Sunday, October 07, 2018

The John Burns.

I took the photos above from Erith Pier this morning; thanks to information from Darryl Chamberlain of the excellent 853 Blog, I was aware that the just decommissioned Woolwich ferry, the John Burns was being taken down river by tug from Woolwich, and travelling over the English Channel to Normandy, where it was headed for a breakers yard to be scrapped. I went to Erith Pier just after 9am on a bright and cold Sunday morning. The place was deserted when I arrived, but it was very pleasant indeed - very quiet and peaceful. After a while, a few people turned up - mainly to watch the world go by, although one chap found a seat on one of the many benches on the pier, and produced a book and proceeded to read. The John Burns had been scheduled to leave Woolwich at 9am, and by 10.30 no sign could be seen of it at Erith, and I was considering giving up my vigil. One other pier visitor looked at me and said "are you waiting for the ferry?" I confirmed and we got talking; it turned out that there had been a delay in getting the tugs ready to tow and push the decommissioned ferry, and it did not make an appearance off Erith until 10.45am, when I took the photographs above - click on each of them for a larger view. Two of the three old ferries were taken out of service on Friday night, and the John Burns last week. The end video this week shows the celebrations that took place on one of the vessels on its final journey across the River Thames. The three ferries, the John Burns, the Ernest Bevin and the James Newman, have sailed the route between Woolwich and North Woolwich since 1963. The John Burns had originally meant to be sent over to France on Tuesday, but for reasons unknown it was delayed until today, when I was fortunate to take the photos above. It was sad to see the familiar old ship going to scrap in France, but as anyone who has travelled on the Woolwich ferries over the last few years will know, the three vessels were completely worn out and no longer fit for purpose. The two new hybrid diesel electric ferries will go into service in the New Year, after extensive alterations are made to the docks and jetties on each bank of the River Thames. In the meantime there is no Woolwich ferry service at all - which is going to cause all sorts of problems for regular travellers across the river - especially as the Blackwall and Rotherhithe tunnels are unreliable, as is the Dartford River Crossing - more of which later in this update.

I took the photo above last week; the sign above the door of the White Hart and the new African restaurant and bar contained therein, stating that it was due to open in September has now been taken down. The reason is that the licensing hearing regarding the White Hart is now due to be held in Bexley Civic Offices at 2 Watling Street Bexleyheath at 10am on Wednesday the 17th October. From my understanding a number of objections to the licence application have been made by local residents. The principal objection is to the proposed White Hart opening hours, which are from 10am until 5am the next morning, with drinks served until 4.30am seven days a week. Bearing in mind the location of the former pub in a conservation zone, the fact that it is adjacent to retirement flats, and residential apartments, not to mention the flats located directly above the restaurant and bar area, it seems to me that this licensing request is impractical and absurd in the extreme. I hope to attend the licencing committee meeting, as I get the feeling that it could be an interesting and informative event. If the restaurant / bar were to get a licence, I would expect that it would be allowed to open from midday to midnight on Friday and Saturday, and from midday to 11pm on other nights, in a similar way to other licenced premises. All this is moot, however, as it will be down to the committee to make the decision. As of Friday lunchtime, the White Hart is open for business; quite how this works legally prior to the licence being granted, I do not know.  More on this issue in the weeks to come. 

Doreen Ives, the Chair of the Friends of Christ Church Erith (FOCCE) writes about the quiz night and fund raising raffle held last Saturday night in Christ Church hall:- "On Saturday 29th September we held our annual Quiz Night and Grand Raffle Draw.  It was a really good evening of fun, laughter, and surprised pleasure. The latter being for those present, who were lucky winners of the very worthwhile raffle prizes.  CRIBS (Christian Resources in Bexley Schools) were our Quiz Masters and they did a great job.  The questions were family friendly and suitable for all ages.  The winning team portrayed this perfectly, being made up of two people from each of three generations.  The prizes won by those not attending the event were delivered to the winners by Chris Wakeman or me. The event raised just over £1,000 which will go into the fund we are growing to install toilets in the Church building.  Almost half of the money raised for raffle tickets came in from sales outside the event from signed up members of FOCCE, friends, family, neighbours and work colleagues of Church members, so it is clearly worthwhile approaching these people, who care for our Church building but do not actually come to regularly worship here. Grateful thanks must go to the Committee Members of FOCCE who helped to organise and set up for the evening, our Quiz Masters and those who donated the raffle prizes.  Lastly, thank you to all who came along on the night and everyone who helped to clear away so efficiently at the end of the evening. We will do it all again next year; so if you didn’t participate this time then be sure you come along next year to find out what you have been missing!"

I noticed a story that came up on the national news earlier this week, and it got me thinking. On Tuesday, the Welsh Secretary announced that Tolls on the two Severn bridges will be scrapped earlier than expected, it has been announced. Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns said that free-flowing traffic will begin before Christmas - two weeks earlier than planned. The new road conditions will take effect on December 17. It currently costs £5.60 to cross one of the bridges into Wales - but it is free to leave. Not paying the toll will save regular commuters up to £1,400 a year. When the tolls first came into force in the 1960s it was set at a mere 2s 6d - about 12p per crossing. The first bridge has been in place since 1966 and the second bridge opened in 1996. The newer crossing was renamed earlier this year to the Prince Of Wales Bridge. Additional six million cars a year will cross the Severn once tolls are scrapped, government predicts. Mr Cairns made the announcement at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, where he said the immediate benefit to Wales would be worth over £100m a year. He said: "Scrapping tolls before the festive period is an early Christmas present for hard-working commuters who will be £1,400 a year better off." I am sure that regular readers will see where this story is going. What benefits would making the Dartford Crossing free to use bring local businesses and workers? The Dartford Crossing is more or less a captive market since the nearest alternative river crossing is a congested 15 miles away, which means that a crucial route that was supposed to become toll free in 2003 is earning the government millions. The toll system is broken, but it is in the government's interest for it to remain that way - it is a cash cow that unfairly penalises users both local and from far away. On top of this, the recent increase in charges will also lead to an even further rise in number plate theft - a major local problem. Local criminals are stealing legitimate plates from parked motor vehicles in order to circumvent the automatic number plate recognition system used to charge drivers for using the Dartford Crossing. Vehicle number plate theft is now endemic in the local area. Indeed, according to a recent report published by the Daily Telegraph, highly organised vehicle crime gangs are using falsified car registrations to avoid detection by the police. One in twelve of the 37 million vehicles on UK roads could have cloned registration plates, according to the new research. The vast number of cloned plates, in which a car’s identity is disguised by the false use of an authorised registration or characters amended to a registration that does not exist, are associated with serious criminal activity. Dr Ken German, a director of the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators (IAATI), who collated figures from various official sources, said in the Telegraph article that according to the police there are thousands of cloned plates spotted every day by their automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) and CCTV cameras clearly in an attempt (they suggest) to avoid detection when stealing petrol, parking illegally, speeding or committing more serious offences such as burglary or robbery. About 1.75 million of the 37 million vehicles of all types in the UK (about 32 million of those being cars) are estimated be wearing cloned registration plates. This is made up of 250,000 vehicles of all types - including cars, motorcycles, HGVs, vans, caravans, motor homes, plant and agricultural machinery - reported stolen last year, plus the 500,000 vehicles written off by insurers. There are also about a million vehicles still unrecovered from the last decade. The remainder of the one-in-12 total - about 1.25 million vehicles - is made up of legitimate registrations that have been doctored so they read differently. More than 100,000 sets of number plates are stolen every year but many more will have been altered with paint, a felt tip pen or black tape to deceive ANPR cameras or witnesses to a crime. Dartford drivers who often use the Thames crossing pay a discounted rate of £1.67 to get across if they drive a 'standard' sized car. As of this week, these account holders were told the price has increased to £2 per journey. This 33p increase works out to about 20 per cent more than they paid previously. Account holders in Dartford have reacted angrily to the changes. Some users have reacted on FaceBook, saying that they will close their payment accounts and use the crossing illegally (which sounds to me like people blowing off steam, rather than an actual campaign of civil disobedience). A resident of Rochester has also set up an online petition campaigning for the Dart Charge to be completely abolished. Jayne Phillips started the online petition on 38 Degrees after she heard the news. It seems to me that what is sauce for the goose really ought to be sauce for the gander; if the government can make the Prince of Wales bridge free to use, why cannot they also make the Dartford River Crossing / Queen Elizabeth II bridge not be made free? If the financial benefits are reckoned to be so high in Wales and the West Country, with its relatively low population density, how much more beneficial would making one free in the most densely populated portion of the United Kingdom? What do you think? Leave a comment below, or alternatively you can Email me at

You may recall that I recently wrote about the News Shopper, and the banner their website displays to any reader using a web browser that has an advert blocker enabled, as you can see in the screen capture above - click on it for a larger copy; The latest versions of the most popular web browser currently in use (Google's Chrome browser) have ad blocking enabled as part of its basic functionality, The web advertisers claim that blocking their adverts decreases users interactions with websites, and reduces the engagement levels on specific pages. For some time this assertion has been left untested. but now, a detailed academic study using the popular Mozilla Firefox web browser into the web browsing habits of users both with and without ad blocking functionality in their browsers has been carried out. The results make for very interesting reading. The report conclusion states:- "Web users are increasingly turning to ad blockers to avoid ads, which are often perceived as annoying or an invasion of privacy. While there has been significant research into the factors driving ad blocker adoption and the detrimental effect to ad publishers on the Web, the resulting effects of ad blocker usage on Web users’ browsing experience is not well understood. To approach this problem, we conduct a retrospective natural field experiment using Firefox browser usage data, with the goal of estimating the effect of ad blocking on user engagement with the Web. We focus on new users who installed an ad blocker after a baseline observation period, to avoid comparing different populations. Their subsequent browser activity is compared against that of a control group, whose members do not use ad blockers, over a corresponding observation period, controlling for prior baseline usage. While the impact of ad blocking on the ecosystem of the Web has been substantially investigated and documented, there has been little research into the impact of ad blocking on engagement with the Web. Opponents of ad blocking have asserted that ad blocking results in substantial breakage of modern websites and Web applications, which results in poor user experience and decreased Web engagement. This outcome, they suggest, could threaten the future growth of the Web. On the other hand, proponents of ad blocking have argued that ads are such a detriment to the browsing experience that users are willing to make the tradeoff by removing ads from their browsing experience entirely. In this paper, we present a natural field experiment that addresses this tension directly by estimating the causal effect of installing ad blocking extensions on various measures of Web engagement. We find that installing ad blocking extensions substantially increases both active time spent in the browser and the number of pages viewed. This empirical evidence supports the position of ad blocking supporters and refutes the claim that ad blocking will diminish user engagement with the Web".

There has been some controversy around the impending closure of the Cairngall Medical Practice in Erith Road, Upper Belvedere. The practice has been limping along with temporary GP's and administrative staff for several years, and after the owners of the building refused to renew the lease, it was evident that it was the end of the line for the very long established medical practice, of which I have been a patient since I was born. The practice will continue seeing patients for a while yet - the surgery is not now scheduled to close until the 31st March 2019, so existing patients have considerable time to join another nearby GP surgery. Personally I have already transferred to another nearby practice, and I have to say that in my personal experience, the transfer process was exceptionally straightforward and hassle free.

Last weekend's Erith Pier Festival attracted over four thousand visitors - a remarkable number, considering it was the first time the event had been held, and it did not get the level of publicity I would have hoped for. In an interview in the News Shopper, Councillor Louie French, deputy leader of Bexley council, said: “I’m delighted to have seen Erith pier brought to life by thousands enjoying one of the last days of summer at this unique festival. There was a brilliant atmosphere and we had the weather on our side on the day. If you came along to the festival, please consider leaving feedback using our quick online survey. It takes just a few minutes to complete, and will help us to bring even more community events like this to Erith, so we can develop this part of our borough into a thriving riverside town". You can access the survey by clicking here. The more local people who take the survey and give some positive feedback, the greater the chance that the Pier Festival will become a regular annual event - something I am certain that people would warmly welcome. 

Now for the weekly safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly from Barnehurst ward:- "Not a bad week across the ward with only one crime of note reported, sadly this has been recorded as an attempted burglary which occurred at 7.15pm on Thursday 27th September in Eversley Avenue. The occupant was upstairs at home at the time and heard someone downstairs banging on the back door, they called out receiving no response, upon investigating they noticed that the bottom panel of the kitchen door had been kicked through. The property is a terraced house that backs onto an alleyway, thankfully no entry was gained and no property stolen. Please be extra vigilant especially with the darker evenings and consider installing security lighting. The team will be happy to pay a home visit and offer security/crime prevention advice if required, just pop us an e mail with yours details and we will arrange a convenient time to attend. This week saw the team conducting another successful drugs warrant. On Friday 28th September with the assistance of Crayford and Bexleyheath safer neighbourhood teams a warrant was executed in the Hurstwood Avenue area and a quantity of drugs were seized. The occupants were processed for possession offences. Please take a look at our Facebook and twitter pages for the video of the entry. If you have any information about drug dealing/use or any other crime, we would love to hear from you ,call the team in strictest confidence or crime stoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Our next community contact session will be on Wednesday 10th October - 1pm at Barnehurst Golf Course, join a member of the team for a chat about any local issues that may be of concern. As always, we can be found on Twitter @MPSBarnehurst and Facebook Barnehurst police". Belvedere ward:- "There was a firearm incident last week in Albert Road. A shop front window was damaged during this incident and no persons were injured. We have met with the shop owners to provide reassurance and gather intelligence. We have been actively patrolling the area and looking for individuals matching descriptions in the area. The team have also been concentrating patrols around the early evening in the Streamway/ Grosvenor Road areas due to several reports of a group of youths gathering to use what is thought to be cannabis. At this stage we have been unable to identify any members of this group as they will frequently run from officers patrolling the area. Our patrols are set to continue for the foreseeable future. The team were working late over the last weekend and were called upon to assist a male who had been injured after being subjected to an assault in Station Road late on Friday evening. The assault happened at around 21:10 on 28/09/2018. The male was taken to hospital but his injuries were not life threatening or changing. If anyone has any information or witnessed this assault please contact the team. More recently, several of the storage sheds on the Albert Road / Victoria Street estate were broken into over the last few days. At this stage there do not appear to have been any items removed/ stolen. The team will be carrying out patrols of the estate and are working with Orbit housing to secure the sheds as soon as possible. Our next Community Contact session is on Friday 5th October 2018 at the All Saints church in Nuxley Road, starting at 10am, followed by another on Wednesday 10th October at Lesness Abbey ruins site from 3pm". Bexleyheath ward:- "Below is a summary of some of the reports that have come in on our ward: Saturday 22/09/2018 – Bowling Alley Bexleyheath. Unattended mobile phone had been reported stolen; Wednesday 26/09/2018 – Theft of purse was reported in the Broadway Bexleyheath area; Saturday 29/09/2018 – Asda store had reported criminal damage at the store; Saturday 29/09/2018 – Purse was stolen from victim whilst in the entertainer shop. We are receiving reports of anti-social behaviour in the Asda car park area which the team are currently looking into to try and tackle. Patrols are also still continuing around Martens Grove and Grove Road including the garages to reduce anti-social behaviour. The teams shall be at Lyndhurst Church on the 14th October between 1030am and 1pm for a Community Contact event that has been advertised online. If you do wish to pass on information to Police then please contact Crime Stoppers on 0800 555111. Please do not hesitate to contact us via Twitter, Facebook, email and the ward phone. If you are after crime prevention advice, please look at the Met Police website which has lots of information that you may find useful. Remember in an emergency please dial 999 and 101 for non-urgent reporting". Crayford ward:- "We are really pleased to say that crime has been relatively low in this last week. On 25th September between 06.00-18.00 number plates (VK61SYW) were stolen from a white Volkswagen parked at Crayford BR Station, this matter will be referred to BTP for further investigation. Between 21st September and Tuesday 25th September number plates (ET04CWZ) were stolen from a silver VW Polo Twist whilst parked in Royston Road. On 27th September a grey Samsung S8 was snatched from a display at Carphone Warehouse, valued at £700. Please be aware that scam phone calls have been received locally from a male saying he is a police officer from Hammersmith Police Station, he had the name and address of the person receiving the call. The person I spoke with said they were going to call 999 but realised the line was still open and waited until the line was properly cleared before making another call. If you receive a call such as this it is unlikely to be genuine, please remember that police or a bank will never ask for your pin number or arrange a courier to collect your card. We attended Haberdasher Askes Academy on Thursday 27th September and met reception and nursery children as well as Key stage 1 and 2 children and talked about staying safe when out and about what the police do. Our ward panel meeting was held Tuesday night at Europa Gym. Thank you very much to Len and Yvonne and all the staff for allowing us to use their meeting room and providing teas and coffees. Members of the ward panel voted that ASB (Anti-social behaviour) and traffic related issues should continue to be Crayford “promises” over the coming months. The next ward panel meeting will be held on Saturday 19th January 2019 at 10.30 at a venue to be confirmed. If you are interested in taking part, please contact us for further information at We assisted Barnehurst SNT with a drugs warrant on Friday 28th September with two people being processed for possession of drugs. Our team have been patrolling open spaces this last week due to concerns about anti-social behaviour and drug use. Erith ward:- A report from a Neighbourhood Watch Coordinator in Vickers Road - "I am getting lots of reports of 7 or 8 youths (approx. 17 years of age) on bikes hanging around the Pom Pom shops around 8/9pm onwards. They are being very intimidating and following people. They shouted at one resident, but he had headphones on and could not make out what was said to him. Another resident was blocked by the group forcing them to walk in another direction. A member my own family was so scared that they walked home another route, as the youths were smoking cannabis". From PCSO Adam Winch - "As you can see from the below crimes of the week, there have been 3 burglaries in the Erith area. Please make sure when you leave your address to lock your front and back doors plus make sure windows are closed. We have been out and stopped a few groups of students smoking cannabis outside Bexley Collage. We will work with the collage to put a stop to this as over the past few weeks local residents have been complaining about this issue. Crimes of note for the week - Other theft 26/09/2018 Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc,JAMES WATT WAY; C/Dam Veh 23/09/2018 BEXLEY ROAD – Hole made in the metal work of the car; C/Dam Veh U500 26/09/2018 PARK CRESCENT - Windscreen smashed; Burg Res 19/09/2018 WINIFRED ROAD - Between material times/date venue was broken into and property stolen; Burg Res 27/09/2018 WEST STREET - Suspect has gained access to flat roof and used a flower pot to smash the sons bedroom window at the rear of the house. Once inside suspect has stolen a play station and £20 cash; Making off 29/09/2018 Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc, JAMES WATT WAY; Burg Res 22/09/2018 STONEWOOD ROAD – Res Burg of cash from cashbox, stolen from living room; Theft of MV 01/10/2018 UPPER HOLLY HILL ROAD. Dates of note: Community Contact Session - Wednesday 10/10/18 at Costa Erith 11am and Wednesday 17/10/18". Northumberland heath ward:- "No burglaries reported this week which is good news. One theft of number plates in Brook Vale over the past week and one report of criminal damage to a parked vehicle in Bexley Road. The team attended the Erith Pier festival on Saturday, a female was given a Community Resolution for possession of cannabis. A group of youths in Erith were also found in possession of cannabis and an investigation is to follow. We also attended the MacMillan Coffee Morning event on Monday this week which was held in the Library in Mill road. A fantastic sum of just under £175 was raised and a good time was held by all who attended. We have also conducted weapon sweeps, and have conducted a street a week to talk to local residents and see if there are any issues in the area where they live. The next drop in surgery will be held at the Library in Mill Road Erith on Friday October 12th at 4pm. All are welcome to attend". 

Slade Green and Northend ward:- "On the weekend of Saturday 22 / Sunday 23 September an empty property in Daleview was broken in to. Nothing was taken but a mess was left behind. 2 overnight vehicle crimes have taken place, number plates were stolen from a vehicle on Monday 1st / Tuesday 2nd October at Orchard House car park and a window was smashed and several small items stolen from a car in Leycroft Gardens on Thursday 27th / Friday 28th September. On Wednesday 3/10/2018 officers from our team went on a multi-agency operation out on the Darent Industrial estate (photo above). 3 arrests were made by the Immigration team. A male known to our team for causing local ASB issues has this week been given an Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC) meaning he has very strict conditions as to how he behaves when out and about in the ward and the borough of Bexley. We are looking to implement several more ABC's over the coming weeks as we try and clamp down on groups causing issues locally. PCSO Mark attended the Slade Green Seniors Film Club on Tuesday where there were 63 residents in attendance enjoying tea, sandwiches and cakes before a screening of The King's Speech. This free event is growing each month and it is nice to see the older citizens in the local community coming together and engaging with each other so well. Well done to Lyn and Paul, both of whom are N.Watch coordinators in the ward, for organising this monthly event so well. Above is a picture of Mark trying to grab (yet another) biscuit! Our next Community Contact Sessions (CCS) are at 12pm Thursday 04/10/2018 in the Forest Road cafĂ© and then at 2pm in our SNT office in Pier Road, Erith on Sunday 14/10/2018". Thamesmead East ward:- "Burglaries - On Saturday 29/09/18 between the hours of 06:20 pm and 06:57pm a burglary occurred in KINGFISHER CLOSE. Entry to the property was through the rear garden and by smashing a glass panel of UPVC door, resulting in £1000.00 of damage. Currency was taken following an untidy search of bedroom. Motor Vehicle Crimes - On Saturday 29/09/18 at 07:00pm a motor vehicle was stolen from an address in RUSHDENE while the vehicle owner was unloading items and taking into a property.Vehicle keys were left on the front seat. A motor cycle which was locked was stolen from outside WYFOLD HOUSE, WOLVERCOTE ROAD,SE2 between the hours of 06: 30 pm on Friday 28/09/18 and 06;30pm on Saturday 29/09/18. Between the hours of 11:00pm on Sunday30/09/18 and 10;20am on Monday 01/10/18 a vehicle parked locked and secure in DOLPHIN CLOSE, had the driver's window smashed, loose change and a phone charger holder taken. There is a new community event every Wednesday for the over 50's between 12:00 am – 3:00pm at THE ATRIUM, TEESWATER COURT MIDDLE WAY, THAMESMEAD, DA18 4DG". West Heath ward:- "There was a suspicions male offering building work in Edwin Close on the 10/09/18, only reported this week. Male claimed to work for a gutter company which when checked was not the case. Male damaged paving slabs with his ladder before leaving. A bin was set on fire in Canberra Road on Tuesday 25th September by suspects unknown. There was also a burglary in Canberra Road on Sunday 30th September sometime between 10am and 8.45pm. Entry was gained by levering a rear window and a garden table used to climb in. An unity search of the upstairs rooms ensured, It is unknown at this stage if anything was taken. There were reports of moped riders in Exmouth Road smashing car windows at about 10pm on the 26th September. There was also a burglary in Exmouth Road some time between 9am and 2pm on Tuesday 2nd October, the resident arrived home to find the back door open, nothing was taken, suspects believed disturbed by resident return. There was a further burglary in Okehampton Crescent early evening of Thursday 27th September. This time entry was gained by smashing the glass in the front door. An untidy search followed but unknown if items missing at this stage. Our colleagues in response team stopped a vehicle in Plymstock Road and Two people were arrested for possession of class A drugs on the 28th September. The next Community Contact Session is at Dryhill Road on Wednesday 10th October, 5pm – 6pm".

The end video is as promised some footage taken on the very last trip across the River Thames at Woolwich by the Ernest Bevin ferry. The captain is playing Frank Sinatra's "My Way" over the ship's public address system. Do give the video a watch, and either leave a comment below, or alternatively Email any comments to

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