Sunday, October 28, 2018

Bright Steps.

I was sitting in my office in Pewty Acres on Wednesday morning, when I heard the sound of multiple emergency service sirens, and then the distinctive whirring drone of a helicopter. The combination of the two sounds led me to conclude that something big and not very pleasant was taking place in the local area. I grabbed my camera and headed in the direction of the sound, which led me to the Erith Construction depot and offices in Manor Road, Erith. I stood on the pavement on the opposite side of the road to the depot, to ensure that I did not cause an obstruction to any emergency vehicle or personnel. I was able to observe activities and took the photos that you can see above - please click on any one to see a larger version. The G-EHMS air ambulance landed on the area of the depot furthest from the entrance - close to the banks of the River Thames. Shortly thereafter a land ambulance and a number of Police cars turned up with blue lights and sirens running. These joined the emergency vehicles that had been in the first response. A handful of workers from the nearby industrial estate, and a chap who was the boss of a local company joined me to observe what was going on. Ironically, one of them fell victim to what I understand the press refer to as "big camera syndrome" and asked if I was a reporter, as I was carrying a professional DSLR camera. I said no, but I did run a local news service. Ironically if you click this link, you can see the story on the News Shopper website, which includes my photos, which I sent them with full permission to reproduce. At the time I took the photos, I assumed that the incident was some kind of industrial accident, but after I contacted the News Shopper, it became apparent that the story was actually even more worrying. My assumption as to the nature of the emergency was incorrect - it had not been an accident, it had been a stabbing. A man in his fifties had been stabbed in the chest - which explained the proliferation of Police cars at the scene. Unconfirmed reports state that the victim was a lecturer running a construction training course on the site; it has been said that he was attacked and stabbed by one of his students after an argument. At the time of writing, the alleged perpetrator is still at large. The injury to the lecturer is thought not to be life threatening. 

As soon as one local planning issue is resolved - the refusal of a licence for the White Hart African restaurant to open from 10am until 5am the next morning, as covered by the Maggot Sandwich last week, another planning matter has come to my attention, thanks to an eagle eyed reader who alerted me to the situation early last week. An application has been submitted to Bexley Council to convert the former Club Extreme / Tease (prior to that T's) nightclub building in Erith town centre into a Day Centre, Youth Centre, Conference and Place of worship. The upper floor of the building that housed the former night club has been empty and unused for over a decade. The lower floor is home to discount supermarket Farm Foods, and the Erith Police office. Back in July 2009 a chap called Wayne Miles submitted an application to open a nightclub called the Double Deuce Club on the site of the former T's / Club Extreme. Controversially he wanted his new club to open from 10pm until 7am seven days of the week, including Sundays. For an unknown reason the submission was withdrawn, and to the best of my knowledge it never went before the Bexley Council Licensing Sub - Committee for examination. No subsequent applications have been made as far as I am aware. The new proposal makes for very interesting reading. The plans that have been submitted to Bexley Council are for a facility that will very closely mirror the controversial one already in operation in the former Erith Snooker Club site in the upper floor of Electricity House, less than one hundred metres from the proposed new facility. The P2 Event Centre in Pier Road offers precisely the same facilities as the proposed new one in the old Extreme / T's night club site. If you click on the link to the P2 Event Centre, please be aware that the photographs on the website do not represent the actual Pier Road location - they were taken elsewhere and do not represent the reality. The whole website is outright deceptive and misleading. From my research it would appear that a rival African church are hoping to take on the former T's / Extreme night club site and turn it into another praise and conference centre. Bearing in mind the many other African churches already in the local area, it begs the question - is there actually a further market for more of the same? It is good that a site that has been empty and unused for more than a decade will be put back into operation, but have the new tenants done any market research into the demand for something that already exists very close by?

One of the main observations made by the Bexley Council Licensing Sub Committee during its reasons for not permitting the extension of the licence for The White Hart to operate until 5am daily in last weeks' meeting was that officers from the council had observed traffic and pedestrian activity in and around Erith Town Centre overnight prior to the hearing, and they had noted that after 9pm, Erith is pretty much dead when it comes to activity of any type. The only traffic through the town centre is from single and double decker buses, and even these mostly cease at around 1am, with the exception of the occasional night buses. In essence, Erith has been a dormitory town for the last fifty years, since the original town centre was demolished to make way for the hideous brutalist 1970's bare concrete shopping centre which unsuccessfully replaced it. My principal recollection of the 70's shopping centre was its dark corners, bare staircases and the overwhelming stink of Jeyes Fluid and stale wee. Before this, when the old town still stood, there were plenty of pubs, cafes and social clubs where locals could spend their evening and weekend spare time. Nowadays that is no longer the case; the only nearby pub is the once great but now woeful Running Horses in Erith High Street. which back in the 80’s and early 90’s was so popular that you would often have to book the upstairs carvery in advance, especially on Sundays when it was always packed, is nowadays in what seems like a terminal decline. The place has been bravely slogging on with a hard-core of regular drinkers for a long while, but the food side of the business is nothing whatsoever like it used to be. The Running Horses is in a superb river front location, and is a lovely 1930’s era reproduction Tudor style building. To be honest it could be restored back to its heyday if a substantial financial investment was made in the place, which I don’t think the current landlord / manager is in a position to do. I have long suspected that the land The Running Horses is sitting on is now worth substantially more than the pub itself, and that it is quite possible that the building is currently being “land banked” waiting for a suitable developer to come along and build yet more flats. Land in Erith is about to skyrocket in value, and it seems to me that it is not a question of if, but when this will happen. I would love to see The Running Horses become the massive success that it used to be, but honestly, unless something dramatic happens, I don't see a bright future for it in the current guise. The only proper "sit down" restaurant in the town centre is the superb, but woefully under - used Riverside Fish and Steak Restaurant. I have had a couple of excellent meals in the place, and there are some wonderful reviews on TripAdvisor, but for much of the time the beautifully decorated eaterie stands empty - a photo of the restaurant is above - please click on it for a larger version. I know that the whole UK casual dining industry is currently in trouble - Matthew Richards, a director at accountancy firm Grant Thornton, said in a recent interview with the BBC that:- "The casual dining trading environment in the UK remains extremely challenging, driven by a change in dining behaviour, long-term consumer trends and increased competition". The Erith Riverside Fish and Steak Restaurant gets a few customers in the lunchtime period - it has to be said the customers mostly seem to consist of retired people. A few customers frequent the place in the early evening, prior to attending a show at the Erith Playhouse, in many cases, but after that the place is dead. I have passed the Riverside Fish and Steak Restaurant at 8pm earlier in the week - hardly the middle of the night, and the place was open, but bereft of customers. which is a real pity, as the place has a lot to offer local eaters. Its sister restaurant - Mambocino inside the Erith Riverside Shopping Centre does a roaring trade in the daytime, but is not able to open in the evening as it is inside the locked perimeter of the shopping centre. I suspect that profits from Mambocino are probably being used to financially prop  up the Riverside Fish and Steak Restaurant, as it cannot be viable on its own. If you want to see local businesses succeed, you need to use them. I think that the current "dormitory" image that Erith has does not help - if locals go out for the evening, they tend to go to Bexleyheath or Bluewater. It will take a few more brave souls to open up night time businesses in and around Erith if this attitude is to change. The opening in January of the first phase of the refurbishment of the former Carnegie Library in Walnut Tree Road, and the launch of a bistro type restaurant, wine bar, arts display and meeting space will help in this respect. It would be nice to meet and socialise with other local residents - and in doing so, keep ones' well earned cash in local circulation. 

The Bright Steps children's nursery located in Electricity House, adjacent to the De Luci fish statue in Erith is no more. After a series of interventions by Ofsted and Bexley Police, the nursery was closed down after a series of legal compliance and child welfare violations. During a series of  hearings at the Royal Courts of Justice during July, August and September, the proprietor of Bright Steps lodged a legal appeal against the withdrawal of the licence by Ofsted. The decision of the Judge -  Gillian Irving QC, was published on the 11th October. The case - Mr Saula Ogunkoya (Bright Steps Nursery and Day Care)  v Ofsted determined that:- "We find as a fact that:- (i) the Appellant failed to identify risks of harm, issues of health and safety, and to implement appropriate and safe child-handling practice; (ii) the Appellant repeatedly failed to manage children’s behaviour appropriately; (iii) the Appellant repeatedly failed to meet the requirements in relation to child protection procedures and safeguarding; his approach to the investigation into CO in 2016 and the allegation in 2018 is indicative of an inability and/or an unwillingness to learn from past mistakes and to prioritise the needs of the children in his care; (iv) the Appellant has historically and repeatedly failed to meet the learning and development requirements of the EYFS; (v) the Appellant failed to ensure the suitability of staff, specifically his sister CO in 2016; (vi) the Appellant failed to notify Ofsted of the police investigation into CO in 2016 and delayed suspending her; (vii) the history demonstrates that the Appellant is unable or unwilling to sustain compliance with requirements imposed by the regulations. (e) We find that the Appellant has been untruthful both to the Respondent, the Police, the Tribunal and all others involved in the investigation of the incident on 3/1/2018. His failure to co-operate mirrors his unwillingness to co-operate in November 2017. His lack of integrity and his failure to work openly and in collaboration with the Respondent results in the sad conclusion that he is not suitable to provide nursery provision. We therefore dismiss the appeal and there shall be no order as to costs". You can read the published full legal decision on the case by clicking here. From my reading of the court documentation, it would appear that the nursery had been under performing for several years, and had refused to obey a series of previous compliance orders by Ofsted. The final straw seems to have been when a member of the public observed a member of the Bright Steps nursery staff smacking a child under their care. It would appear that subsequent to this, the nursery managers deleted CCTV footage of the assault, and tried to cover up the event when Ofsted and the Police then carried out an investigation. The nursery has now been closed down for good. 

Now a question for any of you amateur ornithologists out there; On Thursday afternoon I was pottering around in the garden, when I came across the remains that you can see in the photo above. I have absolutely no idea what kind of bird it was, or indeed exactly what had attacked it, but there was very little remaining of it other than part of a wing, and what appeared to be a few tail feathers. Can anyone advise me of what it was? Email me at

Now for the weekly safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association; firstly from Barnehurst ward:- "Two crimes of note to report this week, the first being a criminal damage in the garage area in Cheviot Close. On the evening of Friday 19th October four suspects have entered the secluded garage area and smashed three CCTV cameras, we have several leads that are being progressed regarding this so I will not go into great details of the offence, only a message to the suspects which is, 'Do you not realise that CCTV cameras record? And you haven't been as clever in disguising yourself as you think'. The second is a theft which occurred on 21st October at 3.30PM where a suspect described as a white male aged about 25 years, wearing a dark baseball cap, dark jacket, and blue jeans entered a residential care home in Colyers Lane and stole a handbag from the staff area on the second floor. Our next contact session will be on Friday 9th November at 11am at Barnehurst Golf course. Join us for a chat about any local issues that may be of concern. Please be careful over the Halloween / firework period. The team will be out and about dealing with any anti-social behaviour over this period and will be adopting a zero tolerance approach to any offences". Belvedere ward:- "Males that appear to have been begging have been bought to the teams attention this week. Three males have been observed approaching various members of public/ shoppers in the car park of Asda in Lower Road. At this stage these males appear to be acting separately. The team are monitoring the location regularly in an effort to speak to the males involved. There was a burglary in Gideon Close on the evening of Thursday 18th October. Entry was gained to the rear of the property although it is believed that the suspect(s) used items at the front of the property to climb over a wall into the rear garden. Please remain vigilant when leaving or returning to your properties, if you see anything that you feel is suspicious or that makes you feel uncomfortable, call Police. When leaving your property, even for a short amount of time, please ensure that all windows and doors are securely locked with keys stored safely out of sight. If possible, do not leave valuable items on show and also consider leaving lights switched on within your home whilst you are away to give the impression that the property is occupied. Should you have concerns about your home security or would like to speak to the team about crime prevention, please do call us on 0208 721 2050 or email us at With Halloween fast approaching, we have visited local shops throughout the ward in an effort to ask for assistance in reducing possible Anti-Social behaviour over this period of the year. Many shops are restricting the sale of certain items (eggs/ flour and suchlike) to persons under the age of 18 as these may be used to commit various offences. We have also visited locations where elderly residents and more vulnerable members of the community may attend to distribute ‘No Trick or Treat' posters which can be displayed in the window of your home over the Halloween period. If you would like one of these, please contact the team using the contact information above". From Belvedere Neighbourhood Watch Member - Sylvia:- "Hi, I'd like to report the theft of a bicycle. It belonged to my 81 year old next door neighbour who is a keen cyclist. It was stolen from outside the Belvedere Asda store last week. He can't remember whether it was Wednesday 17th or Thursday 18th (due to his age). He only popped into Asda for a packet of biscuits so the bicycle wasn't left outside for long. He phoned the police who told him that there was nothing they can do as the bicycle parking area is not in view of the cctv camera and none of the Asda staff had seen anything. It had been chained with two chains which was all that was left when he returned from the shop.The bicycle is bright green with 27” wheels and cost him £1800. Unfortunately the bicycle wasn't marked". Bexleyheath ward:- "Bexleyheath & Crayford Wards: Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch and your Safer Neighbourhoods police team invite you to a joint a coordinators meeting on: TUESDAY 6TH NOVEMBER BETWEEN 7PM-8.30PM at BEXLEYHEATH POLICE STATION, 2 ARNSBERG WAY, BEXLEYHEATH, DA7 4QS. * PLEASE ARRIVE A LITTLE EARLIER TO CLEAR SECURITY *. This meeting will be attended by representatives from your Ward's Safer Neighbourhoods Team and a representative from Neighbourhood Watch. It is an opportunity for all the local coordinators to meet together and share good practice. There will be a short presentation which will reassure you that by working together you will be better prepared to confront the issues that affect your Ward. The Neighbourhood Watch scheme gives you the chance to play a vital role in your community and to make a difference. It lets you join the drive against crimes such as burglary and theft and to combat social nuisances like vandalism and graffiti. The result is something that we all want – ‘A better quality of life'. Points for discussion: • Police & Neighbourhood Watch activity in the Ward • Help and assistance to support your Watch – i.e. street signs/leaflets etc. • Questions & answers • Sharing good practice. If you have any items that you would like added to the Agenda please contact the NHW office well in advance of the meeting. Please register your attendance or send your apologies to the BBNWA office on 020 8284 5537 or". Crayford ward:- "This week has seen a sharp increase in burglary and theft of Samsung phones, the prevalent crimes for this week. On Friday 19th October a lady checked her phone before placing it in her bag as she entered Aldi at Crayford. When she left the store she realised that the phone was gone. On Saturday 20th October, Curry's at Tower Retail Park reported that five Samsung mobile phones had been stolen including models J6, A7, S8, S9, Note 9, there were three suspects. On Saturday 13th October at 20.54 a business at Kennet Road reported the theft of scrap metal from their premises, a white Ford Transit van was used for this offence. On Saturday 20th October at 20.00 a mobile phone was stolen whilst the victim was on a train, this crime has been transferred to the British Transport Police (BTP). On Monday 22nd October at about 09.30 a cash in transit robbery took place outside Sainsbury's. A cashbox containing a large amount of cash was taken, the suspects were driving a Silver Volkswagen Golf. A wing mirror was stolen from a vehicle parked in Iron Mill Lane between Saturday 20th October at 21.00 and 12.00 on Sunday 21st October, the wires were deliberately cut on the side closest to the pavement. An elderly, vulnerable resident was visited at their home address by a male described as white, greying hair, 50-60 years, stocky build who was carrying a clip board. The victim being rather deaf invited the person in to their home as the outside road was noisy, it appeared the male was collecting for charity. The victim left the suspect alone for a moment and later realised that a bank statement had been removed. It became apparent that someone had used the bank statement to fraudulently open another account and move funds. Please don't let this happen to you or someone that you know. Remember to put door chains on or use the spyhole before opening the door to unexpected visitors, don't give any personal details to cold callers no matter how plausible they seem. If you need to verify a person who says they need to enter your property, close your door properly and contact the company directly to verify. Do not use the contact details if offered at the door. A genuine caller will not mind and this may be a good time to set up an entry password. On Tuesday 23rd October there were three burglaries reported in Crayford. Between 17.15 - 20.30 entry was made by smashing a patio door at a property in Mayplace Road East, there was an untidy search and jewellery and a watch were stolen. At 19.25 a burglar was disturbed by the house alarm activation at Melrose Avenue, but still got away with jewellery and cash, entry was gained by smashing a rear door. Between 7.50-19.50 entry was made at a property in Bascombe Grove by smashing a patio door. At this stage it is not confirmed what has been stolen. The dark evenings are drawing in, please take a few minutes to reconsider your home security so that your home looks occupied even when you are out. Please see for further tips and advice on burglary prevention. On 23rd October at 15.32 a Samsung J6 plus was stolen from Currys. Between 18.00 on Sunday 21st October and 10.00 on Monday 22nd October a White Mercedes Sprinter LK64 XMC was stolen from Mayplace Avenue,. No broken glass and all keys accounted for. On Tuesday 23rd October between 09.00-12.00 there was a theft from a Silver Renault van whilst parked in Bexley Lane. It is believed the back doors may have been unlocked and power tools were taken. Three males were reported to have been acting suspiciously nearby, however they may not be linked. No community contact sessions have been arranged for the next two weeks as we will be concentrating on Halloween and Firework nights patrols". Erith Ward:- "First of all we had a really good number of people at the Erith ward panel meeting on the 17th. Thank you to those who turned up, to people who couldn't make the meeting for one reason or another, we hope to see you soon. We need a Vice Chairman, to cover/help Jerry out when needed, Please contact me if you fancy this role, I know there was definitely one person interested so far. Priorities for the next 3 months have been set as – ASB West street area and ASH up by the Pom Pom area. We are also going to be focusing on the new White Hart pub restaurant (opposite the Post Office). Date of the next meeting has been set for the Thursday 17th January 2019 Drop-in surgery, upcoming dates Erith Costa: 12:00PM - 1:00PM, Wed 31 October 2018; 2:00PM - 3:00PM Sat 10 November 2018 and 12:00PM - 1:00PM, Fri 16 November 2018". Northumberland Heath ward:- "No burglaries on the ward this week. Two reports of motor vehicle crime. Both took place overnight on Sunday 21st October. A company work van in Dickens close was damaged by entry was not gained. The other vehicle was parked overnight in Brook Street. A number of items were stolen to the value of £500. It is not clear at this stage if the vehicle was locked as entry was not forced. The team have been busy visiting local shops to deliver leaflets regarding the sale of eggs and flour over the Halloween period, and delivering Trick or treat posters to elderly residents to display in their windows to avoid them being disturbed. Small posters regarding Halloween are available in the Library in Mill Road for anyone who wishes to pick them up. We have been visiting our second hand retailers on the ward this week to check their books and to make sure that no stolen property is sold on, and as part of the reduction of violent crime campaign we have conducted weapon sweeps. Thankfully nothing was discovered. The next coffee with cops event will be held on Saturday November 3rd from Midday. All are welcome to attend".  

Slade Green and Northend ward:- "There has unfortunately been several vehicle crimes in the last week. Overnight Friday / Saturday 19 / 20th October number plates were taken from a car in Hamilton Walk and a car in Sandpiper Drive. We have a small amount of anti-theft screws for number plates, please let us know if you would like some. On Weds 18th October between 5pm and 11pm a bike was stolen from Peareswood Road, PC Telfer found the bike in Frobisher Road and it has been recovered to the owner. A wallet was stolen from a car outside Lincoln Close around 12.50pm on Tuesday October the 24th and a handbag was taken from the back seat of a car between 10am and 1pm on Sunday October 21st. Please please do not leave any valuables on display at any time. We have some cctv footage that shows 2 supects at the scene for both thefts and enquiries are being made to ascertain a positive ID. PC Telfer stopped 3 males in Appold Street on Saturday afternoon. 2 were in possession of cannabis so one was issued with a PND and one was a juvenile due in for interview soon. Today (Weds 24th October) PCSO Mark worked with PCSO Adam from the Erith team and conducted weapons sweeps in Rainbow Road on our ward and Compton Place in Erith ward as part of the Met Police Op Sceptre which tackles violent crime, nothing found at either venue (photo above). Also today, PC Brookes-Smith and PC Telfer stopped a male in Newbery Road who was in possession of several bags of cannabis. He is due back for interview in the next couple of weeks. On Monday 29th October PCSO Mark will be attending the Slade Green Big Local Stakeholders conference meeting with all partner agencies and getting an update on all the work the Big Local are carrying out in the community".  Thamesmead East ward:- "Burglaries - On Wednesday 13/10/18 an attempted burglary occurred in Haldane Road, between the hours of 06:00pm and 07:00pm the front porch door frame near the lock was damaged. No entry gained. Motor Vehicle Crimes - Between the hours of 03:55 am and 04:03 am on Friday 19/10/18 a victim left his vehicle running to warm up ,whilst he went to collect something from a property in Haldane Road. A wallet containing bank cards and cash was taken ,however a suspect was arrested at the scene by attending officers. Between the hours of 08:50 pm on Wednesday 17/10/18 and 08:40 am on Friday 19/10/18 a wheel and tyre was stolen from a parked in Hartslock Drive. The next Community Contact Session is Tuesday 30/10/18 between the hours of 1:00 pm and 2:00pm at The Lakeside Health Centre, Yarnton Way. An opportunity for members of the community who prefer face- to – face contact to speak with a Dedicated Ward Officer". West Heath ward:- "Unfortunately there was a robbery in King Harolds Way last Thursday 17th October. Two males with baseball bats accosted the victim in an alleyway stealing the victims bag, believed possibly drug related. There was another residential burglary in West Heath Road on Friday 19th October at about 8:30pm. Resident returned to their address through the rear patio doors and disturbed three males, one in a black balaclava and black clothing. Males were chased but lost in Amberley Road. Nothing was taken. We have had 2 thefts from motor vehicles, one in Mayfair Avenue overnight Friday 19th to 20th October and the second in New Road, daytime Monday 22nd October". 

I am not a great one for visiting the cinema; I like to see films on the big screen, but for me the experience is often marred by other people - talking, eating loudly, checking their mobile phones and generally acting as an annoyance and a distraction. Last night I did go out to CineWorld in Bexleyheath to see a film I had been anticipating for a long time. Bohemian Rhapsody, the biopic of Freddie Mercury and Queen is a film that had a very long and troubled development, as you can read on many websites. For many years the whole project was off, then on again; the choice of lead actor to play Freddie Mercury changed three times. and the films' director was replaced close to the end of principal photography. All this is well documented, as are the largely lukewarm reviews of the movie by professional critics. I am firmly of the opinion that this is going to be one of a very rare occurrence; the critic - proof movie. One only has to read the viewer feedback regarding Bohemian Rhapsody on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) which you can see here, to see that audiences absolutely love the film. I am not going to review the film here, as there are many already published online, and I would only be duplicating what others have written. Suffice to say that I loved the movie, and if you are any kind of music fan, I think you would too. Leave a comment below, or alternatively Email me at

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