Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Belvedere Beach.

It would seem that Bexley Council have taken on board the recent protests by residents of Slade Green and parts of Erith in regard of the Bexley Growth Consultation proposal that I featured a couple of weeks ago. It looks very much like the council regard themselves as "being caught on the back foot" following the rather inflammatory protest leaflet that was delivered to the letter boxes of a large number of roads potentially allegedly affected by the proposed changes. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, the lurid claims made in the leaflet have now been investigated, and I have come to the conclusion that they are for the most part pretty far – fetched. I have had private words with a number of people involved with the Bexley Growth Consultation proposal, and off the record it has been said that it is pretty much a “sticking a finger in the air” exercise at present, and that a lot of the suggestions included in the report will never see the light of day, and those that do may not happen for decades. The protest leaflet looks like a classic piece of scare mongering - a case of "never let the facts get in the way of a good story". The new Council leaflet has a wording that definitely reflects the concerns that have been voiced by concerned local residents who have been persuaded by the original inflammatory leaflet that their houses are only months away from being compulsorily purchased and then bulldozed, which could not be any further from the truth. I think the underlying reason for the level of panic is due to the understandable insecurity of many Slade Green and Erith residents. Many are not wealthy, and don't feel that they have any real say in local events. Historically the North of the London Borough of Bexley has been the industrial / manufacturing heart of the area, and where the less privileged members of society tended to live. If one looks at the demographic breakdown of the borough, the Northern areas of Erith and Slade Green shows a higher than average number of residents receiving benefits, and / or being paid the National Living Wage. The people feel disenfranchised, and completely out of control of their local environment. I think this is the reason for the very strong protests at the perceived changes in the original, poorly worded Council proposal document. I do think that whoever created the original protest document may have done so with the best of intentions, but the end result has not been very constructive, and has worried people unnecessarily. The website of Slade Green Together have a far more measured and realistic analysis of the Bexley Growth Consultation proposal, which you can read by clicking here. There has been a major setback to the Bexley Growth Consultation Plans in their current form - and a great victory for the campaign to preserve Crayford and Slade Green Marshes. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has vetoed the proposed massive 149 acre rail marshalling yard, warehousing and a bridge over the River Cray. The development had been approved by Bexley Council (no surprises there) but blocked by Dartford Council - who share administration over the marshes. In a letter to Bexley Council, Sadiq Khan said: “Having now considered a report on this case, I do not consider the proposal would achieve the modal shifts from road to rail freight within London envisaged within my Draft Transport Strategy, and therefore there are not demonstrable benefits for London which would outweigh the loss of London’s Green Belt. I direct you to refuse planning permission, under the powers conferred on me by article 6 of the above Order. The proposal is inappropriate development in the Green Belt and very special circumstances have not been demonstrated which would clearly outweigh the harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm.” A significant portion of Bexley's regeneration plans were centred around development of the marshes, and the associated construction in and around Slade Green. I get the feeling that much of these plans will now need to be substantially revisited following the decision of the Mayor of London, which overrides that of the individual boroughs by statute. 

In a move that many long - term readers may see as supremely ironic, The local studies and archive centre located on the upper floor of Bexleyheath Library has just won a national accreditation. Bexley’s Local Studies and Archive Centre has been awarded Archive Service Accreditation. The service has met defined national standards relating to management and resourcing, the care of its unique collections and what it offers to its wide range of users. In an interview with the Bexley Times,  Councillor Peter Craske said:- “Local people are proud of the borough and its past and the centre works with people if all ages to help them appreciate our rich culture and history. The team’s passion and enthusiasm is clear to anyone who uses the service or visits the centre and I am delighted that their hard work has been recognised". Those readers with a long memory will recall that I highlighted the threat to merge Bexley local / historical records with Bromley back in October 2013; you can read what I wrote at the time by clicking here. It is instructive to note how Bexley Council can go from wanting to close the archive facility less than four years ago - albeit to a storm of protest, to now taking credit for the unit now being awarded a prestigious accreditation now. Craske and his cronies seem to underestimate local people who recall how the councillors acted back in the day. It would appear in this case the council now wish to take credit for saving something that they actively tried to destroy. 

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago I asked if anyone knew what had happened to renowned local fisherman Dave Pearce, who had been the last commercial Eel fisherman on the River Thames. I was extremely surprised to get an Email from the man himself - it turns out that he is a long time Maggot Sandwich reader. Dave writes:- "How I became the last eel fisherman by Dave Pearce. Fishing was in my blood; my great grandfather. Owned several fishing boats fishing out of Erith in the mid 1800s,  and a wet fish shop. Skip a generation. My two uncles. Ron and Bill Dott both well known in Erith. took up fishing. Bill fishing and Ron making gear and repairing it. The boats. from a early age, 3 or 4 I was always with them - boats and fishing was my life. I loved it; at a young age Ron and I built the Harry Boy a 35 foot trawler that I fished in the Thames, regularly landing fish in Erith. One day I saw someone eeling in long reach  had a chat with them and thought I'd have a go - that was 1990 ish  and I did OK. I had a mate with me called Gary Cochran - we both liked the life - you had to, as it was dirty hard work with odd hours. We fished 6 days a week and too the eels to Billingsgate on a Tuesday morning. The season was from April till end of November always glad to pack up by then as  the back usually hurt by then, but after a few weeks I couldn't wait to start again. When I started there were 12 teams eeling between Tower Bridge and Canvey Island. They gradually packed up or retired, but I still loved it I also got to work at The Natural History Museum doing fish surveys. About 2010 I started to slow down eel fishing  and doing other work still on the river that I love. If you see a red workboat going past Erith it's probably me. I would say about  2014/5 I packed up eel fishing. Very sad time I was probably the last fisherman out of Erith. In those years I learned a lot about eels and the river of no use to anyone but me. Never say never! I still own a fishing boat, got my nets, and I am still licenced to fish eels. One day one day I hope to wet a net again . I could go on for ages about  the good days I well remember and the bad days I sooner forget. but I guess I have said enough already, so over and out. Dave Pearce". Excellent stuff, and really fascinating reading; I hope to see Dave back out in his little work boat soon. Please feel free to leave a comment below, or Email me at

The controversial Belvedere Beach play area in Woolwich Road, Upper Belvedere opened on Thursday of last week. It takes the place of the incredibly popular and well used Belvedere Splash Park that was closed down two years ago after much wrangling and anger from local residents. A campaign was set up to preserve the Splash Park, but Bexley Council chose to ignore the overwhelming opposition to the park closure. The Belvedere Beach is a sort of compromise; some of the features of the old park have been retained, but the overall new park layout is substantially different; what the children and their parents will make of the Belvedere Beach remains to be seen. In a not unexpected move, local Councillor Peter Craske (remember him from earlier?) said in an interview in the News Shopper that "Belvedere Beach is a tremendous landmark that will be here for years to come. Both contemporary and unique, children of all abilities will be able to take part in themed, imaginary play, and with the on-site facilities, families can now stay and play for longer. The new playground will also be open all year round and is yet another reason to come and visit our fantastic borough. I am looking forward to the opening next week and hope to see lots of people there!" Craske seems to turn up for the opening of an envelope, so I suppose the comments are really just to be expected. Upon the opening, he was quoted in the News Shopper as saying:- "I’d like to thank all those involved in this project for everything you have done to turn what was an idea on a piece of paper into reality, creating something unique - not just for Bexley but beyond that too. Without the funding from Cory Environmental Trust, strong team work and creativity that everyone involved has shown we would not have a playground of this incredibly high standard that is opening well ahead of schedule and in time for the school holidays. I'm so proud of what you have all achieved". He really does seem to be everywhere. If you have visited the revamped park, do let me know what you think of it. Does it live up to the hype?

The photo above shows a fly tipped fridge / freezer which was illegally dumped in Hind Crescent, close to the entrance to The Urgent Care Unit at Erith Hospital. The person who took the photograph noted that the fridge / freezer was right in the middle of the footpath, and anyone with a visual disability might well trip over it and possibly injure themselves on the sharp and rusty exposed metal. I know that I am far from being alone in wanting far more rigorous enforcement of fly tipping; the discredited company Kingdom Services supposedly enforcing the litter ban in Bexleyheath Broadway might be more productive if they were to patrol the streets of the borough to catch and prosecute the commercial fly tippers. Whilst much of the UK suffers from problems of this nature, the issue in South East London and North Kent seems to be especially bad.

Local arts and design commissioning group The Exchange invited proposals from practitioners with ideas to transform London’s longest pier in Erith into a piece of art for the period of the Totally Thames Festival 2017 in September. 75 artists, designers, architects, performers and creatives submitted ideas to use this newest and most unique public art space. Submissions came from all over the world and the quality was exceptional. The judging panel – that included The Exchange, sponsors Orbit and Wates Residential, local artists Guy Tarrant and Gary Drostle, The Decorators (responsible for Erith Lighthouse), Totally Thames, and the Port of London Authority – whittled the list down to four applicants. These four final ideas were then put out to public vote, that was collected online and in Erith Library, which finished on Friday. Julia Snowdin’s ‘Changing Sails’ aimed to work with the community to decorate ships’ sails that would hang around the pier; The City Art’s Doctors proposed to create listening posts, shaped like clay pipes, which would project stories of Erith; Oliver Palmer wanted to recreate Callender’s Cable Works Brass Band with a sound installation and performances; and Bureau of Extraordinary Affairs proposed to create urban auricles that would amplify the sounds of the Thames and industrial Erith. The result of the public vote will be published on Monday. More information can be found by clicking here. The piece will be installed by 6 September, to tie in with the Totally Thames Festival and the Erith Lighthouse project. This will be a major cultural and social event in Erith - something that we have not had before; I for one am very excited by the various projects and will be covering them in some extensive detail - watch this space.

A story was published in the Bexley Times last week which I understand has annoyed many people, and I can fully understand why. Despite a London-wide focus on the behaviour and a spate of moped-related acid and knife attacks earlier this month, Detective Inspector Dawn Morris has said police cannot always pursue every suspicious moped rider. “Our officers have to consider whether chasing after a suspect is always the safest thing to do, or if it could endanger the public, officers or the suspect, In those cases we tend to request support from a police helicopter, or lay down puncture strips, which let down wheels slowly to prevent any accidents. While we may not always make an immediate arrest after an incident, these types of criminals don’t tend to want to dump their vehicle and walk the 10 miles home after using them, so we’re developing a picture of where they are and how we can stop them by basing our patrols in the correct areas. We are also working with the public to show them how to better protect their bikes by making them more secure with better locks and using traceable liquids like SmartWater so bikes can be identified as their own under an ultraviolet light. We are also monitoring websites to see if anyone is trying to sell the stolen vehicles online.” Police say the rising concern of stolen bikes and mopeds can be linked to incidents of robbery and violence in the borough, with the vehicles also used to snatch phones from victim’s hands as riders drive past. I feel that one comment made by Detective Inspector Morris is most telling; Her line:- "Our officers have to consider whether chasing after a suspect is always the safest thing to do, or if it could endanger the public, officers or the suspect" (my emphasis). I think the senior Police officer is fundamentally misreading the mood of the public when it comes to moped and motor cycle related crime. The Police already acknowledge that the illegal moped riders deliberately do not wear helmets as they are fully aware of the Police "Rules of Engagement" that prohibit officers from chasing un-helmeted riders as the illegal riders might crash and hurt themselves. The criminals are laughing at authority. Feedback that I have received is pretty much unanimous - the Police need to change their policy, chase the criminal scumbags, and if required, ram them off the road, and if as a consequence a few crooks get injured, then so be it. I know, as I have previously mentioned, that Dagenham and Redbridge Police are dropping the Met - wide non engagement rule, following a radio debate I took part in on Time 107.5 FM on the 3rd of July, where the Borough Commander of Dagenham and Redbridge Police stated that they were about to trial a new policy of engagement, that, if successful would very likely be expanded to cover all Metropolitan Police areas. Whilst I doubt a change in pursuit policy would deter the hardcore moped criminals, the thought that they might be taking their next meal through a drip might deter many. Secondly Detective Inspector Morris is largely mistaken in thinking that mopeds are sold online after being used in criminal activity; from what my sources tell me, after being used, most stolen motorbikes and mopeds are broken for spare parts, which are then sold on, as the parts are far harder to trace than whole vehicles.  On top of this, moped crooks are getting wise to vehicles fitted with immobilisers - recently they are starting to rip off the immobilisers on certain models of Vespa scooter, and then wire in their own, hacked immobiliser unit which then allows them to start the vehicle and illegally ride it away. The stolen bikes are then used in muggings, car jackings, illegal drug deliveries and most publicly, in the recent alarming spate of acid attacks. Gangs such as Bike Life TV UK also stage illegal "rides" around places including Thamesmead and Lower Belvedere, as I have written about in detail in the past. What do you think? Should the Police institute a tougher policy on bike crooks, or are things fine as they are? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

A further Police related story - you have none for ages, then two turn up together. I am surprised at how many local people are unaware of the threat of closure to Bexleyheath Police Station. It has been proposed that Bexleyheath police station is sold off and services moved to Sidcup. This has been vigorously opposed by MP for Bexleyheath and Crayford David Evennett.  The proposal is to close and sell off Bexleyheath Police Station (which has already lost its custody suite and cells) and move everything to Marlowe House in Sidcup, right on the far South of the Borough. This would leave the entire borough with only one fully active Police Station. What also concerns me is that if Police make an arrest say in Lower Belvedere, they then have to go all the way across the Borough to Sidcup in order to get the felon processed - which could take them off active duty for several hours. This definitely sounds like an idea that has not been properly thought through - I feel the law of unintended consequences coming into play once again. I do appreciate that nowadays the Police are lot more mobile than they once were, and don't all sit in the Police station waiting for a 999 call to come in, then all run out Keystone Cops style, but the message this sends to crooks is a poor one.

A message from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association:- "Can everyone remember that with the summer comes the unwanted door knockers touting for Gardening / tree pruning work, Roofing/guttering cleaning , and Driveway work. These cold callers are usually in unmarked transit vans and not in any kind of company uniform but you may see them slowly driving around looking at houses. Likewise, they will often put a card through doors if nobody answers when they knock, but can I just remind everyone to please look out for their elderly neighbours as these are often the easy target for chancers, and that if you haven't personally called anyone or don't actually need the work done, don't answer the door but if you do DON'T be talked into having any work done". Reports from a Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator in Barnehurst reads:- "Two reps from Safe Style UK Windows knocked on my door and said they were doing work for a neighbour and offered me a quote. They were a bit pushy, but I agreed to have a quote from them. Soon afterwards, another neighbour said they were calling further down the road, saying I was having work done by them, as if in recommendation. I cancelled my appointment but would caution others that they are at least guilty of misrepresentation". From The Colyers Safer Neighbourhood Team:-"There were 2 reported burglaries, 1 commercial burglary in Erith Road on 24th July. Suspect forced entry via a glass panel in the early hours of the morning. Cosmetics and food were stolen. Suspect identified by CCTV and arrested. Investigation ongoing There was also 1 attempted burglary on the morning of the 19th July in Edendale Road where an attempt to enter by forcing the kitchen window. Entry was not gained and nothing was taken. No CCTV or witnesses. There have been 3 thefts from motor vehicles this week. One in Badlow Close on the morning of the 19th July where a lock was forced and a bag stolen from the foot well of the car. There was no CCTV and no suspects were seen. Another was in the early hours of the 21st July in Cumbrian Avenue where the wheel trims were stolen from a vehicle. There were no witnesses or CCTV and no viable leads. Lastly there were some number plates stolen from a car in Northumberland Way sometime between the 18th-21st July. There was 1 criminal Damage to a vehicle in Larner Road overnight between the 12th-13th July where a known suspect poured paint on the victims vehicle due to an alleged parking dispute. Investigation ongoing. Our next surgery is on Thursday 27th July in the Community Centre, Blackberry Patch, Badlow Close at 6pm". A report from the Erith Safer Neighbourhood Team:- "There has been an increase in theft of number plates in Erith we are trying to get hold of some security screws that will hand out to local residents that request them. We had a successful ward panel meeting with a record turnout and Jerry Martin was voted in as our new chairman. We are going to increase patrols in the area - that was brought up from the meeting – more on this to follow". 

The ending video this week shows one of the newly installed cycle path barriers on the Thames Cycle Path at Abbey Wood, close to Thamesmead; apologies that the video is in vertical / portrait format, but that is how it was supplied to me by a long - time Maggot Sandwich reader who chooses to remain anonymous. It is most definitely worth a watch, and really highlights how council tax payers money has been wasted in a poorly planned and even more poorly executed piece of very expensive street furniture. Give the video a watch, and either leave a comment below, or Email me at

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