by which time he will be legally allowed to do so. Bonehill writes:- "I intend to stand for election when I am out of here. I am thinking perhaps about taking a seat in Bradford. You can stand for Parliament five years after time served in prison, there are many MPs with criminal records. I will never again put myself in the situation of being grassed up by snitches. Every move I make will be fully legitimate and legal. There are several books in the works about prison, ideology and life. I will write them over the next year. When I get out I intend to continue from where I left off, albeit from a legal perspective. Prison is easy, albeit for somebody of strong character. Prison has not been too bad to me at all. I've made many new connections and have learnt so much that I wouldn't have otherwise known on the out. I have found it to be a land of opportunity and a haven of respite. Most people I have met are fully supportive and will be friends for life. For me, I take the ultimate victory in all of this. I know that those left wing parasites are still spending all of their time on Twitter and the internet, imprisoned in a tomb of ignorance. I however am out here living life, earning valuable new skills and experience that these people couldn't begin to contemplate. For my trial, there has indeed been a victim: the British taxpayer will pay £120,000 for the nearly two years I am here drinking tea, smoking, eating and watching TV every day until they finally release me. Effectively this is like a really gross hotel for free board to stay. I do miss G n Ts though." It would seem, as I and others speculated, that prison is doing nothing to reform Bonehill, and instead is merely reinforcing his (suspected) megalomania and feelings of grossly inflated self worth. The prison authorities are investigating Bonehill's letter writing campaign; A Prison Service spokesperson said when questioned by The Western Gazette said that "We are investigating this unacceptable incident and have put measures in place to ensure this offender's mail is monitored by prison staff. Additionally, we will also take disciplinary action against the prisoner, which could see him being stripped of his privileges and being referred to the police for investigation." The first thing you should do when you find yourself in a hole is stop digging. It would appear that Joshua Bonehill is doing the polar opposite. Hopefully it will end up with his prison sentence being extended.

Some excellent news broke on Thursday afternoon; nearly four million pounds worth of new investment will be made in Erith over the next couple of years. Half of the money is coming from The Mayor of London’s Office, and the rest is being matched by Bexley Council. The idea is to promote regeneration and growth in the town. The funds are set to create major improvements to key areas of the town - particularly between the old town hall and the post office the area shown in the photo above - click on it for a larger view), though at the time of writing, no specific details have been published. In an interview in the News Shopper, Councillor Linda Bailey, cabinet member for Regeneration and Growth said: “The success of our bid is great news for the town.  Erith has huge potential and our aim is to ensure it is developed in a sustainable way, with well-designed improvements that deliver the results local people need. We have also made complementary bids to two further funds managed by the mayor of London and hope to be able to say more on that in the next few weeks.” I am looking forward to receiving details of the proposals for development and improvement in the town - this certainly very good news indeed.

One of the most iconic and successful civil airliners may be going out of production shortly, after an active life span of forty seven years. Boeing will reduce the number of 747s it makes to just one every two months, citing a collapse in demand for even the cargo version of the aircraft. The company previously announced plans to slow production from 1.3 planes a month to just one a month, with the new and lower capability expected to kick in from March 2016. The newest 747 model, the 747-8, arrived in 2012 complete with plenty of the advanced manufacturing techniques employed in the 787 and other, newer, lighter and cheaper-to-operate aircraft. But the new plane hasn't sold well: just 121 have been ordered and of those, only 51 were passenger jets. The original 747 is credited with pioneering affordable long-haul travel and therefore making a massive contribution to global tourism. The 747-400 arguably pulled off the same trick, making twelve hour hopes like Europe to major Asian cities possible without a tiresome and time-consuming touchdown for more fuel. However, improvements in the reliability and power of jet engines means it is now possible to build twin-engine planes that rival the Jumbo Jet's capacity and range. That makes the four-engined 747s more expensive to operate and therefore a less attractive purchase for both passenger and cargo operators. Boeing cashes in on this trend with its own 777, an aircraft that in some configurations can carry over 450 passengers. Passenger carriers ordered no new 747s in 2015. Cargo operators, Boeing says, aren't buying much of anything at the moment as demand for air freight falls, which is worrying economic indicator for a host of other reasons. The end of an era looks to be on the horizon for the famous Jumbo Jet.

Bexley residents have been urged to have their say over the proposed removal of an engine at Erith fire station. Erith Councillor Abena Oppong-Asare attended the London Fire Brigade Consultation for the 2016/17 Budget for the South East Area, last Monday night - 18th January 2016. The consultation was launched over proposals to meet £6.4m of budget cuts demanded by the Mayor. Residents have been asked to choose from two options, one which will see the permanent removal of 13 fire engines, and the other which will focus on back office efficiencies, allowing the 13 engines to be returned. Residents and local Erith Councillor Abena Oppong-Asare questioned a panel made up of London Assembly Members, Area Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ian Hughes and the Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson about the two options laid out in the consultation on the LFB’s budget for 2016 and 2017 – one being the axing of 13 engines, which could potentially see the removal of an engine at Erith fire station. However, Councillor Abena Oppong-Asare along with her colleagues Councillor Edward Boateng and Councillor Joe Ferreira are concerned that more fire engines could exacerbate a recent rise in response times across the capital. Thirteen wards in Bexley saw a rise in response times in 2014/15, when compared with the previous year, before Boris Johnson’s closure of 10 fire stations and scrapping of 14 engines. Alternative proposals set out by Andrew Dismore AM, Chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority’s Resource Committee, would meet the savings target through back office efficiencies and changing working patterns, enabling the 13 engines to be returned. Following, the public consultation meeting, Erith Ward Councillor Abena Oppong-Asare, said: “I am concerned about the removal of an engine at Erith fire station. Erith is undergoing many regeneration changes at a very fast pace. I am not convinced that a removal has taken into consideration the growing population in Erith. I know that the Fire Commissioner mentioned in the public meeting that emergency calls received have dropped and that there has been lots of preventative work carried out to reduce fire deaths, but we currently have 12 wards in Bexley not meeting those 6 minute targets. I urge all residents to respond to the consultation on the future of London’s fire service.”

The BBC is shortly to launch a reboot of the popular late 1990’s / early 2000’s TV show “Robot Wars”. As some veteran readers may be aware, I used to have some involvement in the original show, as one of the three judges was Adam Harper, one time owner of Harper Cycles in Nuxley Road, Upper Belvedere, who was holder of the Guinness Book of Records title as being the fastest person on an electric three wheeled vehicle, with his custom built, souped up 150 mph Sinclair C5. He was a friend of mine, and used to invite me along to filming sessions of the show, which at that time was based in an old warehouse next door to the Excel Centre in East London. Now, years later the BBC is bringing the show back. The broadcaster has commissioned six one hour episodes of the new series from independent production company Mentorn Scotland, which it reckons will exploit “a raft of technological devices since the show first aired” and will lead to “more innovative fighting machines as teams of amateur roboteers battle it out to win the coveted Robot Wars title.” Kim Shillinglaw, controller of BBC Two and BBC Four, said in a statement: “With new technological advances making for an even more exciting and immersive experience this is a fantastic example of the kind of content-rich factual entertainment that BBC Two excels at.” The overall reception the news has brought has been very good. The feedback seems to be that the programme was more than due for a revival, especially as in the thirteen years since the very last episode aired, many technological and material advances have been made, which should lead to even more exciting machines in the competition. I will be watching with interest – perhaps Robot Wars could become a new Olympic sport?

The photo above is another historic local train photograph supplied by Tom Burnham. It shows the old Pembroke Road Level Crossing back in 1970, along with a London - bound train which has just passed over the level crossing. I can recall walking over this crossing with my Mum when I was very small, and remember looking into the gate operators little hut, to see him drinking tea. The level crossing was replaced with a metal footbridge back in the late 70's / early 80's. The road in the background has not changed very much, though the building on the left of the photograph is now a private house. I think back then it was a women's hair dressers, though I am not certain. Can anyone who has better knowledge please let me know? Comment below, or Email me at

The petition to remove the rail franchise from Southeastern seems to be gaining momentum, but at the same time seems to have been somewhat overtaken by events; at the time of writing over fifteen thousand local people have signed up to the online campaign. When petitions reach ten thousand signatures, the government’s own rules mean that they will have to give a written response. That point has now been passed.  What opinion will come from the Department of Transport I do not know – but it is clear that public opinion is strongly against the current franchise holder of the North Kent and other local rail lines. Whilst I deplore Southeastern (and have already signed the petition) not all of the blame can be directly attributed to them. The Crossrail engineering work between Abbey Wood and Plumstead, and the rebuilding work going on at London Bridge have caused massive disruption, especially over the Christmas and New Year period. At least that disruption was well publicised and anticipated. What has been far less well communicated is the long period of weekend train disruption that is about to begin.  Darryl of the Charlton Champion blog has published a detailed and comprehensive list of works to be undertaken on the North Kent line between now and after Easter – basically there will be no weekend rail services running between Dartford and Plumstead from now until Monday the 28th March, which is Easter Monday. From what I can gather, replacement bus services will run from Erith to Plumstead (and from my limited experience of them, they are slow, unreliable and generally a pain in the backside to use). Many locals fully appreciate that some short term pain will (hopefully) result in a long term gain, but the problem is that Network Rail / Southeastern / Transport for London have done very little to publicise the removal of service at weekends, and it would seem that a majority of local residents are completely unaware of the arrangements. I have seen people turning up at Erith Station, expecting a normal service, only to find the place locked and deserted with a handwritten sign on a white board stuck in front of the doors to the ticket hall. The sign directs people to the rail replacement bus pickup point in Erith High Street – the trouble is, quite a few did not know where that was, and there was nobody around to ask. Having a customer service assistant on site would have made things far clearer for occasional travellers, and might have  provided some public relations for the general public. The story last week / earlier in this update that a petition has been started to convince the Department of Transport and Transport for London to strip Southeastern of the contract to provide trains for the North Kent area may well have had an unintended consequence. This week Transport for London has unveiled a landmark agreement to take over the capital’s suburban rail network, reaching into the Home Counties. TfL is promising more frequent and reliable train services and more comfortable conditions for passengers by bringing the services under the umbrella of the popular Overground network. Its reach would go beyond London and reach into places such as Sevenoaks, Croydon, Dartford, Hertford and Chessington, working in tandem with the Department for Transport bringing to them metro-style frequencies and greater strategic and coordinated transport planning. The government believes the creation of a London Suburban Metro service has the potential for more than 80 per cent of stations to have a train every 15 minutes, up from 67 per cent today, as well as more regular services through south-east London and Kent. Mayor of London Boris Johnson told the London Evening Standard : “By working closely together and taking on these new services, we’re going to emulate the success of the London Overground and give the entire capital and surrounding areas the services they truly deserve.” Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “We are committed to making journeys better across London and the south east, and this new partnership represents a huge opportunity to transform travel by putting passengers where they should be – at the heart of the rail network.”  Commuter services running from Cannon Street, Charing Cross, Moorgate, Victoria, Waterloo and London Bridge would all be transferred under the plans. The move will come as a good news to passengers in south London who have endured a poor service since upgrade work on London Bridge began – although the transfer will take some years to complete. The routes will gradually be taken over as the franchises of the rail operators come to an end which means the first routes will be Southeastern’s in 2018, followed by Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern services in 2021. If South West Trains “break” clause is invoked, the target date would be 2019. The various London Mayoral candidates are pitching the story in various ways, but all seem to be behind the transfer of control, which seems to be a good thing as far as they are concerned. Green Party mayoral candidate Sian Berry said: "For far too long, suburban rail passengers have endured overcrowding, frequent cancellations and massive disruption to services at holiday periods, while the companies who run those trains make fat profits. It’s an obvious improvement to bring those routes under the control of TfL, which doesn’t need to make a profit and will focus on reinvestment not rewarding shareholders." The online petition has been gaining a lot of column inches in the press, and at the time of writing had gained just over fifteen thousand signatures,  but it may for once be the case that events may well have overtaken the wishes of the petitioners.

The campaign to protect green spaces in the London Borough of Bexley grinds ever onwards. The battle over the Upper Belvedere Splash Park has gone very quiet of late. Personally I think the chances of rescuing this valuable local facility are fading by the day unless some miracle rescue is enabled. Now the fight against the rapacious Bexley Council (who seem to know the price of everything, but the value of nothing) has moved onto the green spaces in and around Erith. The piece of land that separates Fraser Road and Alford Road down at the Pom Pom is shortly to be offered up for sale. The parcel of land contains a number of mature trees, bushes and a small electricity substation of indeterminate age, that is almost completely submerged in foliage. It acts as a very effective sound barrier for those people living in Alford Road from the constant traffic noise from the ever busy Fraser Road.  I would anticipate that one particular organisation will be interested in acquiring it – the developers of the Erith Quarry site, directly opposite. The main entrance to the proposed new high – end development is what was the site of the petrol station on Fraser Road. I would not be at all surprised if the developer bought the spur of land opposite in an effort to ensure that access to the Quarry site was as easy as possible – and I would expect that a roundabout or other form of traffic – controlling construction would be built on the site. Whilst I feel that the Erith news to grow and incorporate new infrastructure, I would not like this to be at the expense of the environment and our existing green spaces. Perhaps some of the £3.9 million local grant could go towards preserving these green spaces, that also insulate local residents against traffic and environmental noise. What do you think?

I use the Docklands Light Railway on a regular basis, and in general I find it to be a reliable and comfortable service. The short video below shows some of the secrets and quirks of this public transport service, and some of the things that you may not have known about it. Please feel free to leave a comment below, or Email me at

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