Sunday, January 22, 2017

A bed for the night.

The photo above shows Leader of Bexley Council, Teresa O'Neill (I will leave comments regarding her to my fellow local Blogger Malcolm Knight of Bexley is Bonkers), Mayor of Bexley, Eileen Pallen and a number of representatives from London and Quadrant Housing Association, the property developers of Erith Quarry, along with quite a few local school children.  You can read all about what they were doing on the building site in the press release here:-  "The first new trees have been planted at The Quarry, Erith by pupils from the Woodland Academy Trust and local dignitaries including Leader of Bexley Council Councillor Teresa O’Neill. 28 pupils from Northumberland Heath Primary School braved the January cold to help plant a variety of trees and shrubs at The Quarry, breaking ground on the space which will become the development’s ecology area. The planting followed an assembly presentation by Sharon Hosegood, the arboriculturalist working with developers L and Q and Andersons, which taught the pupils the importance of looking after the natural world. The pupils were also joined by the Leader of Bexley Council Councillor Teresa O’Neill, Mayor of Bexley Councillor Eileen Pallen and local ward councillor Councillor Edward Boateng.  They were given a tour of The Quarry and its ecology areas, which will measure 3.25 hectares – the equivalent size of three football pitches. In addition to the ecology area, The Quarry will be home to a new state-of-the-art primary school, Lime Wood Free School. The School will be run by Woodland Academy Trust, who also run Northumberland Heath Primary School. Councillor Teresa O’Neill OBE, Leader of the London Borough of Bexley, said: “The Quarry is an exciting development for the future of Erith and our wider borough so it’s right that the next generation have been involved in planting the first trees of The Quarry’s ecology area. Bexley is a borough that has many spots of natural beauty and open spaces for families to enjoy and I’m confident the 3.25 hectare ecology area at The Quarry will be an excellent addition to that.” Claire Ingrams, Principal Designate, Lime Wood Free School (Woodland Academy Trust), said: “It was fantastic to have our children involved in the planting of these trees at The Quarry. Both the talk from Sharon and the tree planting really helped develop the children’s understanding of local nature – you could see on their faces how fascinated and excited they were to be planting the first trees at The Quarry.” Christine Shea, Regional Sales Director at L&Q, added: “We’re thrilled to have planted these trees at The Quarry with the Woodland Academy Trust. The Quarry has played an important role in the lives of local people for centuries so we’re delighted to breathe life back into this site. That includes the creation of both the ecology area and a new primary school, which will ensure the next generation have just as fond memories of The Quarry as the past and present generations.” Sean Emmett, Operations Director at The Anderson Group added: “We believe in leaving anything we touch in a slightly better place than we found it.  This applies to tangibles such as places, buildings, people, but also to relationships, cultural characteristics and placemaking. Giving the site more healthy trees will in turn encourage wildlife and improve the whole feel of the site, taking it into the next stage of its place in history” Set to launch 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. Prospective homebuyers interested in finding out more about The Quarry can register their interest at and follow developments on Facebook and Twitter". You can see an exclusive video on the children's visit to the Erith Quarry development site at the end of this update. Thanks to Millie and Becky of Grayling for their help in putting the piece together.

The two "then and now" photos above - click for a larger view, were sent to me earlier this week by local history expert Martin Barnes, who runs the very popular Facebook site "Bexley Borough - The Bygone Years".  He has prepared many similar "then and now" comparison images for all around the borough, and he has kindly allowed me to use them - you may well see a few more of Martin's images over the coming editions of the Maggot Sandwich. Watch this space. 

On Monday evening I was carrying out my daily chore of taking my rubbish round to the recycling facility in Morrison’s car park in James Watt Way, Erith. As I have previously mentioned, I don’t have recycling boxes outside of Pewty Acres, as I find them unsightly and smelly in the summer. Instead I take all of my recyclable materials round to the recycling centre – effectively cutting out the weekly bin collection. It only takes a few minutes each evening, and it means that the house never has rubbish in it for any length of time. When I made the short trip on Monday, at about 8.30pm, I saw a car parked by the recycling hoppers; there were two women and a man in front of it, using light from the headlights to illuminate what they were doing. The man had forced open the Salvation Army clothing donation hopper, and was taking all of the clothes out of it, then passing them to the two women, who were then packing the stolen items into black plastic rubbish sacks, then filling the back of the blue Ford Focus with their stolen goods. I pretended to ignore them, and proceeded to deposit my rubbish into the correct collection hoppers. I keep all of my plastic, glass, cardboard and tins separate for this purpose. Whilst doing this I managed to get a look at the three thieves and made a mental note of the car registration number, which I later wrote down. Needless to say the incident has been reported; I will let you know more when I do. I detest thieving scumbags.

In a joint survey published earlier this week by upmarket estate agents Savills and The London Evening Standard, it was announced that homes priced at less than £300,000 are now an “endangered species” in London as huge demand forces up values in the capital’s last affordable neighbourhoods. The number of wards where prices averaged below the £300,000 mark plummeted from 104 to 40 last year, most of them in the outer fringes of East and South London, according to research. The analysis by estate agency Savills also shows that for the first time, there were more wards with a price average of over £1 million than there were with under £300,000. The £300,000 barrier is seen as significant because it represents the outer limit of affordability for a typical London household who have a joint income of about £50,000 and a 25 per cent deposit. That would still leave them needing to raise a mortgage four and a half times their salary — a multiple that few lenders are prepared to exceed. Lucian Cook, director of residential research at Savills, said in an interview in the Standard that: “The scale and spread of house price growth over the past five years means the £300,000 neighbourhood, though not extinct, has certainly become an endangered species in London. It is symptomatic of the housing affordability issues in the capital.” Five years ago almost half of London’s 649 wards had an average price below £300,000. Of the 40 sub-£300,000 areas left, 15 are in Barking and Dagenham, five in Bexley, four in Croydon, three in Havering and the others in Ealing, Merton, Haringey, Enfield, Redbridge, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Greenwich and Newham. The cheapest ward is Thames in Barking and Dagenham, at an average £228,386 last year. The London Borough of Bexley came out as the second most affordable borough in Greater London, with a percentage of wards in 2016 with average price below £300,000 of 24 percent. In 2011 the percentage less than £300,000 was 95 percent. Paula Higgins, of The HomeOwners Alliance, said in another interview in the Standard that: “Without parental support, young Londoners on normal salaries are effectively priced out of over 90 per cent of the capital’s properties.” Personally I think that the £300,000 definition of being "affordable" is very much on the high side; I don't think many families in the local area could be described as having a joint income in the £50,000 price bracket. Savills are an up market estate agency normally selling houses well in excess of the £1 million mark; I get the feeling that £300,000 seems like piddling small change to them, unlike us who live in the real world.

Bexley’s Churches, in association with local charity Housing Justice, are setting up a Winter Night Shelter for the rough sleepers of Bexley Borough. Sunday 22nd January has been designated as “Homeless Sunday 2017” The shelter will open on Sun 22nd January 2017 and will run every night until March (the date is not specified yet) The location of the shelter is going to be:- Monday nights - New Community Church, 24 Station Road, Sidcup DA15 7DU. Wednesday nights:- The Boys Brigade Hall, Bexleyheath DA6 7EE. Other 5 nights:- Salvation Army, 124 High Street, Welling DA16 1TJ. Guests may not turn up at the shelter without pre-registration, which will be done by Cornerstone Recovery at the Bexley Food Bank. The Night Shelter will be keeping a waiting list as there are only 12 places. There are guidelines and expectations which will be explained clearly to potential guests. Many volunteers are now in place, and the organisers have the following needs Volunteers for the Welling centre only are needed (Tues, Thurs-Sun nights).  Several people have offered donations in kind. Please address your offers direct to the team, who can assess if and how they can use them. Sidcup and Bexleyheath will finance the cost of food, heating, welfare etc. Welling venue will need help with funding for 5 nights. Other costs: Registration with Housing Justice to get started: £1500, training and other support, bedding, food.  The initial aim for financing the venture is £3000. If you wish to make a donation to this very worthwhile cause, cheques (or cash if delivered) should be made out to “Bexley Winter Shelter” should clearly be marked Winter Shelters and sent to Bexley Winter Night Shelter, c/o Welling Baptist Church, Axminster Crescent, Welling DA16 1HF. Please write your email address on the back of the cheque, or if no address then your postal address.

Work is shortly to start to refurbish the much loved Erith Riverside Gardens, which you can see in the photo above - click on the photo for a larger view. The proposals and the work specification can be seen below. Discussions are to be undertaken by the Friends Of Riverside Gardens Erith (FORGE) are due to take place early in February, and the execution of the work shortly thereafter. The proposals and specification state that:- "Prior to removal of shrubs the Contractor shall check for the presence of underground services. The Contractor shall dig out and remove shrubs of varying sizes from the bed by hand or mechanical method, ensuring that adjacent features are not damaged. Shrubs shall be cut down, levered out and have their roots removed. All shrub parts shall be treated as arisings. The Contractor shall not use other adjacent trees or shrubs as winching anchor points. The resultant hole shall be backfilled with material from the bed surface and when necessary with topsoil.  Soil shall be left level with adjoining hard surfaces and kerbs with a surface that has a medium tilth with no footprints or indentations. Reinstating Area with Grass Seed - The whole area shall be thoroughly cultivated by hand or machine to a depth of at least 150mm to relieve compaction and remove all weed growth and old turf. The area shall be graded to meet and match adjoining profiles and levels, and left level with adjoining hard surfaces and kerbs. If topsoil is required to make up deficiencies in levels, it shall be ordered and paid for separately on instruction by the Client Officer. The area shall be consolidated by treading and then raked to a fine tilth to leave the soil surface free of all weeds, Litter, Debris, hard debris and stones in excess of 25mm diameter The Contractor shall broadcast seed by hand or approved pedestrian operated machine onto a moist seed bed at the correct rate and evenness of application. The seed shall then be incorporated into the soil surface by raking with spring tined rake. The Contractor shall be responsible for establishing the resultant sward to the Standard of the adjoining area of which it is part by all necessary rolling, irrigation and cutting.  Any variations in soil level during establishment due to settlement, or any gaps that open between turves shall be dealt with at the Contractor's expense by top dressing, lifting and soiling and over seeding as required. Any damage to surrounding features would have to be rectified by contractor at their own expense. Planting - The Contractor shall carry out the planting of shrubs into an existing bed. Species, size and quantity of shrub must be agreed by the Authorised Officer prior to any planting works taking place. The Contractor shall accept full responsibility for the condition of delivered plants once they arrive on site. It shall be implicit in his acceptance that the contractor is satisfied that plants are to the standards specified by the Authorised Officer when ordered. The Contractor shall comply with the requirements of CPSE ‘Handling and Establishing Landscape Plants’ from the Horticultural Trades Association. Prior to planting all container grown plants shall be thoroughly watered, and bare root plants shall be immersed in water for a minimum of thirty minutes. Planting holes shall be dug on the day of planting. Planting holes shall be dug 100mm wider and deeper than the size of the root ball or bare root spread, and have the base broken up to a further depth of 150mm. The Contractor shall supply and mix recycled composted green waste into every planting hole by placing half in the base of the hole and mixing the remainder into the back fill. Planting shall be carried out to leave shrubs evenly spaced at the correct density, upright, with `best face' facing to nearest point from which it will be viewed, at the correct depth with nursery collar level with soil surface. A minimum space of 500mm must be left between the planted shrubs and any adjacent feature. The hole shall be backfilled with previously excavated topsoil, to leave each plant firmly anchored into soil by treading each 150mm layer leaving all roots in contact with soil and whole shrub undamaged. All excess backfill will be evenly distributed around the bed surface. On completion of planting all identification and supplier labels shall be removed. The Contractor shall evenly apply granular slow release fertilizer around the base of each plant over an area of 1m2. The surface of the soil shall be left with a medium tilth with no hard debris and stones in excess of 25mm diameter or litter present. There shall be no footprints or indentations present and the soil edge shall be left 75mm below adjacent hard or sward surfaces with a camber sloping gently up to the centre of the bed. The Contractor shall be responsible for the arrangement of supply of shrubs to site". I sincerely hope that FORGE get the go - ahead for the refurbishment work to the gardens, which are one of the highlights of Erith - the only place in the whole of the London Borough of Bexley where the public can get access to the banks of the River Thames. More on this story in the future.

Much has been said in the past of the work that Erith and Thamesmead MP Teresa Pearce has been doing to get step free access to Erith Station, and the London bound platform. She has been plugging away for a number of years now, trying to get Southeastern Trains to install a lift at the station, and thus far that campaign appears to have been broadly ignored by the train company. You can see Teresa’s “Get a lift installed at Erith Station” site here. Unfortunately the site is now closed to new submissions. I know that installing a lift is far more technically onerous and expensive than the relatively straightforward work carried out at Crayford – but the principle is the same; if Southeastern Trains have agreed to improve access at one local station, thus admitting that an access problem existed, then why would they not do the same for Erith Station, where the access situation is so much worse, and the station caters for far more travellers than Crayford does? The fact remains that if you are a wheelchair user, or a parent with a heavy pram or buggy, it is not possible to take a train towards London from Erith. You have to go on the Kent bound platform to Dartford, then change there to pick up a London bound train. This means you go three stops in the opposite direction, only to then come back on yourself. Apart from the inconvenience this brings, there is the added expense of what should really be an unnecessary journey. It struck me recently that the relatively new Bexley College campus adjacent to Erith Station would be an excellent opportunity for some joined up thinking to ensure that step free access to both platforms at Erith Station becomes a reality, but it would not appear to be the case - nothing has been done, and other local stations such as Bexleyheath get lifts - which don't really need a lift as there is a road and pedestrian bridge at one end of the platform that enables anyone able bodies or not to get from one platform to the other without the need for the use of stairs. 

In another travel related story, a report was published last week that will concern many public transport users in and around London. The Oyster card system has been called into question in respect of the amount of unused and unclaimed credit that exists. The number of “dormant” cards - those that have not been used for more than 12 months - has jumped to nearly 43.7 million, up two million since the end of June last year. The figures sparked fresh demands for Transport for London (TfL) to make it easier for passengers to claim refunds. The amount of money left on the cards has risen to nearly £236.6 million, with one of the reasons the 48-hour restriction on Oyster refunds. This means that if someone buys an Oyster card, pays the £5 deposit and puts money on it they can only claim a refund after 48 hours, which is hitting tourists and visitors to the capital. The increase in contactless travel is another explanation. Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat member of the London Assembly who highlighted the statistics, said: “Fourteen years since the start of Oyster the amount left on dormant Oyster cards has reached a staggering level with TfL now sitting on a massive cash pile of a quarter of a billion pounds. TfL should never forget that this is the public’s money they are holding and people should be able to reclaim it as easily as TfL take money from passengers in the first place. Ending the 48 hour restriction facing passengers before they can claim back their deposit and any remaining balance on a card is long overdue, and is just one of the many changes TfL need to make to ensure that people can easily get back their own money left on unused Oyster cards.” A recent report by the watchdog London TravelWatch examining the impact of the Tube ticket offices closures recommended changes to the system including the removal of the 48-hour restriction. It stated: “Passengers currently have to wait 48-hours from purchasing an Oyster card before being able to get back their deposit and any remaining balance on the card. This does not represent good customer practice especially for visitors to London who are only here for a short period of time. It should be possible for customers to get a refund on their Oyster card whenever required.”

After my observations last week on the sadly much in decline Belvedere Tandoori, which now no longer has a drinks licence - one reviewer on Trip Advisor wrote:- "I really like this restaurant, the food is always well cooked, tasty and not at all oily. But what a surprise to find they stopped serving alcohol on the 6th June. Can't see it surviving and we witnessed 4 people walking away when they read the notice on the door". I understand is up for sale have led to a couple of readers asking me about the local competition - the Spice Master restaurant, also located in Nuxley Road, Upper Belvedere. Spice Master is by far the biggest eaterie in Upper Belvedere, or possibly even the whole borough. The dining area is open plan, and even has a small dance floor in the centre. Several times a month the restaurant has a singer performing – quite often a tribute act such as an Elvis or Michael Jackson impersonator. I am not too keen on this kind of thing personally – you cannot hear to talk when the singer is performing, and for me talking is part of the whole dining out experience. Food – wise, the restaurant is pretty standard high street curry house, that is, Anglicised Bangladeshi and Punjabi dishes. The food is good, though not spectacular, portions are decent and service is excellent – the waiting staff to visitor ratio seems higher than in most curry houses in the area. My most recent visit was on a Friday night some time ago, and I suspect that they may well have deployed a few extra pairs of hands to cope with the increased number of guests that the weekend brings. I must admit that my own menu choices were pretty pedestrian – Chicken Korai (a dish that gets overlooked by some people, yet when they see, hear and most importantly smell the wonderful aroma of the chicken and peppers sizzling on the cast iron skillet that the dish is served from, they then wish that they had ordered it too).  Along with this I ordered mushroom pilau rice and a garlic naan – anything with mushrooms and garlic is always a favourite with me. Spice Master is never going to set the world alight from a culinary standpoint, but that is not what it is about – it knows its’ role – a large, bustling curry house with regular entertainment that a lot of people will like. An avant garde fine dining restaurant would just not work in Upper Belvedere, and it would be pointless trying. The owners of the Spice Master know what works and stick to it, which seems eminently sensible in my opinion.  If you have visited the place, please feel free to leave a comment on your thoughts about the restaurant. I am of the opinion that Spice Master will just hoover up the customers of Belvedere Tandoori now that it no longer serves alcohol, meaning that the owners will have a challenge selling the place now that the customer footfall has dropped off dramatically. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

It would seem that my speculation regarding the future of the proposed river crossing between Rainham in Essex and Lower Belvedere was not without merit; I have it on good authority that the whole plan has now been kicked permanently into the long grass by London Mayor Sadiq Khan. It would appear that he has pulled the plug on several of the proposed Thames river crossings, including both Gallions Reach and Lower Belvedere - as shown on the map above - click on it for a larger view. Fellow local Blogger Darryl of the excellent 853 Blog, who covers the Charlton, Lewisham and Greenwich area, has written extensively around the changes to the proposed river crossing strategy, which you can read here. I know that there will be mixed feelings amongst local residents regarding this decision.

The Metropolitan Police are promoting a service which has been in place for some time, but many people are completely unaware of it. The "Silent Solutions" system is used to help decide whether officers are sent out in response to a silent 999 call, thousands of which are made each day. If you ring 999 you will be asked which emergency service you require. If you do not say anything, the operator will ask you to cough or indicate in some other way if the call is an emergency. If you do not feel it is safe to make any noise (eg if you do not want to alert someone to your presence, say for instance during a burglary or a terrorist attack), then your call will be transferred to a system that will ask you to press 55 if your call is an emergency. National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for National Contact Management, Deputy Chief Constable Alan Todd said: “The national ‘silent solutions’ system enables people to contact the emergency services without speaking by detecting background noise and prompting the caller to press ‘55’ if they want to be directed to police. Our steering group has reviewed the system and concluded that it is effective at enabling people who are unable to speak to contact the police while filtering out the huge volumes of accidental 999 calls made every day. However, the system is only effective if people understand how it works. The IPCC investigation into the police handling of the murder of Kerry Power demonstrates the tragic consequences of people not knowing how the system works. We are now considering how we can best educate the public and police officers about the system to ensure that those at risk of harm get the help they need.” A police spokesman added: "Please do not think that just because you dial 999 that police will attend. We totally understand that sometimes people are unable or too afraid to talk, however it must be clear that we will not routinely attend a silent 999 call".

The ending video this week is an exclusive, thanks to Millie and Becky of Grayling public relations, who sent me this short video showing the local school children planting trees on the Erith Quarry development site earlier last week. Do give it a watch, and please leave feedback by commenting below, or by sending me an Email to

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