Sunday, October 02, 2016

Moat House.

There has been somewhat of an air of mystery surrounding Moat House in James Watt Way. As I have previously reported, the brand new apartment block suffered damage after a severe fire caused by what is currently thought to have been an electrical fault in the roof mounted solar panels on the building on the 8th of August. The residents of the social housing block were successfully evacuated and put into temporary accommodation in a hotel. It was anticipated that repairs to the fire damaged roof of the apartment block would be completed by the end of August. This would appear to not be the case, however. At the time of writing, the block is still empty and unoccupied, even though it is now a month later than the date when the apartments were meant to be re-occupied. I recently walked past the block at a little after 9pm in the evening. All the lights were out, and the place was silent. It is surprising how nothing has been written in the local press about the situation, especially bearing in mind how high profile the news of the fire and subsequent evacuation was – the story made the national press in a few instances. I have subsequently discovered that things are worse than originally reported. A couple of sources have informed me that the residents of Moat House have now been transferred out of the Marriott hotel accommodation they were originally given, and relocated into cheaper local bed and breakfast accommodation; one (unconfirmed) report I have heard is that in one case a woman with two children is having to share a single room in a Bed and Breakfast - more on this later, as it turns out there is more to this story. If this was not bad enough, I have also been told that Moat Housing told the evacuated residents - many of those who only had the clothes they stood up in - that they could spend up to a specified budget on essential items such as replacement clothes, toiletries and other items needed for everyday life. Moat said that they would then reimburse the evacuated residents. I have heard accounts that Moat have reneged on this agreement, leaving residents out of pocket. I must emphasise that I am awaiting verification of this, but the information comes from a previously reliable source. The Moat affordable rent apartment block was a flagship development in Erith, promising (relatively) cheap housing for those in most need. It was part funded by the Mayor of London's Office, and was designed to be a flagship model for new housing in Greater London. I have been in contact with someone who is involved with the situation at Moat House, and I have discovered that the position is actually worse than had been anticipated. My contact informs me that at present the block will very likely remain empty for months, due to a combination of factors. Firstly Moat are awaiting a fire report which will analyse and identify the precise cause of the fire that destroyed much of the roof and damaged the top floor - at present the diagnosis of an electrical  fault is supposition, and is not verified at this time. Tenants will not be able to move in until the cause has been identified and rectified. On top of this, I am told that some of the reports published in the News Shopper and elsewhere, with Moat tenants being quoted as saying that they were being threatened with being thrown out of a hotel were simply untrue with no basis whatsoever in fact. I have also been told by an impeccably reliable and authoritative source that all Moat Housing Association tenants are required as a condition of their tenancy contract to have taken out private insurance on the contents of their apartment; Almost none of the tenants in Moat house had this insurance, leaving them both financially exposed, and in contravention of their tenancy agreements. Moat are currently trying to get former Moat House tenants into more suitable medium term accommodation whilst the investigative and remedial work is carried out on the fire damaged apartment building. The problem is the acute shortage of such housing in The London Borough of Bexley. It is ironic that the construction of Moat House was designed to alleviate the social housing requirement in the borough, but instead it has ended up in making the situation worse. It looks like Moat House could be empty and unoccupied until well after Christmas; I feel that this story will run for quite some time. If you have any insight into the Moat House fire and the subsequent situation, please drop me a line – it can be in complete confidence should you so wish – to

Some more much needed social housing is being constructed in Erith. Work is well under way to build four three bedroomed town houses and twelve two bedroomed flats in West Street on the site of the old St. John’s Hall. The hall used to be used by a company called Re-Instate Ltd, whose primary purpose was to offer a sheltered workshop environment to adults with Mental Health problems and Learning Disabilities. Those who attended Re-Instate gained experience of work, were given training in various job skills, mix with others, and over time gained confidence and self-esteem. Re-Instate seem to still be operating, and their website can be seen here. I am guessing that they have sold off the old site to property developers and have used the money to find a new base of operations elsewhere. I will be covering Re-Instate in more details in a future edition of the Maggot Sandwich.

On Tuesday afternoon I had occasion to be in Avenue Road, Bexleyheath for a meeting. The shopping area there is rather old fashioned, and all of the better for it. The area has not changed very much since the 1930's, when many of the properties were originally constructed. I like it a lot. The Co-Op store there has a modern facade and internal layout, but its' cultural and historical DNA is still very much present. In the newspapers and publications section of the store, amongst the usual copies of the Sun and the Telegraph were a couple of copies of The Morning Star - the tabloid rag of the communist party. It was not really that surprising that the little read propaganda sheet would be on sale in the Bexleyheath branch of the Co-Op. It was after all the same branch that the late Soviet spy and traitor Melita Norwood used to do most of her grocery shopping, along with the other Co-Op branch in Long Lane. She lived nearby in Garden Avenue for very many years. I wonder who would buy the paper nowadays?

You may recall that I gave extensive coverage to the recent relaunch of Erith Market, which was visited by then London Mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith. Unfortunately only a handful of weeks later the whole thing spluttered to a halt when no market traders bothered to turn up – at the high point there had only been six stalls, which was nothing like enough to build up a sustainable interest. The other problem was the decision to hold the market on a Wednesday – as one regular Maggot Sandwich reader called Derek put it recently:- “I hear are giving Erith Market a trial go. When they know it will fail before they start. They only seem to be catering for the unemployed and the elderly. Because they are the only one that can go to the market. The market should have been bigger and on Wednesdays and Saturdays like it used to be. Saturdays for the people that go to work all week”. Bexley Council have recently submitted a new planning application for a far larger and more ambitious market plot, which will stretch along Pier Road from Cross Street in the West to the boundary of Morrison’s car park in the East. It would potentially involve thirty two stalls, though at this point what goods they would be selling is not outlined at this point. I sincerely hope that the new attempt is successful – the prime requirement in my mind is that the market is open on Saturdays, and not just Wednesdays. As Derek wrote, many local residents cannot attend a market held during a working week, as they are working. I am also concerned that the previous, half-hearted attempt at a relaunch may scare off some potential stall holders. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or email me at

The latest edition of the Good Beer Guide has some very encouraging words for Bexley’s micro pubs. The first local micro pub was the Door Hinge in Welling, shortly thereafter followed by the Penny Farthing in Crayford, then the Broken Drum in Blackfen. All three of these fine establishments feature in the new Good Beer Guide, along with the Compass Ale House in Gravesend.  Bearing in mind that South East London and North Kent have been at the forefront of the micro pub revolution  - the area has done much to promote these no frills, no television pubs which encourage the art of conversation and discourage the use of smart phones. Another micro Pub called The Hopper's Hut is opening on the 7th October in Sidcup - thanks to long time reader Barney for the information. Micro pubs tend to be set up in former retail units, rather than in public house premises. It would be nice to see a micro pub in Erith or Northumberland Heath, though I think Northumberland Heath would be a more attractive location than Erith, due to the fact that Wetherspoons are actively looking for a potential pub outlet in Erith. As I have written before, the most likely venue for a new local Wetherspoons pub would be the old Carnegie Library building in Walnut Tree Road (see the photo above - click on it for a larger view), which has been abandoned and unused for nearly six years.  The old library building was going to be converted into a training centre for the hospitality and hotel industry as part of Bexley College, but the funding fell through, and the project was cancelled. Now that Bexley College is being administered by Bromley College, the future of other potential collaborative projects is unclear. Wetherspoons have a very good reputation for sensitive restoration of old buildings; my understanding is that the former Carnegie Library has a severe damp problem on the main brick frontage, and the lack of preventative maintenance has caused a number of fairly serious issues with the building fabric. Wetherspoons have deep enough pockets to be able to finance major construction, conversion and conservation work if they did decide to purchase the building for use as a pub / restaurant. The only downside I can think of is that the former library has no local parking, though local public transport links are excellent - the library building is very close to Erith Station, and the bus halts in front of Erith Riverside Shopping Centre are just around the corner. This does not usually deter Wetherspoons, who seem more interested in the local customer demographic, than car parking issues.

As I have written in the past, issues with smart utility meters seem to be continuing. Just in the last week, it has been announced that Smart meters will benefit suppliers nearly twice as much as consumers in terms of cost savings, according to an assessment by the late Department for Energy and Climate Change. The government's £11bn smart meter project will require energy suppliers to offer 53 million meters to homes and small businesses by 2020. Smart meters are being rolled out in two phases. The mass rollout phase is expected to begin next month, after several major delays. There are now more than 3.6 million smart meters in operation. A Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee “evidence check” of smart meters noted that "although the scale and durability of such savings is contested and it would appear that the rollout could alter consumption levels by 2–3 per cent.”Nick Hunn, CTO of WiFore Consulting, told the committee he was sceptical of the extent to which consumers will change their behaviour for a relatively modest financial reward, arguing that “£26 a year or 7p a day is not a big incentive”, and that “there are far cheaper ways of achieving savings”. The government has pegged the overall cost benefits at £17 billion, which will also include network benefits such as reduced outage notification calls, fault fixing; generation benefits, and reduction in CO2. However, the committee criticised the smart meter rollout for having too many objectives. "The government should be clearer about the primary purpose of smart metering and use this to drive evaluation of the project. Taking this approach will help make future evidence check statements clearer,” it said. It also said the government needs to do more to communicate the national benefits of smart metering alongside the potential cost savings and efficiencies for individual consumers. The impact of smart meters will be limited without this support from installers and Smart Energy GB, the public engagement body for the programme, according to the committee. Rob Smith, head of policy and public affairs at Smart Energy GB, has also warned that the programme will only succeed if people are made aware of the benefits. The report also found "unwarranted concerns in media reports" about smart meter security could diminish public trust in the programme. It said further efforts may be necessary to convince the wider public that smart meters are secure. This is all very well, but as has been demonstrated by more than one IT security organisation, the smart meters are very far from secure - the meters report back to their energy supply company by an unsecured 3G phone signal, which can easily be intercepted and manipulated.  I get the feeling this will run and run.

The following announcement has been made by the local Police:- If you would like to become involved with Neighbourhood Watch and set up a scheme for your road (if you do not have one), please let us know. If you are unsure if you do have a scheme in your road, again, email us and we can let you know. Surgery and Street Briefing dates and times for Northend Ward in OCTOBER 2016 are listed below.








If there are any issues that affect you or you have any information you feel we may need to know, please come and see us. All information is dealt with in the strictest confidence. If you have no issues or information, come and see us anyway! Our phone is working now but please remember it is only on when we are at work and is only for information purposes, so please leave a name and number if you call us and we don't answer. Alternatively we can be reached via email on If you need to see police always dial 101 for non emergencies and 999 for emergencies. All dates and team information will be loaded onto our website over the next couple of days. Access the site by clicking here.

It would seem that the Near Field Communication (NFC) "tap and pay" security exploit I described in February of last year is now being employed in real life. The hack, which utilises weaknesses in the encryption and transport of data between a smartphone and an NFC reader is now being reported by the BBC News website here. This potentially can mean that a user paying for goods or services by "tap to pay" with their mobile telephone could end up with money being taken from their bank account by unauthorised persons. Well, you heard it first from me, over a year ago. Contactless payment is fraught with potential danger - after all, it was only around six months ago that the bug in the UK authorisation was fixed - whilst payments in Pounds Sterling via tap and pay are limited to a maximum limit of £30, the same limit did not apply to other currencies. If a fraudster used captured tap and pay credentials to extract money, the sky was the limit if the exploit was undertaken in Euros or Dollars, for example. That has now been (finally) fixed, but only after a very long delay. I won't use any form of contactless payment - the system is just too full of security holes. I returned my tap and pay debit card and was issued with a non - NFC one instead (banks will issue you with a "vanilla" card, but you usually have to ask for them especially - many banks are sending out NFC enabled cards by default nowadays). 

Bexley is Bonkers author Malcolm Knight has been giving extensive coverage to the utter hash that Bexley Council has made of the restructuring of Bexleyheath Broadway, amongst other areas. In fact if memory serves, his blog began after a series of interactions with the Highways department of the council, and his very unfavourable experiences as a result. Now the Police have become unwittingly involved – after a rather nasty crash on what is now locally being called the “Magic Roundabout” – at the junction with the Broadway and Albion Road which is covered in variegated tiles – the original roundabout on the site was removed, and the subsequent section of road is now neither a junction, a crossing or a roundabout, but a sort of mixture of all three which is both everything and nothing at the same time. The number of collisions and near misses that have resulted from this poorly thought out change have sky rocketed. This week a Police car was involved in a collision with another vehicle, right in the middle of the very confusing turning. You can read all about the incident on the News Shopper website, by clicking here. It would seem that local residents and local paper readers are pretty much unanimous in their condemnation of the highway changes, which are judged to be confusing, dangerous and unnecessary.

It is not very long now until the open day at the Erith Quarry development. The following press release has been made by Grayling - the public relations consultant to London and Quadrant and the Anderson Group - the joint developers of the new housing estate:- The Quarry Erith invites locals for first glimpse with a family fun day:- "To celebrate work being underway, and to offer the local community a first chance to view the site, The Quarry Erith team would like to  invite families and locals to join them for an action-packed family fun day on Saturday 15 October from 10am to 4pm. Located off Carlton Road, the Culture and Community day will offer a food fair with locally-sourced treats and free children’s entertainment including a nature trail with children’s TV personality Jess French, animal face painting, a mini-mining experience, selfie station and creature crafts. There will also be an opportunity to meet the team and find out more about The Quarry’s transformation into an exceptional eco-development of at least 600 new homes and a state-of-the-art primary school. Councillor Linda Bailey, who will be opening the event, commented: “I am really pleased to be opening The Quarry Community and Culture Day. This event looks like it is set to be a really fun day for families with a host of activities that kids will love. It is also going to offer the community a first glimpse of the exciting future this development is offering Erith, which I am certainly looking forward to seeing.” The Quarry is a joint venture by L and Q and The Anderson Group, and represents a shared vision to create inspiring communities that offer residents a better way of living. Cathy Lloyd, Sales and Marketing Director at L and Q commented: “We’re really looking forward to welcoming the local community to our Culture and Community Day. The Quarry has played an important role in the lives of local people for more than a century and we’re keen to celebrate this, as well as providing lots of free, family-friendly activities.” Ahead of the event, The Quarry Erith team is also encouraging locals to share their historical photos of the site for inclusion in a public exhibition and art project. Visitors are encouraged to bring their photos along to the event or share via email to This is a ticketed event. To secure your place, and pre-book a slot, please register by clicking here or contact Limited car parking is available on site. Please indicate if you require parking by emailing the address above. Prospective homebuyers interested in finding out more about The Quarry can register their interest at and follow developments on Facebook and Twitter." I will be going along to the event with my camera - I am booked for the 10am session should you want to come along and say hello.

The end video this week shows one of the Rotative Beam Engines in operation at the Crossness Pumping Station - a Grade 1 listed industrial building. The beam engines, which are possibly the largest remaining rotative beam engines in the world, with 52 ton flywheels and 47 ton beams. The whole pumping station was the brainchild of superb Victorian engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette. Joseph Bazalgette lived from 1819 to 1891 and was one of the most distinguished Civil Engineers of the period. After considerable experience on railway projects he was appointed Chief Engineer of the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1855, having previously been in the employ of the Metropolitan Commission of Sewers.The ‘Great Stink’ of 1858, when the Houses of Parliament became so smelly that the members demanded action, was the starting point of the sewer system as we know it today. Bazalgette built 83 miles of ‘interceptory’ sewers that prevented raw sewage from running into the Thames and took it to the east of London where it could be put into the river with minimal effect on the population. This system involved three major pumping stations, at Abbey Mills (in the Lea Valley), at Deptford, and at Crossness on the Erith / Abbey Wood marshes. Whilst the building remains at Abbey Mills, the pumps and engines were removed earlier this century. However, at Crossness the spectacular building and the engines and pumps they contain remain as a monument to Bazalgette’s genius in solving London’s problems. In addition to his achievement in establishing an effective sewerage system for the whole of London, Bazalgette was also responsible for the Thames Embankments, for Battersea, Hammersmith and Putney Bridges, and many other of London’s capital projects, including the Woolwich Ferry. Please feel free to leave a comment below, or Email me at


  1. Why wouldn't the Co-op in Avenue Road sell the Morning Star? They sell all the other tabloid rags and at least that one doesn't print fake stories about Muslims in order to stir up racial hatred.

  2. The new market plot looks encouraging - if they can fill up the stall spaces! That sort of layout could be a real thread through the town, pulling together the various parts and generally making the centre feel a little more coherent. A busy market would not only attract more visitors, but with this layout could ensure that visitors actually see more of the town and more of the established shops.

    I would be interested to see who Bexley will be partnering with to attract stallholders. On the couple of occasions I made it to the market there were a couple of interesting stalls, but a fair bit of tat on sale too. It would be good to see a bit more variety and a bit more quality. With a little bit of imagination Erith Market could be a hub for local producers and businesses. Perhaps discounted rates could help, as better to have a full market than five or six stalls paying a premium.

    And Saturdays seem so obvious! It was almost as if they wanted the previous attempt to fail by just having it on Wednesdays.