The advert above has been doing the rounds on Facebook and other social media for a couple of months now. It promotes an apparent new facility in Erith for use for weddings, corporate events and suchlike. The location is the current Praise Embassy located in the former tyre warehouse on the corner of Bexley Road and Queen Street in Erith Town Centre. The grandly named P - Square Events Centre is what was the snooker hall on the upper floor of Electricity House, also shown above. Here is where the controversy comes in; The photos above are not actually of the venue in Erith, as it is not complete, and is anyway subject to a number of legal challenges. The photos show some venue elsewhere that the owners of the Erith location would apparently aspire to. There are a number of issues with the Praise Embassy and associated businesses that are not currently widely known. The pre - school nursery which is also run by the same group has been operating without planning permission since 2014, and it has been the subject of an unfavourable OFSTED report. If this was not bad enough, you may recall that I wrote a while back how the freehold of the snooker hall had been purchased by persons unknown - I was of the opinion that in the medium to long term, this was in order for the owners to "land bank" as much of the late 1930's building as possible, as it is close to the end of its useful life, and is a prime candidate for redevelopment. A developer would pay a premium for the site, which is located close to the M25, the A2 and the South Circular. It is also in an up and coming part of South East London / North Kent. If a compulsory purchase order was placed on the site, the freeholder with the largest chunk of rights to the building would be in for a considerable windfall. A reliable source has told me that the organisation that runs the Redeemed Christian Church of God Praise Embassy is the freehold buyer, and that although the snooker hall hold a long lease on the building, they have been unlawfully evicted, as the church wants to convert the snooker hall upstairs part of Electricity House into the P - Square events venue in the mock up photos on the flyer above. I am told that this is currently subject to a court case, though at present I am not aware of the details. As well as the proposed events / conference centre - that is subject to the outcome of an application yet to be submitted to the council for a change of use. The church have been heavily promoting Podium Radio – a radio station featuring content designed to appeal to African listeners. There has been some concern that studios are to be constructed in Electricity House, and one local resident has expressed worries about any new antennas appearing on the roof of the building, as it is already heavily populated by mobile phone masts and other digital communications devices. I think I am able to lay that concern to rest; it would seem that Podium Radio is Internet based, and does not broadcast terrestrially. Any studio would most likely be very small – little more than a single room. Podium Radio appears to be a pretty small affair; it has a website which you can see here. The pastor of the church is a somewhat flamboyant and controversial figure; her name is Pastor Chris Ogedengbe – you can see her FaceBook page here. Locals will have also noted that the previously open plan car park adjacent to the building has recently had a very large and imposing black metal fence erected around it, complete with sliding gates. At present the church / nursery / events centre management are trying to get an electricity supply run to the gates, so that they can be motorised. From what I have been told, no planning permission has been granted for this work, and it is definitely required due to their size and the cosmetic changes they make to the structure. It is ironic that the very imposing fence, which would not look out of place at Belmarsh Prison, only covers the front of the car park; the side is protected by a shoulder high brick wall, which would be relatively easy for any trespasser to scramble over. The whole situation with Electricity House is a mess; basically it would seem that you have a majority stakeholder who is now trying to take over as much of the building as possible, but to what end? At very best it would appear that any gains the church makes will be very short term – no more than a handful of years, before the entire building is demolished and replaced with something new and more suitable for purpose. Unless I am very much mistaken The Redeemed Christian Church of God are doing little more than re – arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. Conversely they may be playing a very clever game; appearing to invest heavily in the old building, doing it up and turning it around. This would ensure that any compensation paid out during a compulsory purchase of the site would be at the higher end of the scale. Whatever the options, one thing is clear – Electricity House is worth more demolished than it is standing. If you have any information on this, please feel free to drop me a line to firstname.lastname@example.org where it will be treated in the strictest confidence.
Boy racers who turned an East London industrial estate into “something out of the Fast and the Furious” have been banned from meet-ups under a new council crackdown. Any drivers taking part in street races or performing stunts could face a fine of up to £1,000, thanks to a new Public Space Protection Order. The order also gives police officers and the council the power to fine those who attend ‘road racing’ events simply to watch. It comes after hundreds of spectators began descending on Choats Road, in an industrial estate in Dagenham, to watch souped-up cars and bikes race at speed. Attendees at the events reportedly contain illegal racers from the South side of the River Thames, and apparently some people from Bexley, who drive across the Dartford Crossing to take part in the illegal events. The races sparked complaints from nearby residents who said their lives were being made a misery, with the high pitched roars of engines audible from up to half a mile away. Some of the most criminally irresponsible road racers were even coating the street in oil to make high speed “drift turns” easier around a roundabout. Videos of the dangerous manoeuvres have been uploaded to Youtube. Councillor Laila Butt, Barking and Dagenham council’s cabinet member for enforcement and community safety, said in an interview last week with the London Evening Standard that the order was introduced for a large section of the borough following complaints from residents. She said:- “We have listened to our residents which is why we are showing the red flag to the irresponsible boy racers and petrol heads who are not only jeopardising their own safety but others around them. A whole swathe of the borough will be off limits to these boy racers who think they can use our streets as Silverstone or Brands Hatch.” The order bans activities including speeding, driving in convoy, racing, performing stunts, revving engines and wheel spins. It is thought to be the first time a ban of its type had been used in London to stop street racing. Earlier this year, residents said they welcomed the council’s attempts to crackdown on the practice. There seems to be an increase in illegal vehicle activity even over and above that we are unfortunately subject to. Erith has for several years been plagued by youths on illegal, unlicensed motorbikes and scooters; the problem appears to be worst around the Frobisher Road and Manor Road area. The scumbags ride their illegal vehicles along the pavements, very close to pedestrians, and also weave in and out of the traffic on the road. They usually end up heading East, and onto the Slade Green Marshes where they cause a nuisance to walkers and legitimate users of the protected marsh area. Local residents have been complaining about this behaviour, and Erith Watch have been active in working with the Police to get something done about the matter. The general procedure the Police carry out when arresting illegal, unlicensed and uninsured riders is that their bikes or scooters are confiscated and crushed. One can only hope that this will be the case in future instances. The only thing is the offenders will probably just go out and steal another bike and carry out their anti social and criminal acts as before. I feel that it will take another death before they realise how dangerous their activities are. Back in 2006, when the 469 single decker bus still ran on a route that included Manor Road, a young scooter rider came roaring West along the road; a West bound 469 was stationary at the Frobisher Road bus stop, and an East bound 469 bus was coming the other way; rather than waiting for the Eastbound bus to pass, the young rider raced for the gap; he was crushed between the two buses. The ambulance crew were able to stabilise him for long enough to get him to hospital, and his family to get to his bedside to say goodbye. I can see this terrible state of affairs happening again unless the illegal riders do something drastic about their behaviour. I was interviewed by Romford based local radio station Time 107.5FM on Monday evening. I had Emailed the station, as they were going to be doing a phone - in programme about scooter based crime in and around Romford, Redbridge and Dagenham. I had contacted them about the problems we have encountered on the South side of the river, and how I had discovered through a couple of readers that some of the illegal scooter riders from Bike Life TV UK have been going over the Dartford Crossing to commit crimes on the other side of the river. Time phoned me and I ended up doing a seven minute live interview on bike gang crime with the host. Good fun, and I did find out that Dagenham and Redbridge Police are dropping the general Met policy of not chasing biker riders who do not wear helmets. Their Borough Commander also appeared on the programme, and he said that they were trialling a new policy from next month, but they would not give specifics as the illegal bikers might find out and take countermeasures. If successful the policy may go London wide. We have seen the results of the very high profile watch and jewellery thefts in the West End of London that have featured heavily in papers such as the Evening Standard, but most of the crime committed on scooters is of a lower level nature – the theft of mobile phones and handbags being very common. I am also led to understand that some drugs gangs use younger members on scooters to distribute illicit drugs. It is a shame that decent, law abiding riders are becoming tarred with the same brush as the bad guys.
Following on from my article last week on the problem of drug dealing which seems to be centred around the former Mencap centre in Lesney Park Road, Erith, I have had further confirmation of nefarious activity in and around the site from yet another long time reader - the fourth independent witness thus far. The new contributor writes:- "Hi Hugh, I took this photo on 14/6/17, the location was the B12 bus stop Carlton Road, which is just along road to Mencap site. I picked a couple up to check if they were used, and they had been. There were so many there, and as you can see in the photo that the cream charger boxes that they came in were present. I thought that someone close by must be a caterer and dumped them by the litter bin rather than their own dustbin. I took photo, as it was such an unusual find, now reading your article it apparent where they came from". I feel that this story has much longer to run; more soon.
The forthcoming two new replacement Woolwich ferries have been named, and in a long tradition, the ferries will be named after prominent local people. The new boats will be named after Dame Vera Lynn, who celebrated her 100th birthday this year, and Ben Woollacott, 19, a deckhand who died working on the ferries. The state-of-the-art vessels will be delivered next year and will form part of the river crossings strategy for East and South East London – after their future was initially placed in doubt. Dame Vera was born in East Ham in 1917 and went on to become the “force’s sweetheart” in the Second World War. Ben was the sixth generation of Thames waterman but drowned after he was dragged into the water after a mooring rope accident in 2011. The former ferry operator Serco was fined £200,000 over failings that led to the tragedy. The two new ships cost around £20 million each and come with specialised “hybrid” engines allowing them to run on electricity generated by the idling motors running on fuel oil.
In an interview this week with the London Evening Standard Sean Collins, the chief executive and co – founder of MBNA Thames Clippers said that passenger numbers using the river boat service have grown by over a million over the last three years, and he predicted that they would double to a total of eight million travellers over the next five years. Of that number, around half will be regular commuters, rather than tourists going for a day trip. MBNA Thames Clippers have a further two new vessels going into service this summer, bringing the number in their fleet to a total of seventeen. The first of the new ships, the Mercury Clipper, went into service this week; it is covering the route between Canary Wharf and Blackfriars Pier. The second new vessel, the Jupiter Clipper will go into service shortly and cover the Canary Wharf to Battersea Power Station route. Economists say that the large amount of riverside development currently under way in places such as Nine Elms and the Greenwich Peninsula are driving the demand for increased levels of ferry services. What seems to have been missed off in all of this discussion is any ferry service to the East of Woolwich. When one considers the refurbishment and expected massive expansion of Abbey Wood and Thamesmead, and the huge increase in residential construction planned for Lower Belvedere, Erith and Dartford, I am somewhat surprised that as far as I am aware, no provision has been made for expansion of ferry services to this significant part of South East London / North Kent. Some years ago local MP Teresa Pearce was in consultation with the ferry operators, Morrison’s and I believe Transport for London about the possibility of getting the MBNA Thames Clipper service to call at Erith Pier. From what I recall, it was a non – starter at the time. The River Thames has a very wide tidal range at Erith, and large pontoons would have been needed to be added to the pier to ensure that ferries could dock at low tide. On top of this, Pier owners Morrison’s were not keen on the idea – they did not want to see spaces used up in their car park by commuters, when they could (in their opinion) be better employed providing parking for Morrison’s customers. This specific issue has now become moot; a waiting time limit is now enforced in the car park, and it would no longer be possible for any potential commuters to leave their car all day. I still believe that it would not be outside the realms of possibility for the MBNA Thames Clipper service to introduce routes to the East of Woolwich, but thus far there does not seem to be the desire to do so from enough of the potential stakeholders. What do you think? Should a new attempt be made to bring the riverboat service into the local area? Leave a comment below, or Email email@example.com.
Some crime reports from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association:- Belvedere Ward – “My Grandson (6 yrs old) and his brother (11 years old) were hit by a dark grey, stolen BMW 3 series coupe, in Lower Belvedere on Friday 30th June and both ended up in King College Hospital. The car didn’t stop. Both are now home recovering. If anyone sees a Dark Grey BMW 3 series coupe, broken near side door mirror, abandoned or having number plates changed, please will they report it straight away. It did have false plates, the police do know what they are. I won’t say at this time as I don’t wish to cause any more stress for the legal owner who has obviously had a police visit and is very concerned that his car had been cloned”. PC Ashley Green Of Belvedere made the following report:- "Over the last week the team have been very busy. PC Green has been receiving additional training for a variety of practical front line policing applications. The team have summonsed a prolific shoplifter for 2 offences in Co-Op, Nuxley Road and for a further offence in Erith working with PC Brown from the Erith team. Another male has been banned from Sainsbury’s, Nuxley Road. The male was challenged by staff for attempting to shoplift. When the team have attended to deal with the incident we have also gathered evidence for further offences linked to drug dealing which we are currently being investigated. If you note any suspicious activity around this area then please contact us to assist with any on-going investigations. The team have been very busy with criminal investigations around the ward and have collected evidence and CCTV for a variety of offences. This is to assist our colleagues working within the investigation units who will look to be identifying offenders. The team will be attending a meeting on 06/07/2017 and are to be joined by other police officers, local businesses, the ward Councillors and members of the local authority such as road safety and ASB staff. The meeting is part of our on-going efforts to combat vehicle Anti-social behaviour affecting Norman Road, Belvedere and the surrounding area. PC Green has compiled a large amount of research into offenders and the team will be looking to deal with offenders in coming weeks as part of the plan to deal with the on-going issues". From the Barnehurst team:- “This week the Barnehurst and Crayford Teams have been working together after discovering 8 stolen vehicles within a garage block in Mount Pleasant Walk. The venue had clearly been used by criminals since 2011 to store and work on altering the identity of vehicles as evidenced by the finding of 10 sets of number plates as well as stripping vehicles for parts as evidenced by the discovery of the eight cars some dating back to 2013. The cars identified were 6 x BMW M3 Coupes and convertibles 1 x Focus ST and 1 x Kangoo van. The total value of the vehicles is in excess of £145,000. We would like to thank residents for their patience whilst the recovery and forensic work was undertaken and thank you to one in particular who supplied the teas. For photos please follow us on twitter @MPSBarnehurst". From the Northumberland Heath team:- "Two incidents in Northumberland Heath reported and dealt with quickly by police, they were;- There were 4 boys all 16 plus in age all under the influence of drugs. It was at the back of Horsa road, in the alley. The police were called and attended shortly after the call was made. There was also a fight last night between school children around school closing time when 3 police cars attended this was outside Sasaks Food & Wine shop on Bexley Road, right by the bus stop”.
It is not very well known that Erith was the birthplace of a man who could well have gone on to be a Formula One world racing champion, had he not met an untimely end in a plane crash. Tony Brise was born in Erith in March 1952, and was a promising racing driver, who took part in ten Formula One Grand Prix events in 1975, before dying in a plane crash with Graham Hill. Tony Brise was born in Erith, the son of John Brise, a pig farmer and racing driver, who won the World Stock Car Championship on three occasions. Both Tony and his brother Tim showed an interest in go-karting at a young age, and John Brise gave up his hobby to support them fully. Tony Brise won his first UK championship in 1969, and switched to single-seater racing the next year, driving an Elden MK8 Formula Ford. In 1971 he placed second in the BOC British FF1600 Championship. While completing his degree in this period, a BA in Business Administration, he chose to continue with motor racing, joining Formula 3 in 1972 driving a Brabham BT28, the team run by Bernie Ecclestone. After switching to a GRD 372, his performance increased until he was one of the top drivers in the formula. He won two of the three British Formula 3 Championships in 1973, sharing one (the Lombard North Central championship) with Richard Robarts, as well as winning the John Player Trophy. At the end of the season he won a Grovewood Award for the second time, shared with Tom Pryce. Brise wished to move up to Formula 2 for the 1974 seasons, but was unable to due to financial limitations. Instead he bought a second-hand March 733 car, fitting it with a Holby-tuned Ford engine, and entering the MCD Formula Atlantic series. He won the first round of the British Championship unexpectedly, but subsequently wrote the car off in a crash at Snetterton. However, his performance had brought him to the attention of Teddy Savory of Modus, who offered him a work drive in the series. Although the car was another modified F3 chassis, he drove well enough to earn a drive in a purpose-built car in 1975. He also drove a Modus M1 F3 in the Monaco Grand Prix F3 support race, finishing second behind Tom Pryce in a March 743. Brise excelled in the new car in 1975, winning six consecutive races, at Snetterton, Oulton Park, and twice each at Brands Hatch and Silverstone, enough to win him the MCD International Formula Atlantic Championship. As a result of these achievements, he was contacted by Frank Williams in April, to make his Formula One debut standing in for Jacques Laffite. Brise made his Grand Prix debut on the 27th April 1975 for Williams at the Spanish Grand Prix in Montjuic Park near Barcelona, a controversial race marred by strikes over safety issues, a high number of crashes, and the deaths of four spectators. Brise finished seventh in this race, two laps behind the leaders, his race affected by a collision with Tom Pryce. Laffite returned for the subsequent Monaco Grand Prix, relegating Brise once again to Formula Atlantic, though former world champion Graham Hill's retirement at that race, due to a failure to qualify, brought Brise straight back into the top division driving for Embassy Hill, intended to be for the rest of the season. Over the next few races Brise showed a lot of promise, recording some very fast qualifying times and frequently outperforming his team-mate, Alan Jones. However, a combination of technical difficulties and bad luck prevented him from ever finishing in high leader-board positions, and he took just one championship point. Nonetheless, by consensus he was considered a bright hope and one to watch for the future, with a successful season anticipated in 1976. On the 19th November 1975, Graham Hill and Brise, along with Andy Smallman, the team's designer, and three team mechanics, were returning to London from southern France, where they were testing a new race car, the GH2. The Embassy Hill plane, a twin-engine six-seat Piper Aztec piloted by Hill, was attempting to land at Elstree Airfield at night in thick fog when it crashed and burned at Arkley golf course, killing all six aboard. Tony Brise was just 23 years old, and was survived by his wife Janet, daughter of triallist Reg Allen. Formula One experts think that had he lived, Tony Brise could well have been a future world champion.
New local group The Exchange have just issued the following update:- "Seventeen artists, some local and some from as far afield as Coventry and Hertfordshire braved the sweltering heat on Thursday afternoon to attend an artist workshop for the Pier Commission held at the Bexley Local Studies & Archives Centre at Bexleyheath Library. Archives manager Simon McKeon and Kirsty Macklen, the Collections Manager at Hall Place presented a fascinating trip through the history of Erith and its Pier from pleasure resort to industrial hub and beyond. It was a real treat to see the amazing photographs and prints from the archive and images of the fascinating objects from the Bexley Museum Collection relating to Erith. Also great to see the artists developing proposals for the Pier Commission that respond to Erith and it’s history, we can’t wait to see what they come up with. The deadline for proposals is Friday 14th July and an opportunity for the public to vote for their favourite will announced shortly afterwards – watch this space!! We would like to thank all the artists for attending and special thanks to Simon and Kirsty for presenting. The Pier Commission is a new temporary arts commission for Erith’s Pier, for more details please follow the link here.
Finally, in another public art related story, local artist Gary Drostle has been commissioned to create a mural for the Erith Quarry site in Fraser Road, which coincidentally is almost directly opposite his art studio in the Europa Industrial Estate. In the short video below, Gary talks about his work, and what inspires his unique creativity. Give it a watch, and see what you think.