Sunday, June 25, 2017

The end of the Tunnel of Doom.

The foot tunnel which runs under the Fish Roundabout and connects Erith town centre with Erith Station, better known to locals as the "Tunnel of Doom" due to its dreary and threatening appearance, regular graffiti and groups of dodgy looking youths hanging around is to be no more. Bexley Council has announced that as part of the multi million pound plan to improve central Erith, they are to remove the foot tunnel and replace it with a ground level crossing as part of the improvements promised for the area around the station; I just hope that they give priority to installing a lift at Erith Station - local MP Teresa Pearce has been campaigning for years to enable step free access to the London bound platform, which currently can only be accessed via the Victorian foot bridge - which is no good if you are a parent with a child in a buggy, of if you are in a wheelchair or mobility scooter. If you are thus encumbered, you have to get the Kent bound service to Dartford station, change there (where they do have a lift) and then come back the other way, which adds considerable time and expense to your journey. Southeastern and Network Rail can take the blame for this intolerable state of affairs. It would seem that the council have big redevelopment plans for the area, and one of the first targets will be the much loved, and for many years, criminally underused Andrew Carnegie gifted former Erith Library in Walnut Tree Road, as you can see below.

As readers may already be aware, I have been in contact with the group known as The Exchange, who will be moving into the Carnegie Library and having it refurbished over the next couple of years. I have been aware of their plans for quite some time, but have not said anything on certain subjects at their request - there is a level of commercial confidence in any such undertaking, and one of the reasons I get so many local scoops is because I am sensitive to such things, and will not publish if I feel that it would be long term counter productive, or not in local interests. The Exchange have published the following statement about their plans for the local area:- "The iconic Carnegie Building in Erith is set to reopen as a £1.6m renovation project has been agreed between the council and a local company, The Exchange Ltd. The Carnegie Building, in Walnut Tree Road, will become a centre for ‘innovation, creativity, learning and production’ once The Exchange Ltd become new occupiers of the landmark. The local company will take on the building under a lease and partnership agreement with the London Borough of Bexley.Councillor Linda Bailey, Cabinet member for Regeneration and Growth, said: “We are very pleased to have found three experienced local entrepreneurs who have established The Exchange Ltd to work with us to prepare the building for the next exciting phase in its history.“We have agreed to co-finance the refurbishment of the building together with the Mayor of London and the new operator, and we believe it will be a powerful demonstration of the ways in which regeneration can benefit the town and its people.”The Exchange Ltd plans to offer cultural, artistic and designer studios and workshop space for creative businesses to make and sell products. Deputy mayor for planning, regeneration and skills, Jules Pipe, said: “The redevelopment of the historic Carnegie Building will give it a new lease of life as a community arts hub and events space.“This milestone is part of wider plans to deliver much-needed new homes, jobs and public space thanks to funding from the Mayor of London and the London Enterprise Action Partnership, in partnership with the London Borough of Bexley.”The Carnegie is a Grade II listed building. Council officers will work closely with The Exchange Ltd and Historic England to ensure that the refurbishment work is carried out in a way that is sympathetic to the character of the building".

It is a very long time since I reported any kind of incident during my travels on public transport, I was quite surprised to have an encounter worth reporting on Tuesday evening. I got on a B12 bus in Avenue Road in Bexleyheath at about 6pm; as I got onto the single decker bus I noticed a sixty something bloke sat on one of the side facing seats directly behind the drivers compartment. The man looked well dressed and was wearing a Rolex watch. Nevertheless he looked dishevelled and somewhat agitated. I found a seat and expected a quiet journey home. Within a few moments the man started shouting racial abuse at a number of black and Asian people on the bus – it became apparent that the man was very drunk, and with that came abusive behaviour. I challenged him and suggested that he shut up and keep his offensive opinions to himself. He responded with “I am sixty five – how old are you?” I responded with “The stuff coming out of your mouth sounds more like what you would expect from a badly behaved eight year old – act your age!” A young family of South Asian origin with two toddlers then got on board, and unwittingly sat adjacent to the foul mouthed bigot, who then launched into a further racist and threatening rant. I then got up and spoke to the driver, who then shouted at the man and told him to shut up, or he would be removed from the bus. This seemed to have the desired effect, and the drunk stayed quiet for the next few minutes, until he got off the bus in Carlton Road, ironically at the bus stop adjacent to the monastery attached to the Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church, when he suddenly turned around and raised his right arm in a Hitler salute and shouted “Seig Heil”) a couple of times. An old chap in front of me muttered “he wants his head examined!” I could not have agreed more.

I don't normally comment on stories that make the national or international press; I generally feel that if a story has been extensively written about by "proper" journalists, I am unlikely to have anything original to add. In the last week the dreadful news of the Grenfell Tower inferno have prompted a couple of Maggot Sandwich readers to contact me about the much smaller, and thankfully non fatal fire which destroyed the roof and much of the upper storey of the Moat apartment development in James Watt Way in Erith, back on the 8th August last year. The residents of that low rise block are still not back in their homes, and the building is still covered in scaffolding. More on the Moat repairs in a future issue of the Blog; in the meantime I have heard comments that the Grenfell Tower tragedy was in many ways similar in the emotional impact that it had on many people as that which happened after the New Cross fire, when 13 young people were killed in a fire which started during a party they were holding in a house at 439 New Cross Road on the 18th January 1981. Much has been written about the fire and how it started. The similarity to recent events made me think back to a conversation I had less than a week after the New Cross incident occurred. I was sitting in my English class, and the teacher was late arriving. I was sitting next to a chap called Adrian, whose cousin had been one of the victims of the fire. We talked at length, and he told me a story I have never been able to forget. I cannot verify the accuracy of his account, but I have since spoken to a couple of other people who lived in New Cross at the time, and it would appear to be consistent with their own experiences. Adrian told me that the party had been high spirited but not too rowdy; at some point an older man in his mid twenties turned up and successfully managed to gate crash the party. Eventually the man's boorish and drunken behaviour got him chucked out of the house - apparently there was an argument on the doorstep and he eventually went on his way. Adrian alleged that the man later returned with a jerry can of petrol and set fire to the house, killing 13 party goers in the process. Popular rumour at the time was that members of the National Front had been behind the killings, and that they were racially motivated. Many in the Afro - Caribbean community had long felt ignored or even targetted by the police, who were able to hide behind the sus law to disproportionately target young black males. It suited local feelings at the time to be able to pin the blame on an external group of high profile racists, and gave the community a bugbear against which to unite. It has since been posited that the event was a cornerstone to the creation of an identity for young black Britons. You can read an essay on the subject by clicking here. The story continues; what I was also told was that the arsonist was actually caught and interrogated by the Metropolitan Police within a few days of the fire. He was then released and disappeared. Adrian said the reason for this was the man was a member of the Yardies, and also a high level police informer. The police were so frightened of losing control of the Yardie gangs in London, that they were prepared to overlook the murder of thirteen teenagers in order to protect their secret intelligence source at the time. I related this story to a friend who lived in New Cross at the time of the fire; he said "You know what? I heard exactly the same thing". Again, I have no way of knowing the truth of the account, but it certainly seems to be consistent with the situation at that point in history. It would seem that as many rumours, half truths and speculation will circulate over the recent Grenfell Tower fire. A public enquiry is the ideal way to come to the truth of the matter.

The photo above was taken at around 9pm on Wednesday evening from Crescent Road in Erith, looking down into Morrison’s car park; it shows the arrival of approximately thirty caravans and assorted other vehicles belonging to a traveller group. It does seem that the car park is picked for an encampment on a pretty regular basis, though Morrison’s usually manage to get them to leave within 24 – 48 hours, usually after a court order is served. I recall that last time the car park was occupied in a similar manner, when the travellers left, it took three Morrison’s employees most of the afternoon to clear the fly tipped rubbish the travellers left behind, despite the recycling centre being only a few metres from where the caravans had been parked. It is understood that this group of travellers were the same ones that had just been evicted from the giant Ocado warehouse car park in Church Manor Way, Lower Belvedere. The Ocado facility employs around 3,600 local people and operates around the clock. Reports state that several shifts were seriously disrupted as the travellers not only illegally occupied the site, but they also changed the locks. After the Police were called, and the travellers left the industrial site, the Police left a patrol in the area to discourage the return of any caravans. It would seem that Morrison’s car park would appear to be the travellers “Plan B” whenever they are evicted for illegally occupying other local sites. Only around a day after the travellers were evicted from Morrison's car park, than they were back again in even greater numbers. The Police were called, and two traveller youths were arrested for burglary from parked vehicles. The travellers who had occupied the site of the old Bexley Council offices in Bexleyheath Broadway have now vacated the land, after a removal order was served on them by the Facilities and Property department of Sports Direct, who now own the site. It is understood that a considerable amount of rubbish was fly tipped on the location which Sports Direct are arranging for collection and disposal. The travellers are reported to have moved onto a location in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Whilst I have no time for travellers illegally trespassing on private land and dumping rubbish when they depart, I am not exactly keen on Sports Direct either; whilst their employment conditions and poor staff pay are well documented, what is less well known is the way that they treat their customers, especially when it comes to faulty goods, and their returns policy, which in some instances would appear to contravene British consumer laws. Sports Direct are exceedingly averse to giving refunds, instead trying to fob off customers with credit notes, or offering to exchange goods even when a refund is completely justified.  Its returns policy on their website is very poor and misleading. It says that you have to “pay for postage but this does not affect your statutory rights”, and of course we know most people don’t know what their statutory rights are, and even fewer use them. If you click on the “Faulty goods” link they also suggest that you pay for postage and registered post at that. They say they will refund or exchange. However under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 if the item does not match the description, is not of satisfactory quality or does not last a reasonable length of time then it is in breach of these regulations. Therefore one does not have to pay return postage, or this should be refunded. Sports Direct does not make the customer rights clear, it sounds like they might give you an exchange even if you want a refund. I suspect that many people would not know that they could insist on a refund. The news that Sports Direct treats their customers with a degree of what at least to an outsider appears to be institutionalised contempt is starting to spread, and hopefully customers will vote with their feet and shop elsewhere in future.

News from local Police Safer Neighbourhood Teams; The Belvedere team report:- "After reports of youths causing a vehicle nuisance in the Lumley Close area, patrols have identified a male known to the team who was riding a moped in an anti-social manner (witnessed by officers). He will be being spoken to in the very near future. Further to this, we have received reports of youths (both male and female) that have taken to gathering in the park at Albert Road during unsociable hours, causing a noise nuisance to residents. We will be making efforts to patrol this area as much as possible in the coming weeks in order to speak to any groups found to be involved in this behaviour". The Thamesmead East team report;- "12Th June, Chadwick Way, Motorbike was stolen from front drive after being left unlocked. Over the past week, two vehicles have had their number plates stolen, on the 15th June, Kale Road, and on the 18th June, Maran Way. Both offences happened overnight.--- Attempted Burglary occurred at Troon Close, where the beading from a window had been taken out, however the suspect did not gain entry, and nothing was stolen. During the afternoon of the 19th June, a mobile phone was stolen from a vehicle parked up in Middle Way, after the driver left the window open.--- Early hours of the 21st June, a male was discovered to be in possession of cannabis. Formal warning given". The Christ Church team in Bexleyheath report:- "On the 14th June 2017 the Salvation Army premises located In Lion Road has been broken into where by copper piping has been cut off – The premises is in the process of being demolished for a new building to be built in its place. 14th June 2017 - Broadway by the bus stop hub – a male has sat down on the benches near to school children and has exposed himself to police earlier in the day he had exposed himself to an adult female – male was arrested for indecent exposure. A robbery occurred on the 15th June 2017 outside the Ten pin bowling alley on Albion Road – a young school female was assaulted by several females who beat her up and stole her phone and money. 16th June 2017 in Russell Close 3 cars belonging to the same family have been damaged – this was due to a parking issue – Russell Close does have parking issue as not many of the premises in the road have drive ways so are having to park on the road which is permits only and many of the houses that do have driveways are shared". The North End team report:- "There is a steady increase in the borough relating to tools being stolen from works vehicles. If you have a van or work vehicle, please ensure any valuable tools are removed from inside be it over night or even daytime while working. Please pass this on to any family and friends who may have work tools kept in vehicles. All valuable items should always be removed from ANY vehicle while it is not in use".

Here is something I have not done for a while - a "then and now" photo comparison. The upper of the two photos above shows the (then) Mayer Newman weigh bridge and weigh bridge office in Manor Road, back in 1975, complete with a Mark 2 Ford Capri parked outside - thanks to Martin Barnes for supplying this. The lower photo was taken by me on Thursday afternoon, showing what the site looks like now. It is just as well that I got the photograph when I did, as it looks like the building is shortly to be demolished. It was still working as a weigh bridge and associated administrative office until relatively recently. If you have any old photos of the local area that you would like a "then and now" comparison done, then drop me a line with a copy of your photo to

You may recall that last week I wrote about the seeming disappearance of the Bexley Growth Roadshow local feedback survey team from Erith Riverside Shopping Centre last Saturday afternoon. I have been in contact with a number of senior people in the council, and I am now able to clarify what actually happened. As you may recall it was very windy last Saturday, and the Growth Roadshow team found that their banners and placards kept blowing over, and were proving to be a bit of a health and safety risk to both themselves and to their visitors, so they were forced to take them down. Thus they became much harder to spot, as was found by several local readers. So the team were where they said they were, but many people missed them. The appearance the team made on Tuesday evening outside of Morrison’s was more successful, and I had a very nice chat with a lady staffing the stall. The team seemed to generate a lot of interest, and hopefully some productive feedback. I have also had official confirmation that the return of Erith Market after the disastrous pilot run last year has not been shelved as I feared. I have it in writing that the market is to return, and it will definitely be held in a Saturday as per the feedback from a number of readers and others; details are still to be agreed, and I would not personally expect to see any major action until next Spring, but we can live in hope. One of the major areas in which I feel that the proposed Bexley Growth Programme is weak, and something that I have already fed back to the team members is that the current plan in my opinion puts too much reliance on the mooted extension of the Crossrail line from Abbey Wood through Belvedere, Erith and Slade Green on its way to join up with other rail services at Ebbsfleet, linking up with the Paramount London theme park. Whilst this is something that many local people would greet with enthusiasm, it does not mean to say that it is going to happen; indeed news reaches us this week that the business alliance between Paramount Entertainment and the London Resort Company Holdings Ltd has now fallen through, and as such the whole planned 872 acre theme park which had hoped to attract up to 40,000 people a day is now in some doubt. London Resort officials have promised there will now be a “number of recognisable brands” at the promised North Kent theme park following the surprise departure of Paramount from the project, but the whole high level branding plan has now been ditched due to the departure of their main content provider. Whilst another partner may be found, I have some concerns that any other partner would not have the required high profile franchises that would be needed to attract enough visitors to make a large park financially viable. Paramount would have brought James Bond, Indiana Jones, Star Trek, Back to the Future, Toy Story and other very well-known movie and multimedia franchises to the park; I don’t know if another large film studio would be able or willing to take the risk of allowing their big name movies to be used as themes for rides in the park. It is also worrying from the perspective of many of the people in the region who were looking to work at the park; several figures have been published as to the number of jobs the park would create – around 24,000 would have seemed to have been a reasonable number. Understandably the London Resort Company Holdings Ltd are being cagey at this point; it may be that the reason that have cut their ties with Paramount Entertainment is that they have already secured a better deal elsewhere. Anything at this point is little more than speculation. What I feel would not work would be a generic, non – themed giant amusement park – a sort of “Dreamland on Steroids”. Any development needs to have a strong brand identity in order to attract sufficient numbers of visitors. The location of the park was also selected to allow a two hour travel time by train from Paris; the forthcoming Brexit may discourage some travellers from continental Europe from making the journey, and may indeed stop the figures from adding up for the entire project. As far as public information is concerned, there is too little currently available to make an informed judgement, so at present all analysts can do is guess. If you have any information regarding this issue, please drop me a line to

A new crime wave has been underway in parts of North Kent and it shows signs of spreading into South East London. Criminals have been stealing the backup batteries from mobile phone transceiver masts, presumably to sell as scrap. Now that scrap dealers can legally only accept scrap from registered traders, and no cash deals are permitted by law, it is going to be far more difficult for the crooks to get away with their thefts, and I gather that the mobile phone companies have their own security investigators on the case, as well as the Police. More on this in the future.

The end video this week is a promotional one for a YouTube channel that I follow daily. The channel is called "All the Stations" and it follows presenters Geoff and Vicki as they try to set a record as being the first people to visit every single railway station in the United Kingdom. They, along with a small team of volunteers film, edit and upload daily videos of their journey, and the people and places that they encounter on the way. Geoff already holds the Guinness World Record for the quickest transit through every station on the London Underground. The video below was recorded a while ago, when they were still trying to raise funds via Kickstarter to finance the "All the Stations" attempt; since then they easily exceeded the total they were looking for. You can see their daily postings as they make their way to every railway station in the UK by clicking here. Geoff and Vicki are now roughly half of their way through visiting all of the stations; once they have finished they intend releasing a film of edited highlights of their record breaking journey. This all might sound a little frivolous, but there is actually a serious side to the whole enterprise. They are trying to highlight how important the rail system is the the UK, and the more people that use it, the more money will be invested in it for the future. Do give the video a watch and leave feedback below, or alternatively Email me at


  1. The Capri in the weighbridge picture is a Mk2 not a MK1. That would be consistent with the 1975 date although it would have been a fairly new car then.

  2. It's about time the police simply confiscated the vehicles of travellers who set up camp illegally, make a mess and refuse to leave. That would solve the problem straight away!