Sunday, November 27, 2016

Porch piracy.

The photos above (click on either for a larger version) show the pop - up - cinema event held last night in Erith Riverside Gardens. As I mentioned last week, the event had not received very much advanced publicity, and unfortunately attendance figures reflected this; about forty hardy parents with children turned up to brave the winter evening to watch the movies Home Alone, followed by Gremlins on a big screen. The promised food and traders did not appear, and no facility was made for toilets either - the nearest being those in Morrison's supermarket about seven minutes walk away. Having said that, the organisers were very enthusiastic and friendly - although all but one admitted to never having visited Erith before, and knew nothing of the town or its inhabitants. The lady from Bexley Council was very helpful and chatty, and it turns out that she was a Maggot Sandwich reader - they seem to pop up from everywhere, much to my surprise. It was fortunate that it was not raining and the wind was still - something very unusual on the riverfront at this time of year - normally it comes screaming in over the Thames, seemingly direct from Siberia. I was very pleased to see a social event of this nature being organised locally, but it was evident that there was a lack of knowledge of the local area and possible weather conditions - had there been even the slightest of winds, the cinema screen would have been blown flat in moments. I am hopeful that a second event will be organised for next year, but in a space heated marquee tent with provision for portaloos and maybe a BBQ and hot drinks for sale. I would have thought that local BBQ specialist Steve's Kitchen could provide just such a service. What do you think? Did you go along, or like many I have talked to, did you not know about the event? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

The Bexley Times reported recently about an abandoned cob pony that was found on Sidcup Golf Course. The animal was severely neglected and close to death when it was found by RSPCA inspectors. The cob pony has been given treatment and is now expected to survive; inquiries are under way to discover who left the horse in such a terrible state. In an interview with the paper, Ellen Thomas, an RSPCA inspector said “This poor horse was so emaciated and still we thought he was dead at first. Then as I approached him, he weakly lifted his head, so I knew we had a chance to save him. It seems he was dying of thirst. There was no water at all in the field and there were reports that he may have been lying there for two days. He also had very overgrown hooves and had clearly been neglected. It seems likely he had been just dumped there and left to die in this very secluded spot, and we urge anyone with any information about who may have done this to call us. Gradually, we did manage to get him to sit up, and then bumble on down to the horse box so we could take him to the vet to be cared for and treated. It took him a long time to get there because he was so weak - and we have now named him Bumble as a result. He’s in a critical condition but doing as well as he can do - and we have everything crossed that he will make a good recovery.” This is something that is becoming increasingly common, as is the phenomenon of “fly grazing” that has become such a concern in the local area – Thamesmead, Abbey Wood, Lower Belvedere and Slade Green have been especially hit by persons unknown leaving scruffy and under cared for horses on public land for them to illegally graze on. The practice of “fly-grazing” has become increasingly common both in the local area, and also around the country. Thousands of horses and ponies are being abandoned by their erstwhile owners as irresponsible breeding, spiralling bills and sale prices which have reached rock bottom take their toll. A pony can fetch as little as £5 at auction – if it sells at all, whilst stable costs, feed and vets bills can amount to around £100 per week per animal. The six main horse welfare charities have come together to compile a report on the situation; it would also appear that the European appetite for horse meat may be fuelling the situation – a £5 pony can turn into a £230 carcass on the European meat market. It may be that ponies are actually being farmed for live export to France, Belgium and Italy. The RSPCA have called for legislation that will enable them to more quickly identify owners and punish them with fines and the seizure of animals for fly-grazing. They also want a review of agreements allowing the free movement of horses not intended for slaughter between Britain, Ireland and France. The British horse population is thought to be just under one million animals in size. The vast majority are owned privately for leisure – a sector which, unlike the horse racing industry, has not historically been tightly regulated.  A new bill was brought into law last year which hopefully may go far to changing this situation. The Control of Horses Act 2015 makes changes to the law to deter people from illegally grazing or simply abandoning horses on public and private land, which is known as ‘fly-grazing’. As many as 3,000 horses are thought to be illegally fly-grazing across the country. The changes mean horse owners who fly-graze their animals without permission can now be dealt with more quickly and effectively. These changes to the law will give rural communities greater powers to deal with thousands of horses that are left to graze illegally without the land owners’ permission. Horses that are left to fly-graze can now be rehomed much more quickly and effectively, improving the welfare of these animals and preventing disruption to communities. By allowing abandoned horses to be rehomed much more quickly, this act will encourage owners to pay proper attention to their animals’ welfare and ensure communities are no longer blighted by the illegal practice of fly-grazing. Under the previous Animals Act 1971 an abandoned horse could only be disposed of after 14 days through sale at market or public auction. The new Act means fly-grazing horses have to be reported to police within 24 hours, and owners now have four days to claim their animals. Previously, an abandoned horse could only be disposed of through sale at market or public auction. The new law extends the options for dealing with abandoned horses, which now include private sale, gifting and rehoming. Hopefully this will go some way into resolving the long standing problem.

Bexley Council are making a change in policy which I can pretty much guarantee will give them cause for regret. They are moving all reporting of street light faults to a purely online form. You will no longer be able to phone up the Highways Department, instead residents will have to complete a form on the council website. The move is expected to cut administrative costs, with all reports being automatically sent to the council’s maintenance contractor. This might all sound fine, but have you ever tried navigating the Bexley Council website? It is an awful unnavigable mess, and even finding the page you want is a real challenge, as the search functionality does not work as intended, and the site layout could have been designed by M.C Escher. I find that when one eventually stumbles across the content you were actually looking for, it is prudent to bookmark the page for later reference, as your chance of finding the page again are pretty slim. If this was not enough, as Malcolm Knight of Bexley is Bonkers has discovered, that just because you report something to the Council, it does not mean that they then do anything about it. He reported a couple of incidences of fly tipping, complete with still photographs and video of the offences being committed. After a month he has still not had a response from the Environmental Crimes Unit of Bexley Council. I have worked with the unit in the past, and found them to be dedicated and efficient; in the intervening couple of years, the person I usually contacted has retired, and it would seem that much of the role has been outsourced to a private contractor.

London and Quadrant, the developers of the Erith Quarry housing development published the following press release this week:- "L and Q and The Anderson Group, developers behind the new homes at The Quarry in Erith, are looking for a local artist to help them celebrate the history of the land. The developers want to showcase the story of The Quarry’s past, present and future using photos and anecdotes from local people. These will then act as inspiration for artwork displayed on the hoardings surrounding the site, as well as featuring at a special exhibition in the town. Erith historian Kenneth Chamberlain and local history enthusiast Martin Barnes remember The Quarry from their teenage years and have already provided a number of photographs for potential inclusion. The pictures date from the 1930s onwards and show everything from ‘Loomers’ at the quarry face, to the locomotive which used to transport the loads from the quarry and the quarry after the landfill was nearly complete. L and Q and The Anderson Group are now encouraging more locals to come forward and share their memories. Set to launch its first homes for sale in spring 2017, The Quarry will comprise of an exceptional collection of around 470 family houses for sale, 130 unique apartments for private rent and a state-of-the-art three form-entry primary school. With sustainability at its heart, this new eco-development will be surrounded by woodland and feature a conservation area the size of around three football pitches, not to mention cycle routes, play corridors and a village green. Christine Shea, Regional Sales Director at L and Q, said: “We’re really excited to hear back from local artists who can help us create a wonderful tribute to the area. The Quarry has played such an important part in the lives of local people for so many years and we hope to bring its history back to life and to celebrate the exciting future that lays ahead. We have already received some wonderful photographs from Kenneth and Martin and we hope more people will get in touch with their experiences.” If you’re an artist who would like to get involved or if you have photos or stories to share, please contact the team at A grant will be made available to the selected artist. Prospective homebuyers interested in finding out more about The Quarry can register their interest at and follow developments on Facebook and Twitter".

The photo above shows the view looking Eastwards towards Erith Town Centre along West Street. From the vehicles in the shot, and the state of construction of the tower block on the horizon, I would hazard a guess that the photo was taken in around 1970.

Once again Bexley Council has been accused of selling off the family silver for short term gain; last week the council agreed to the sale of four areas of formerly public land in the borough, two of which are in Erith. It does seem to me that not only do Bexley Council offer some of the poorest levels of service of any Greater London borough, but they are selling off anything that they can lay their hands on in order to try and raise more cash. I do question their efficiency and business acumen, as they seem to be able to do very little with large amounts of cash – I feel that a commercial business would be far more efficient in the operation of the borough. Many of the council senior executives have never had a job in the “real world” – a problem which is also common with the current crop of Westminster politicians. Locally we are fortunate that MP for Erith and Thamesmead Teresa Pearce spent many years working as an accountant prior to entering politics – a relatively rare instance of someone in public service who has actually had a real world job before changing career to enter politics.

Word reached me courtesy of regular Maggot Sandwich reader Alison. It would appear that "hit and run" incidents are not limited to the roads in and around Erith. There has been a collision between a vessel and the Erith Wooden Jetty, which is adjacent to Erith Riverside Gardens and Erith Rowing Club / Kort Propulsion marine engineers, based in the former River Police HQ in Erith High Street. Alison writes:- " I wasn't sure if you were aware of the broken jetty by the old police station at Erith (photo above taken by Michael Lucas)? The Port of London Authority (PLA) first contacted Erith Rowing Club on Thursday afternoon about it. The PLA believes the damage occurred as a result of a 'hit and run' incident late at night and would welcome any information about it. The contact at the PLA is Michael Russell, tel 01474 562415 or 07711 640082 email:  The latest update is that the PLA has removed the loose and damaged parts of the causeway and is intending to carry out a survey for the timber for repairs on Monday (28th November). At the moment it is unclear when the repairs will take place, but it is likely to be a few weeks." If anyone saw anything suspicious regarding a collision between a ship and the jetty, please let Michael Russell know - at present the jetty is completely out of use for the immediate future.

As we head towards Christmas, a relatively new form of crime is becoming increasingly common. It is called Porch Piracy – criminals targeting people’s porches and apartment entrance halls to steal parcels delivered by courier services. As more and more people buy online from web based retailers such as Amazon, the theft of goods in transit has become a major concern. Whilst some customers fill in the “special instructions” section of the delivery details online with details of a neighbour who a parcel can be left with in the event of them not being home to answer the door themselves, many do not. Delivery personnel may in such cases leave parcels in porches, in bin cabinets, or even propped up against the front door. Personally I have seen Amazon parcels left unattended on many occasions – and these definitely attract both opportunistic and dedicated thieves. Ways to counter “Porch Pirates” include:- 1. Lock boxes: You can build or purchase a rugged lock box for your porch.  Bolt it down to a permanent surface, concrete or asphalt work well. Install a simple combination lock on the box and then share that combination when you purchase something online.  Nearly every delivery service has a “special instructions” section during online checkout. Delivery personnel can then key in the combination and deliver your package to a secure box. To add even more security, change the combination frequently or when you feel you've given it out too many times.  2. Security Services: The emergence of Porch Piracy has created an entire industry determined to prevent these thefts. Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, has a service called Amazon Locker. Instead of a package being delivered to your porch, the packages arrive at a nearby Amazon Locker location, where they’re placed in a secure compartment. You can collect your package with a code and without waiting in line or talking to anyone. There is a general delivery locker system in Morrison’s in Erith, which has recently been installed. 3. Timely Package Collection:  Pick up your package as soon as it's delivered or have a neighbour collect it. Courier services such as UPS, FedEx and Amazon all have tracking services. This allows you to monitor the progress of a shipment very closely by tracking it online and even by receiving email or text alerts.  You can be notified the moment your package is delivered and then make arrangements to have the package collected. Porch Piracy is a crime of opportunity. If the package doesn't sit on your porch for long the opportunity to steal it is vastly decreased. 4. Security Cameras: Security cameras are a tried and true deterrent for all manner of criminal behaviour. Thieves are very aware of cameras and often look for them before attempting a theft.  Also, if you do ever have a package stolen, you have video evidence to pass along to police and online stores. Camera packages can be purchased relatively inexpensively from places such as Maplin, and come with a wide range of options, including wireless capabilities which make them easy to install.  Some systems have the ability to remotely monitor your home from mobile devices like tablets and cell phones which adds an extra layer of security and better peace of mind. 5. Security Signs: If all of the previous options seem too expensive or too much hassle consider posting a sign in your front window informing the would be Porch Pirate that your home is under video surveillance or has security alarms.  Many criminals are not going to take the time or the chance to call your bluff and proceed with their theft. Again, this is a crime of opportunity, and thieves may not see your package as a great opportunity if they think there is a chance they might be recorded - even if they can't immediately see the security cameras. Personally I have CCTV front and back at Pewty Acres, and have a designated neighbour to take parcels if I am not available. I find that this greatly reduces the risk of parcel theft. This is a problem which is only going to grow in severity unless steps are taken to prevent it.

It would seem that the proposed Thames river crossing between Rainham in Essex and Lower Belvedere (see the map above - click on it for a larger view) has been kicked into the long grass; no mention was made of it during Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s recent speech on London’s future transport infrastructure. It would seem that the cross river link has been dropped from favour in preference for some of the other cross – river options. My suggestion for a tunnel under the river, of a similar design to that already in place at Strood on the River Medway seems to have fallen by the wayside. This has not been lost on Gravesham MP Adam Holloway, who opposes another proposed crossing of the River Thames potentially located to the East of Gravesend; he was interviewed in the News Shopper, saying:- "The reality is that this is a looming disaster that is going to become a scandal when the public realise that the £5 billion opportunity to fix the M25 is about to be wasted – and when we all realise that it is too late to stop a plan that is going to result in another 40 years of misery on the M25. Unfortunately, ministers who are not experts on roads must listen to Highways England - a quango that changes the numbers in support of whichever option they have favoured over time. By the time the ministers hear the voices of the public, it will be too late.” The fact remains that we have very few river crossings East of Tower Bridge, and the further East on the River Thames you travel, the wider the river becomes, and thus the more expensive any form of river crossing becomes.

You may have recently come across the web page above, or something very similar, which seems to show Sir Richard Branson promoting a particular product - as you may already have guessed, the story is very far from what it appears. The web site begins with this:- "Branson is sending shockwaves throughout all of Britain by revealing his secret formula that the average British worker is using to make fast money from home. Branson says, “It’s even dangerous to talk about it, because the powerful elite does not want the average British worker to have this much wealth. Because the wealthier the population is, the less power they themselves have. They hate me for sharing this!” After a hearty introduction about how top secret the whole opportunity apparently is, readers are then told to click another link which, just like the first link, redirected across several domains before landing on a landing page - The Brit Method. If it wasn’t clear already, this has nothing to do with Richard Branson. Despite the sales pitch on the previous website and the Facebook post many innocent web surfers stumbled across, this isn’t something he “accidentally” shared. The inclusion of Branson’s name is simply a flat out lie. The Brit Method is a site that promotes Binary Options trading, but does so using an unrealistic and dramatically hyped sales pitch. Essentially, that sales pitch describes Binary Options as a shortcut to financial wealth and a guarantee to quick wealth. It is neither. Binary Options is actually a form of trading where the trader predicts whether a particular stock will rise or fall in a short period of time, where traditional trading involves the purchase of stock. If the trader predicts the stock rises or falls correctly, they get a fixed return on the amount they invested. If they don’t, they lose the investment. The Brit Method goes under other guises, including The Aussie Method and The Irish Method. Binary Options trading is akin to gambling. Despite claims made by various websites like The Brit Method, it isn’t a get-rich-quick system. There is no way to ‘game’ or cheat at Binary Options trading. There are no “killer systems” or “proven formulas”. It is gambling, and most of those who embark upon it are unlikely to make any significant return on their investment, and of course risk losing all the money they invest on it. Sites like The Brit Method and the people behind the fraudulent Richard Branson themed Facebook post / dodgy faked website don’t care, because they get paid a commission for luring visitors to Binary Option websites. Using hyped, misleading and plain deceptive sales pitches means more people they trick into signing up. In my opinion, the outcome of this fraudulent con is:- 1. Facebook doesn’t really care what sort of websites sign up to their sponsored advert platform. 2. Get-rich-quick schemes are always ever-present on the Internet. 3. Don’t get involved with Binary Options trading.

Millions of British people have no idea what their home telephone number is, according to new research. Sixty per cent of the nation only have a landline because they need it for their broadband connection. If the phone does ring, a third of people assume it’s an automated or sales call, and 22 per cent never answer it . Only one in five knows their landline number, according to a recent survey of 2,000 UK adults. Almost four in ten use their home phone once a month or less, with six in 10 admitting they only pay for a landline just to access the internet. Six in 10 say they wish they could de-clutter their homes by getting rid of their landline completely, a 20 per cent increase from a study conducted in 2014. A fifth of survey respondents reckoned their home will be landline-free within two years, if not sooner. Due to the rise of social media and mobile phones, over half of the nation consider the landline a ‘redundant’ piece of technology, rising to seven in 10 among 18-24 year olds. Incredibly, of the respondents who had children aged 16 and under, 14 per cent reported that they had children that have no idea what a landline is. A third of respondents said that they use their landline for keeping in touch with grandparents or older relatives. Almost half say they give out their home number to sales people and companies, to stop them getting their mobile details. Thirty-six percent of Brits only use their home phone once a month or less often, and one in ten homes has already made the jump to going landline-free. The report also says that a fifth of British households have at least one old landline handset sitting unused in the back of a cupboard. Personally I buck this trend; I detest mobile phones and a landline works just fine for me. I am all for freedom of choice - whatever works best for you, in my opinion.

Abbey Wood’s new station is beginning to take shape with the timber structure of the distinctive roof now complete. The Austrian timber construction firm, Wiehag has installed the impressive glulam (glued manufactured timber) wooden panels which form the iconic shape of the station’s roof structure. The roof has been constructed using a combination of 31 tonnes of steel beams and girders to support the loads of the beams. The main timber beams are each 45m long, which is the equivalent of four London buses end to end. Below is a time lapse photography recording of some of the recent construction work. Give it a watch and leave a comment below, or Email me at

1 comment:

  1. Hugh, if you can could you keep us updated on the outcome of the poor neglected pony, we hope the poor thing makes a good recovery.