The photo above was once again taken from my former mystery location, which has finally been discovered. It is the top floor of the former Royal Alfred pub on the corner of Manor Road and Appold Street in Erith - click on it for a larger version; it shows the view looking Westwards along Manor Road, heading towards Erith town centre. What (apart from the somewhat similar appearance to the terraced houses with the "Coronation Street" style chimneys) really comes to mind when I look at the photograph is just how lush and green Erith is. People still complain about the concrete town centre, when in reality that was thankfully done way with a decade ago; we have Frank's Park nearby - a substantial wood that is open to everyone, and trees galore not only in public spaces, but also in many private gardens as well. When Manor Road was resurfaced back in July 2014, a series of speed bumps were installed. Locals have since seen the law of unintended consequences come into play. The speed bumps are primarily located on the stretch of road to the East of Frobisher Road, in what would be the bottom left of the photo above, and are designed to slow traffic heading towards and from the long, straight section that connects to the various industrial estates that make up the Eastern half of Manor Road. The bumps are in the form of low, square shaped areas that are highlighted in fine red gravel. I stood for around ten minutes on Saturday morning, watching the behaviour of vehicles approaching these speed bumps, and it was not what I was expecting. Instead of slowing down before driving over the bumps, almost every single driver instead chose to swerve into the gap between the bumps, and continue without slowing down. This has the effect of forcing traffic in both directions to share the middle of the road. It would appear that the speed bumps are actually making the road more, rather than less dangerous due to the irresponsible behaviour of drivers. I am not sure what can be done to remedy this, other than constructing a barrier down the middle of the road, which would be neither practical or desirable. If you have recently travelled on the road, what were your experiences? Incidentally the dead bushes in the Erith Riverside Gardens which I reported on some time back have now been removed by the gardening contractor; I understand that the bushes have to be replaced before a deadline at Christmas. Around ninety percent of the bushes that were originally planted early in the summer were subsequently not watered by the contractor, and consequently they died due to lack of care by those being paid by Bexley Council to do precisely that.
It would seem that the large Morrison's supermarket in Erith is about to make some changes; not long ago they outsourced the management of the large car park to a third party company; it would seem that this was not the end of the changes - word reaches me that they intend to operate a car washing / valeting service from within the car park - the idea being that you could drop off your car at the valet, go and do your shopping in the supermarket, and when you came back, your car would be cleaned and ready for you. I am sure that this will be popular with customers, though I doubt that it will be welcomed by the long established hand car wash and valeting service in Manor Road, only a couple of minutes drive from Morrisons.
Did you know that a large, specialist fireworks factory used to be located on the Slade Green Marshes, very close to Joyce Green Lane, and the current Dartford Clay Shooting Club? The factory was founded by Joseph Wells in 1837 in Dartford; having learned his trade as an explosive lighter man on the River Thames in London. Wells Fireworks quickly became the leading display company in the UK and established a reputation for the manufacture and display of the finest quality fireworks. Using the Wells “Crown Brand” the company displayed at Cowes and Henley Regattas, Coronations and Jubilees to the Royal Family. Securing an international reputation for excellence this led to high value commissions including the LA Olympics, the Squaw Valley Winter Olympics, Rose Bowl displays and designing the original fireworks shows for Disneyland in Florida. Wells were taken over in 2003 by another concert / theatrical special effects company - Pyrojunkies who are based in Longfield, just past Dartford. Pyrojunkies produce all sorts of special effects for stage and television, and now fully incorporate the range of Wells fireworks, though nowadays they are made in West Sussex, and the Slade Green marshes factory site is now derelict (see the photograph above - click for a larger view) and likely to be redeveloped in the future.
You may have read about the recent quite well publicised story about an elderly woman who has been penalised for inadvertently mistyping her car registration number when using a car a car park in Erith. You can read the original story by clicking here. The story has generated a lot of comments, all supporting the woman in her attempt to get the fine cleared. Eventually the parking ombudsman did annul the penalty, but only after many column inches had been written about the situation. Unfortunately this kind of behaviour by private car parking enforcement companies is becoming increasingly widespread. One of the main protagonists involved in the penalisation of motorists is a company called Smart Parking, who administer the park that Sylvia Bradford - the lady in the News Shopper story had used. There are a number of well documented cases very similar to Mrs. Bradford's one, where the person parking their car entered the registration number with an "o" rather than with a "0" - a very easy and genuine mistake to make. It is a sad fact that thousands of innocent people believe they have been unfairly targeted by companies which patrol privately owned car parks. Visitors to supermarkets, hospitals, airports and shopping malls have received demands for sums of up to three figures despite paying, because of misleading signs or a minor typo. Citizens Advice reports that complaints about “over zealous” charges have reached an unprecedented level as companies seek to maximise profits. It is an industry that is, so far, unregulated. Anyone can set up as a “parking enforcement company” and, although those who sign up to an accredited trade body have to abide by its code of practice, it is not mandatory to be a member. In 2012 the government established an independent appeals process for motorists in England and Wales, but in Scotland only the company that issues parking charges can adjudicate as to whether its decision is fair. Unsurprisingly, the verdict is usually “yes”. It would seem that Sylvia Bradford was stuck in a trap that many others have already fallen into. It is ironic that the car park she used was free - all you had to do was input your car registration number into the ticket machine and then be issued with a parking permit. The company Smart Parking make their money by issuing as many parking penalty notices as they can possibly get away with. One of the other ways they generate income is by exploiting a loophole in their terms and conditions, especially those relating to how long one is allowed to use the car park for. Smart Parking says that signs state that motorists will be charged for the full period that their vehicle is in the car park. But many motorists assume the clock only starts ticking from when they actually park. Confusion is compounded by the fact that the ticket machines calculate the required parking time from the moment payment is made. Motorists assume that they have until the time stamped on the ticket, when they might have already unwittingly used up ten minutes of their paid time finding a space. In order to use the system accurately, drivers are supposed to calculate how much time they want, including the time already spent inside the car park, which means they have to check the time they crossed the threshold and pay for an additional hour if it takes them over the tariff chosen. Those who choose the option to pay at the end of a visit must recall the precise time they drove into the car park. A newly widowed 80-year-old was recently chased for £160 after underpaying by just 10p in a car park that operates the system. Smart Parking unsurprisingly insisted the charge should stand. Smart Parking, owned by the Australian group Car Parking Technologies, revealed earlier this year that 75 percent of its revenue comes from parking breach charges and that the number of notices has doubled over the 12 months following the roll out of number plate recognition technology. It is a lucrative business, too, for firms who rely on foot patrols to identify contraventions and who pay “wardens” a commission of up to £30 for every ticket issued. Private parking firms cannot fine drivers like police and councils. Their demands are simply invoices for breach of contract and are governed by civil law. However, many firms try to blur the difference by calling them Parking Charge Notices (PCNs), similar to local authority Penalty Charge Notices (also known as PCNs), copying the yellow windscreen tickets issued by local authorities and employing debt collection agencies to chase for non-payment. In fact, debt collectors have no power to enforce payment or seize goods and many are unregulated sole traders. If a motorist refuses to pay up they can merely recommend that the parking company takes court action. Personally it strikes me as the easiest way to avoid the whole situation locally, at least, is to park in one of the other available car parks in town; there are a number of free, and rarely used car parking spaces in Erith High Street, adjacent to the Riverside Gardens - not only do you get a good car parking space, but you get a lovely view out over the River Thames and the picturesque gardens. What is not to like? It also avoids any potential involvement with Smart Parking - a company that seems to have little in the way of scruples. Alternatively you could follow the advice on this website, which may be helpful. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am not sure if there is such a thing as the “Good Car Park Guide”, or indeed a Trip Advisor section especially dedicated to Travellers, but for the third time in not very long, the Eastern end of Morrison’s car park has been filled with Traveller caravans. They appear, seemingly out of nowhere, stay a couple of days, then disappear when the customary court order is served on them. Things were very tense in the supermarket on Tuesday afternoon; the store was in semi “lock down” – Police were standing in the entrance lobby, acting as surrogate security guards, whilst the roller shutters on the external windows were down – something very unusual in the store. I did notice something that concerned me greatly – the shutters were also down over the fire escape door, something that is illegal. I was told by a couple of members of staff that they had several instances of travellers coming into the store in groups, taking a trolley and filling it with high value items such as steaks and bottles of spirits, then making a beeline for the exit. There had also been an incident with a youth apparently vandalising a retail display. This situation seems to happen with disappointing regularity.
Now a note from Dana Wiffen - the Chairman of Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association:- "The deadline for the signing of the petition to protest the proposed closure of Bexleyheath Police Station (online and paper version) is Thursday the 12th October 2017. This allows for the on-line petition to be downloaded and printed and the paper versions to be collated and counted. All will be presented at City Hall on Tuesday 17th October by members of Bexley Neighbourhood Watch Committee and Bexley Safer Neighbourhood Board to our Assembly Member Gareth Bacon. His office will then present to the London Assembly in early November 2017. If you have not signed the petition, yet, can you please do as soon as possible. Click here to go to the online version of the petition. IT IS OUR ONLY CHANCE OF STOPPING THE PLANNED CLOSURE OF BEXLEYHEATH POLICE STATION. If you have collected signatures can you please let us have them by the 12th of this month either by posting or dropping to the police station. Thank you for your support". Now for the weekly local safety and security reports from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association:- Barnehurst ward:- “Another fantastic week crime wise for the ward with only two incidents reported both being motor vehicle crimes. The first being on Thursday 28th September between 11am – 1.30pm a disabled parking permit was stolen from a Mitsubishi Gallant at Hall place car park, entry was gained to the vehicle by unknown suspects barrelling the door lock. The second was a criminal damage where a vehicle was keyed/scratched on a driveway in Parkside Avenue this occurred overnight from the 29th September, If you have any information please give us a call or contact crime stoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. With the winter nights now drawing in and the temperatures dropping please keep an eye on any elderly/vulnerable neighbours. If you have concerns we are more than happy to pay a discreet visit to them, just drop us an e mail at Barnehurst.email@example.com giving a brief outline of why you feel they are vulnerable. Thank you to all our twitter followers, with your help we have broken through the 300 mark. Let's get some more - follow us @MPSBarnehurst to see what your team are up to and up to date crime prevention advice. Finally join us for a coffee and a chat at Barnehurst Golf course on Thursday 12th October at 1PM”. Brampton ward:- “Overall Brampton ward has had another busy week: 3 x Theft from motor vehicle in Pickford Lane, Pickford Close and Hudson Road; 2 x criminal damage to vehicles in Belvedere Road and Barrington Road; 1 x Burglary in Fairlawn Avenue –the team cocooned the road; 1 x shoplifting in Pickford Lane; 1 x common assault in Rydal Drive. A vehicle was stopped in Brampton Road and the driver was arrested for Possession with intent to supply as class A drugs were found on him. The male arrested did not live on Brampton ward. The team have been patrolling the woods later in the evening to explore the ASB issues and have had 12 stop and accounts in the last 3 days. On the 28th we completed a full day of road safety on the ward and also used the speed gun in Brampton Road, 2 motorists warned about their speed. This was in conjunction with Christchurch ward”. Colyers ward:- “There was 1 reported burglary on Colyers Ward between 26/09/17 and 04/10/17. There was also 1 reported theft from motor vehicle during the same period. On Saturday 30th September 2017 at approximately 6pm the victim has left his address in Avenue Road, Erith locked and secured. The victim returned at around 08:50pm to find muddy footprints all over the address and untidy searches in some of the rooms. The point of entry appeared to be through the back garden which is extremely muddy and through the back door. The glass in the back door has been shattered and there is a tool mark near the handle on the door. The victim discovered that items of jewellery and cash was stolen. Investigation is ongoing. The victim parked his vehicle a silver Nissan Almera on Frinstead Road, Erith on 25/09/2017 at 6pm. The victim indicated that on 26/09/17 at 8am they noticed that both the front and back number plates had been pulled off the vehicle. No suspect was seen but possible CCTV footage”. Crayford ward:- “Just one report of a burglary in Heath View Avenue, you are reminded to try and make your home look like it is still lived in when you go on holiday, this can be done with light timers, and there are also a plug in light that simulates a TV being on. Asking your neighbours to put your bins back can also help make it look like people are home”. Erith ward:- “We have some street briefings coming up in October and a free bike marking event: Street Briefing - Franks Park ( near the play park ) on Sunday 22nd October 6pm; Street Briefing - St Fidelis ( near the play park ) on Saturday 28th October at 6pm; Bike marking – Outside the Erith Police Station ( Next door to farm foods ) – 28th October 2pm. Weekly crime update - Shoplifting; £200 29/09/2017 13:15:00 Sam 99p, Cross Street; Theft of Motor Vehicle 29/09/2017 08:00:00 Riverdale Road Theft from Motor Vehicle 29/09/2017 09:00:00 outside Erith Road; Shoplifting; £200 01/10/2017 11:40:00 Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc,James Watt Way; Fly-Tipping 30/09/2017 21:00:00 Wickes Building Supplies Ltd, Fraser Road; Burglary Res 01/10/2017 21:48:00 - Chandlers Drive; Theft of cycle 02/10/2017 17:05:00 O/S, Erith Library; Vehicle Interfere Mildred Road; Making off 03/10/2017 Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc, James Watt Way; Shoplifting; £200 03/10/2017 13:50:00 West Street Criminal Damage U500 03/10/2017 20:15:00 Erith Road; Criminal Damage U 500 03/10/2017 Holly Hill Road. Following concerns raised to us about drug use in Lesney Park Road PC Gill + PC Tom conducted a vehicle stop + seized cannabis. For up to date news on what we are doing follow us on Twitter - @MPSErith". Lesnes Abbey ward:- “No Burglary from Dwellings. 2 Attempted Burglary Dwellings Wolvercote Road (Wyfold House) and New Road (Abbey House). Crime prevention - Check you have closed and locked all your doors and windows before leaving your property. If you have UPVC doors and windows double lock them with keys to secure them properly. Leave some lights on if it will be dark before you get home; Install low wattage ‘dusk to dawn ‘ outside lighting; If you have a burglar alarm remember to activate it. Motor Vehicle Crimes: 1 Theft from Motor Vehicle. Wolvercote Rad; 2 Thefts of Motor Vehicles. Wolvercote Road and Abbey Wood. PC’s Telfer and Quarshie – Awuah stopped 2 males on Overton Road East, male searched by PC Telfer resulted in drugs being found, male was issued with a Police Notice for Disorder ticket ( PND £90 ) reason for the ticket, the male already had a cannabis warning before. The same male was found to be riding a mechanically propelled vehicle on a public road without valid insurance, the relevant paperwork being completed by PC Quarshie – Awuah. The scooter was seized". North End ward:- “No burglaries have been reported in the ward for the last week. The male we stopped last week riding his moped in the Cinder alley has admitted the offences in interview and we await an update on when he will be charged. A male arrested for cannabis possession in Page Crescent back in July has been to court and pleaded guilty. He was ordered to pay fines totalling £235. Northumberland Heath ward:- “This week we have had a burglary in Cray Road, Unfortunately the residents were on holiday at the time. Entry was gained via a downstairs kitchen window which was forced open. Several pieces of jewellery and cash were taken. The burglary took place between Wednesday September 27th and Sunday October 1st. An elderly lady had her handbag stolen at the Cemetery in Brook Street Erith on Sunday October 1st. The bag contained cash and her bus pass. One report this week of Motor Vehicle Crime in Shinglewell Road. The victim parked their car having taken their children to school and went for a run, on returning to the vehicle the rear passenger window was smashed but nothing had been taken. The team also held a coffee with cops event at Tea on the Pantiles this week”. Thamesmead East ward:- “Good News, no burglary reported this week, however, please see below regarding motor vehicle crime. Between Friday 22nd and Friday 29th September, theft from motor vehicle occurred at Mangold Way (Number plates stolen); During the early hours of Saturday 30th Sept, a vehicle was stolen from Manorden; Theft from a motorbike reported between 1700 and 2100 hours, Eastgate Close; Mobile phone stolen from a motor vehicle, (window smashed) Holstein Way, during the early hours of Monday 2nd October. On Monday 2nd October the team seized a motorbike after the rider was seen riding with no insurance. The rider was also found to be in possession of a small bag of cannabis. He was reported for the driving offence, and received a 90 pound fine for possession of cannabis. Ward Panel Meeting took place on Monday 2nd October. 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. Please spread the word to any family and friends in the Borough - they can contact us on 020 8721 2049 or Thamesmead.SNT@met.police.uk”.
As regular readers may already be aware, I am a big curry fan; I only normally go out for a curry a couple of times a year - one of which is usually following the Bexley Beer Festival each Easter. I was interested to see that a new curry house has just opened locally in Bexleyheath. The old Akash in Bexleyheath Broadway is no more. It has closed, been completely refurbished and re-opened under new ownership and management as the Masala Inn. It has only been open for a few days, but it has already got a couple of good reviews on Trip Advisor. The new restaurant was officially opened by the Peter Reader, the Mayor of Bexley on Wednesday. I am looking forward to giving the place a try in the not too distant future. You can view the Masala Inn website by clicking here - but be warned it is a work in progress, with much content still to be added - but at least the menu page works OK.
Bexley Council are trumpeting their vision for the development of the Borough by 2025; it makes for interesting reading, but unfortunately much in the way the latest Dan Brown novel does. The council have published their plans, but unfortunately they don't have a great deal of basis in reality; the reason for this is that they have confused their desire for something to happen with the reality that it probably will not actually happen. Pretty much all of their plans are based on the assumption that the extension to the Crossrail system from Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet will actually take place, when the latest developments indicate this is becoming increasingly less likely to happen. The whole Ebbsfleet theme park project, is to my mind looking much less likely to take place, especially since the main creative content backer Paramount pulled out of the project back in June. The main reason for the proposed Crossrail extension was to provide a means for visitors from Central London to easily travel to and from the site in Ebbsfleet where the theme park is (was?) to be based. The connectivity with Belvedere, Erith and Slade Green was merely incidental to the major aim of linking London to the Kent based theme park site. Almost all of Bexley Council's future development plans for the Borough are based around the assumption that this railway extension will take place; they have made almost zero provision for a "Plan B" if this does not actually happen. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or alternatively Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ending video is a short piece from the Manager of Erith Leisure Centre - a man who started off as a customer of the place, and now runs it.