Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Eastside Quarter.

The photos above were taken by me on Thursday evening on and around Erith Pier. The second phase of the Erith Lighthouse Project was launched, with a luxury gin cocktail event, hosted by The Exchange, the Erith based arts commissioning group. It also marked the launch of an art installation by artist Julia Snowdin on Erith Pier; she has created a number of decorated yacht sails which will be lit at night by solar powered up lights to illuminate and animate the pier. The art installation was commissioned by The Exchange, and funded by Orbit and Wates Housing Associations. A series of events will be taking place in the Lighthouse structure from now until the 24th September. A series of pop - up - restaurant events will be happening at the Lighthouse - click here for details

Reports in the local press about the prices of the houses to be sold on the Erith Quarry development site focus on the lack of affordability of many of the properties for local people. Whilst some houses will be marketed on a part rent / part buy scheme, many will only be offered for outright sale. Unlike many other recent local housing developments, which have concentrated on (relatively) affordable one and two bedroomed apartments and houses, the housing stock on the Erith Quarry site is mainly larger two, three and four bedroomed houses for the growing family. The reason for this is that the new estate is aimed at a different demographic, and one that the local area has not until now catered for in new build housing. Over the last few years, with the redevelopment of the notorious old Larner Road Estate into the much more pleasant Erith Park, the controversial (and still unoccupied after  the fire) Moat House apartment block, and the currently in construction redevelopment of the old Riverside Baths site – these have all been designed to cater for the part rent / part buy, affordable rental and first time buyer sector of the property market. Erith Quarry is looking at the established, rather more prosperous second or third time buyer, and to bring in middle class people from outside of the area, who up until now might not have considered in buying a property in Erith. House prices in other parts of Greater London have increased far more quickly than locally in the past, though with the forthcoming opening of the Crossrail development, prices are now starting to creep up. I have been told that the Erith Quarry site is aimed at older, professional people with children, who are looking to purchase a larger property in an area that has good commuting access to central London. Not only is the Erith Quarry site in close proximity to Erith Station, but it is also very convenient for the A2, the M25 and the South Circular. The site developer, London and Quadrant are attempting what might be construed by as some social engineering – encouraging a relatively affluent new influx of residents, who hopefully will spend their disposable income on local products and services. Whether this actually turns out to be the case will only become apparent over time. The bottom line is that the area needs all sorts of housing, and after decades of under investment, the area is finally getting the attention that it has long deserved. More housing opportunities, including what is hoped will be a substantial proportion of affordable part buy / part rent and affordable rental properties are planned for the old site of the Bexley Council offices in Bexleyheath Broadway. The site has stood empty since the old offices were demolished in 2014, and it had been assumed that the site, which was purchased by Sports Direct, after the original buyer Tesco cancelled plans to build a super store on the land, would have become a Sports Direct store, with flats above it. This now appears to be not the case after all. Developer Bellway have put forward proposals to construct a seven storey apartment block with five hundred one, two and three bedroomed apartments on the 3.7 acre brown field site, which will be called The Eastside Quarter. I have concerns as to exactly what proportion of apartments will be affordable, as the site is about as prime as you can possibly get in The London Borough of Bexley - very close to the A2 and the M25 and only a minute or so's walk to Bexleyheath Town Centre - you even have a cinema and restaurants across the road! I wonder how Bellway will market the development? I suspect that it will in due course appear in the Wednesday property edition of the London Evening Standard as an ideal purchase for commuters into London. In an interview in the Bexley Times this week, Linda Bailey of Bexley Council said:- "After a number of years of sitting empty, a planning application for this key site in out town centre will now be coming forward. We have already been very clear with Bellway about our expectations for a high quality scheme and are encouraged that they share our aspirations and commitment both for this site and the town more widely". If things go according to Belway's plan, the new apartments should be on the market by the end of 2018. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

Last Saturday local arts commissioning group The Exchange held a workshop for local people to attend; the idea was to get as many opinions and feedback as possible about re - launching Erith Market after the disastrous attempt made by Bexley Council last year. I was booked to attend the consultive event, but had to pull out due to a pressing personal commitment. The results of the workshop were as follows:- "The Market needs to be on a weekend to ensure enough people are able to attend it; it needs a better location than the unsuccessful attempt in Morrisons car park; it should have a variety of stalls as it can’t compete with cheap shops in Erith on price alone; it should offer more than just shopping – e.g. music, workshops, activities for children, street food – a real day out. The Market could include opportunities/subsidised stalls for non established traders e.g. teenage market, free stalls for local entrepreneurs, car-boot stalls – maybe we trial it with a Christmas market. To compete with other markets it would be great to become a destination market – need something unique to do this". Many thanks to Sarah Batten from The Exchange for the information. If you have any thoughts or suggestions regarding what would make a good and lasting relaunched Erith Market, do contact me and I will be happy to pass the information on.

The problem with rogue moped riders continues, indeed, it has seemed to me over the last couple of weeks, the gangs of scumbags are getting bolder than ever, no doubt fuelled by the knowledge that the Police are hamstrung by their current rules of engagement. I know that many, including Dana Wiffen, Chair of Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association are campaigning for the rules governing the way the Police are permitted to act in respect of criminal bike and moped riders to be made much more flexible and aggressive. If this happens, it may be too little, too late. Public opinion in respect of criminal riders is hardening rapidly. I was standing in a queue for one of the cash machines outside of Erith Morrison’s last Sunday afternoon, when seven or eight helmet less riders on a selection of quad bikes, trials bikes and mopeds – all without number plates came roaring round James Watt Way – most pulling wheelies, as is their bone – headed wont. Two blokes in front of me were talking, and one said to the other “I am fed up with this – they think they own the road. I have a mind to get an old van, stick some false plates on it and go looking for them. They might take notice after a few of the bastards had been rammed off the road, legs broken, and their bikes torched!” This was probably just hot air, but it does reflect the growing frustration that the general public have with the current situation. The illegal riders, many of whom are also involved in multiple crimes such as drug dealing and vehicle theft, seem to get away with impunity. If things carry on as they currently are, I can see vigilante action taking place. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or email me at

I have some new information regarding the forthcoming Kentish Belle micro pub, which is located almost right next door to Bexleyheath Station; the place was due to open some months ago, but from what I have gathered, a series of legal and practical problems have caused delays. Work has finally begun on converting the former hardware and fancy goods shop into a micro pub; I checked the place out on Tuesday afternoon when I was in the area for a meeting. The owners of the Kentish Belle now have set an opening date for early in November – though I feel that this is somewhat ambitious bearing in mind the extensive modifications that are required of the existing building. I look forward to being in a position to review the place once things are finished and the micro pub finally is able to open.

So far over two and a half thousand signatures have been collected in a petition to try and save Bexleyheath Police Station from closure under a plan devised by London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Local MP David Evennett is behind the campaign to keep the central Police station; in an interview with the News Shopper, he said:- “A move of the front counter services and the Police HQ to Sidcup would be highly inconvenient and I also believe response times in areas of my constituency would be negatively affected, including Bexleyheath, Crayford, Erith, Slade Green, and Welling. I urge Bexley residents to respond to this consultation and to oppose the reckless and unacceptable proposals put forward by the Labour Mayor of London”. Whatever the party politics of the situation, the practicalities of closing Bexleyheath Police Station seem non-existent – almost certainly planned by someone with little if any local knowledge. As anyone local will know, if an arrest is made say in Northumberland Heath, the arresting officer will then have to escort the prisoner to Marlowe House in Sidcup for processing – which is about as far across the other side of the Borough as is possible. How long an officer will be away from their patrol area whilst escorting the prisoner across the Borough is not known, but it does seem to me to be a poor use of an officers time. Conversely, if instead the officer takes the suspect to another station such as Plumstead, they will be in for a lot of extra paperwork and administration.

The period photo above shows the Ritz Cinema, which was located in Pier Road, Erith, until 1956. It originally opened as The Picture House on 8th November 1928 with 400 seats. It was built for and was operated by the Sydney Bacon Circuit. It was the first cinema in the local area to show ‘talkies’, when on 14th October 1929, "The Broadway Melody" was screened. The Picture House was taken over by the Union Cinemas chain in December 1935. They closed it in June 1937, to be modernised and enlarged to the plans of architect Percy L. Brown. The seating capacity was increased to 1,170, all on a single floor. The proscenium was 38 feet wide, the stage 11 feet deep and there were two dressing rooms. It re-opened as the Ritz Cinema on 2nd August 1937. Union Cinemas were taken over by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) in October 1937. ABC closed the Ritz Cinema on 24th November 1956 with Dean Jagger in "X: The Unknown" and Simone Signoret in "The Fiends"(Les Diabolique). The building was later demolished and was replaced by a row of shops, located next door to Electricity House, and opposite the car park which became the home of Erith Market for many years, and is now back in use as a pay and display car park. Nowadays there is absolutely no sign of this classic old cinema on the site, and indeed I only became aware of it through the study of old documents. If you have any old photos of Erith and the surrounding areas that you would like to share, please forward them electronically to me at

Following a six month trial period, Morrison's supermarket in Erith is reverting to its old Sunday opening hours. The current 11am to 5pm schedule is reverting to the previous 10am to 4pm opening hours. Personally I liked the 5pm closing time, but it would seem that I was in the minority - and I know the later closing time was extremely unpopular with the supermarket staff. Whatever the Sunday closing time, you will still see people entering the store to do a full weekly shop ten minutes before closing time, and I somewhat doubt that this will change in the near future. From what staff tell me, the main reason that the opening hours are reverting to the original schedule is that the store was losing a lot of money by opening at 11am rather than 10am. Apparently a lot of retired customers liked coming in relatively early on a Sunday morning to do their weekly shop. When the opening time was changed to 11am, the "early" shoppers encountered a large number of people who had just got up, and the supermarket got very crowded, with long queues at the tills. This discouraged the former early shoppers, who subsequently took their business elsewhere - and subsequently revenues on a Sunday plummeted. I understand that Morrison's management hope that they can attract their former early morning customers back with a reversion to the old Sunday opening hours.

Following my article on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT) and betting shops in general last week, some shocking new information has come to hand. Figures released on the amount of money gambled by Bexley residents last year show that a total of  £208,239,246.00 was put up in bets, and a total of £9,683,125.00 was lost in betting shops. Bear in mind this is just the London Borough of Bexley, not the entirety of Greater London. If these figures are not shocking enough, the total amount of money cumulatively lost just in the London Borough of Bexley between the years 2008 and 2016 comes to an eye watering total of £65,601,721.00. Well over sixty five and a half million pounds. Last week, 888, one of Britain’s biggest online gambling firms, was fined £7.8m after allowing more than 7,000 people who had chosen to exclude themselves from its casino/poker/sport platform to access their accounts and continue gambling. Also last week, a Guardian newspaper investigation found that betting firms were using third-party companies to harvest personal data, helping bookmakers and online casinos target people on low incomes and those who have stopped gambling. Bexley has a total of thirty seven licenced betting shops which house a total of one hundred and thirty four FOBT machines.

Activity reports for last week from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association; firstly a report from Barnehurst ward:- "We are pleased to report there have been no burglaries on Barnehurst Ward in the past week. The only Incident reported was a theft from a motor vehicle in Pinnacle Hill where a personal piece of equipment was taken from the vehicle. Patrols to the Barnehurst Golf Course area continue due to anti-social behaviour issues with youths causing disruption. We are working together with Bexley Council and Management from Barnehurst Golf Course to address this situation". Belvedere ward:- "The team has had a busy week since the last update. On Friday 1st September we were called to a nuisance motorbike in ASDA car park. The vehicle had made off just before we arrived. However the security in ASDA had detained a shoplifter. We ended up arresting a male that was wanted for four shop liftings. He was also arrested for going equipped to steal and for Failing to Appear at court back in March! The male was subsequently charged for all the offences and charged. On Saturday 2nd September the team helped out with an event at the Sikh Temple on Lower Road during the day. In the early evening there was a call to some youths breaking into a garage on Ambrook Road. We attended and chased four males, one of which was caught and searched. He was taken home to his parents and other names have been brought to our attention for causing the damage to the garage door. Enquiries are on-going. If anyone has any information with regards to this incident, please contact us via the Neighbourhood Watch Team or directly on 020 8721 2050 or Sunday 3rd September was no different. We located a stolen motorbike in an alley on Maida Road. It seems that the bike was stolen about two weeks ago from Greenwich and dumped. The alley is located behind 2 – 6 Maida Road, the bike was orange and black in colour. As above if anyone has any information regarding this please contact us. While we were dealing with the stolen bike we were alerted to a fight on Norman Road, junction with Maida Road. There were about six people present at the time. We did arrest a male for Common Assault. Upcoming meetings/Police surgeries: Friday 15th September, 1400 – 1500 at Belvedere Library & Wednesday 20th September, 1130 – 1200 at the Pop in Parlour". Brampton ward:- "It was looking like another quiet week on Brampton with no crimes of significance reported, unfortunately this changed on Sept 4th when we had a particularly nasty aggravated burglary in Long Lane culminating with a large amount of jewellery and cash being taken following threats to the victims. Police are following up on leads. The local police team are in contact with the victim offering reassurance and crime prevention". Crayford ward:- "Unfortunately there has been an increase in motorcycle theft this week, one was recovered after being found dumped. There was a non-residential burglary in which Tops Tiles had an iPad stolen. We held a 'Pop up Cop Shop' in Town Hall Square and spoke to lots of residents. Accompanying us was our mobile CCTV unit which identified a van with no insurance, the vehicle was confiscated. On Tuesday 5th September we visited an Alzheimer support group in Wolsley House and gave a crime prevention talk to the members".  Northumberland Heath ward:- "It’s been a good week, with a very low level of crime having been reported in North Heath. In fact for a few days over the last week there was no crime reported at all. The team continues to focus on Anti-Social behaviour on the ward. Since the day of action last week whereby five drug warrants were executed, targeting drug dealing in North Heath, reports of drug dealing and reports of Anti -Social behaviour around Bexley Road, there have been no new incidents. The team are aware of concerns by some residents of a group of younger youths riding pedal cycles in an Anti- Social. The team have been out on patrol and will be looking to take positive action to give advice to these youths and take action if any offences are being committed. Of the crimes of note reported in North Heath, a vehicle has been stolen from Byron Drive at some point over the last three weeks. The stolen vehicle had been SORN off road and been parked in the same position for a year. There has also been information of drug dealing in The Pantiles from a Black Vauxhall. The team will be out on patrol keeping an eye in this". Thamesmead East ward:- "No Burglaries to report. On Thursday 31st August between 8-5pm, a vehicle was stolen from the Dexter House car park, Kale Road. This particular vehicle had been notified SORN by the owner, and appeared in an abandoned state. During the early hours of Sunday 3rd Sept a motorbike/scooter (that was chained up) was stolen from outside an address in Manor Close. Just to make everyone aware, between the 15th and 17th Sept a summer fete will be held at Southmere Park, starting at 2pm. Lots planned. We are always interested in recruiting new Neighbourhood watch co-ordinators for the ward. Please ask your family and friends if they would like to set up a Neighbourhood watch in their road. Contact us on 020 8721 2049 or for more information, (or reply to this email to contact the NW office direct) For latest news from Bexley Police visit our twitter pages @MPSBexley and @MPSThamesmeadE". North End ward:- "We have had a burglary this week in North End Road. Access gained via the back door (which was locked). Fortunately the victim had a burglar alarm which scared the offender(s) away. The victim was away on holiday at the time but was made aware by his neighbour who was also the person who called police. This sort of communication is exactly how Neighbourhood Watch schemes can help these situations even more. Once he returns from holiday, we will be asking about setting a new watch in that road as there isn’t one at this time. Great work from PC Mark Brookes-Smith and PCSO Lorraine O’Hara in stopping a male with cannabis on him last week, he will have his court date soon. A stolen bike was reunited with its owner after being reported seen dumped in bushes in North End Road today, yet again, PC Brookes-Smith was on hand to deal with the incident".

A report published last week paints a very poor picture of the government's smart meter roll - out project, which has gone drastically over budget and under target in the last year. In an interview with technology news website The Register, Gordon Hughes, an economist at the University of Edinburgh said:- “The introduction of the smart meter is a dog's breakfast. At best it is misconceived and an astonishingly expensive project. For those claiming it will bring major savings, I say they need to grow up.” The £11bn project is supposed to put smart meters into eighty per cent of households by the year 2020. A Dutch study from earlier this year also found that some smart meters are capable of giving wildly inaccurate readings, exaggerating energy consumption by up to 582 per cent. As government figures have gradually watered down their language when referring to the project – the Conservatives’ 2016 manifesto referred to “offering” smart meters to households – it could be inferred that the “80 per cent coverage by 2020” target will be missed. Estimates vary widely over how many have been installed so far but the figure appears to be somewhere in the low millions, as compared to the UK’s 27 million households. With the UK slated to leave the EU by 2020, it is unlikely that any financial penalties will result if the target is missed. The prime reason the energy companies wish to roll out smart meters - with all of the inherent security and safety problems that I have outlined in detail in previous articles on the subject - is not to save energy, but to reduce their company overheads by being able to read the meter remotely without needing an employee to go door knocking to physically read the meter.

You may recall that I wrote at some length recently about the lack of a council organised annual summer festival in Bexley. The council decided back in 2014 that they would permanently cancel the excellent Danson Festival, and instead outsource what had previously been a free event to a commercial company that charged £7 per adult for entry at the gate. Numbers attending the event were subsequently down by a considerable margin. My attention was drawn to our neighbouring outer London borough across the river - Havering. The London Borough of Havering is similar in size and residential demographic to Bexley, and in pretty much every criteria can be seen as a very similar area. What is very different is Havering Council’s attitude towards an organised summer festival in the borough. The event took place in Harrow Lodge Park, a public open space of a very similar size to Danson Park, complete with a lake. In pretty much all available metrics, the two neighbouring boroughs could be said to be very easily comparable. The difference that really strikes me is that The Havering Show is a massive affair that is totally free to the public. Here is a short account of the events that took place at the show over the weekend of the 27th and 28th of August:- “Around 55,000 people attended this year’s Havering Show over the bank holiday weekend (27 & 28 August) to enjoy entertainment, food, and some of the best weather the Show has seen. With temperatures reaching 27 °C, and now in its 39th year, this year’s Show saw crowds arrive in thousands to enjoy top acts including 90s chart topper Kenny Thomas, who headlined the Time 107.5FM stage on Sunday, along with Angie Brown and The Dualers. The winner of The Voice – Kids, local girl Jess Folley and BBC Let it Shine TV star Luke Stanley also took to the stage and wowed audiences. On Monday evening, Ray Lewis and his band ‘Still Drifting’ got the audience ‘in the groove’, with classics including ‘Ain’t no stopping us now’, and a medley of Motown hits. Rock n’ Roll legends the Blockheads also took people down memory lane when performing the famous ‘Hit me with your Rhythm Stick’. Paul Young and his band Los Pacaminos filled the Fairkytes Live stage area when they performed and Rainham based RCWA wrestlers entertained crowds all weekend. Families enjoyed a Community Performance Stage, funfair rides, trade and craft stalls, street food, licensed bars and much more. Leader of the Council, Councillor Roger Ramsey, said: “We’ve never seen such big crowds at the Havering Show, and of course, the great weather had a big part to play, but the entire offer was very impressive. There truly was something for everyone. And thanks to generous sponsorship from many local businesses, we were again able to keep the Show free for all to attend.” Sponsors include Time 107.5FM, West and Coe Funeral Directors, Romford Recorder, Kosho, Vauxhall Romford, Kia Romford, Toyota Steven Eagell and Serco”. Quite why Bexley can no longer organise and run a similar festival is beyond me; from what I have been told in the past, the old Danson Festival used to operate at a modest profit, and the claims that Danson Park had serious drainage problems were nothing but a smokescreen – if it had indeed been the case, how did the council subsequently allow a private company to operate a for profit festival on precisely the same site only one year later? An event of the scale of the old Danson Festival / The Havering Show can (and in Havering’s case, does) attract considerable sponsorship – it does not mean that Bexley Council would need to stump up a large amount of cash to underwrite the event. I have to say that the only conclusion that I can realistically come to is that Bexley Council are just mean spirited – they know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. You can see a short summary video of The Havering Show below; something we are unlikely to see in Bexley for the foreseeable future. It does strike me that perhaps if we were to organise a delegation from Bexley to visit The Havering Show next year, we could send out some kind of message to Bexley Council? One that with their current track record, they would likely ignore, I am afraid.


  1. I'd love to see Erith market back, Perhaps the more traditional stalls of fruit and veg,Ladies clothes, Pots and pans etc. could be set up on pier road in front of the old market site with maybe a sort of Camden-esq style market aimed at younger people set up in the pedestrian tunnel and entrance ramps that runs under the roundabout, I think that would be quite unique and afford stallholders with stock that does not fare well in bad weather an indoor option.

  2. There's been a torched bike in Erith near the fish roundabout, next to the railway (leaning against the fence adjacent to the embankment, and close to the pedestrian crossing) for a few days, sticking out into the pavement. Don't know if it's still there, no-one seems bothered to move it!