Sunday, January 19, 2020

Street Watch.

Another application has been made to use the former and controversial Bright Steps nursery in Electricity House as a new nursery. The building has a long and fascinating history. The building in the upper photo is one of the landmarks of Erith. It is the first thing many visitors see when they enter the town for the first time, but it is also one of the least memorable. The large and nowadays rather run down and scruffy looking brick building is called Electricity House – though many locals are unaware of this. It was built back in 1938 and opened in November 1939 as a showroom and offices for the local electricity company, which at the time was run by the council. Pre – war services such as gas, water and electricity supply were quite commonly managed and supplied by local councils; the idea of private companies being involved was something that did not happen until after the war had ended. Electricity House was also a place where new electrical customers could view domestic appliances which they could buy via hire purchase (it sounds like an early version of BrightHouse, but without the crippling interest rates). As well as the showroom, Electricity House was home to what contemporary accounts say was a very upmarket dance hall with a fully sprung Canadian Maple floor; there was also a small Pathe cinema. The local electricity business was astonishingly successful – probably much helped by the fact that it offered the cheapest metered electricity in the entire UK at the time – one penny per unit. Ten thousand local people signed up for electrification in the first month alone, attracted by the offer of free connection to the local power grid – unusual at the time – many suppliers would even charge for the copper cable to connect new customers. In 1939 the Erith electricity board made a (for then) massive profit of £13,000. The idea was that the money would be used to improve local services and amenities for all, but the advent of war meant that early in 1940 Electricity House was handed over for war work, and once peace was restored, the money intended to benefit local people was absorbed by the LEB during nationalisation, and nothing was ever seen of the money. Much of Erith was still lit by gas until relatively recently. I believe that some houses in West Street did not get electricity until 1948 when the London Electricity Board was formed, and the local council control of power was nationalised. In the recent past, the building has courted controversy; A nursery called Bright Steps operated on the site for a number of years. 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. 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. After a court case and an appeal, Ofsted removed Bright Steps licence to operate. Subsequent to this forced closure, the nursery part of the building was advertised for rent. A number of organisations looked into taking on the nursery space, but until now the nursery part of Electricity House has been empty. An application has just been granted by Bexley Council to a new nursery group called Violet Day Care Ltd. Their proposal states that:- "The proposal is to accommodate 50 Children of the following: 10 Babies – 0 year to 2 years of age. 11 Toddlers – 2 to 3 years of age. 29 Pre-School Infants – 3 to 5 years of age There is sufficient in-house toilets for adults and children, Main Kitchen to carter for the Nursery, Staff rest area, Baby changing facilities, Baby’s Milk kitchen, Children sleeping area and Outdoor play area. There are 4 parking spaces available for the Nursery’s use with sufficient turning space for vehicles to enter and leave in a forward motion. There will be no parking allowed on the public footpath. On-site parking will be for staff only. The majority of the children will arrive by public transport however, there is a bus stop with numbers of bus routes outside the Nursery. 2 minutes’ walk from Erith train station and a numbers of car parks nearby for parents use. The Nursery is to have 13 Full –Time Employees. Opening Hours : Mon to Friday – 07.00 till 19.00 Bank Holidays and Weekends - Closed. The proposal is to propose a Day Nursery to appease the need within the community and create some additional employment within Bexley Council. We have done some extensive works to the proposed property to bring it up to the standard for our children, however, we are willing to work with the council should there be any area that may need attending to now or in the future". The floor layout drawing in the lower of the two images above - click on either for a larger view - give an idea as to how the new nursery will be laid out. I am not sure if Violet Day Care Ltd are aware of the medium / long term plans to redevelop the entirety of Electricity House by Bexley Council. It may be that they are only looking to occupy the space until such time as the building is closed for demolition; at the time of writing I have not contacted the nursery operators. What do you think? Email me at

As regular readers will be aware, I am a keen student of the law of unintended consequences. This can be loosely defined as when someone makes a decision, or takes an action with one intent, only for an unexpected and different outcome to happen. Quite often this results in something being undertaken for a worthwhile and good reason, but in the end the outcome is bad. I feel that a new example of this is potentially about to happen. Last week, local Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinators were sent an Email which read:- "We are looking at the implementation of  Street Watch on Bexley borough, which  will be run in collaboration with Matt Roberts from the local council with the aim of extending this to Greenwich and Lewisham in the future.We had our first meeting on the 10/12/19 and we are now proceeding to the next stage .I am therefore looking to recruit enthusiastic members of the public ( 3 from each ward to start with ) who are willing to join this programme. They will be provided with appropriate training and equipment and we were hoping to  start with a decent group by the end of next January 2020. The volunteers will be given hi-viz jackets with street watch logo printed on and notebooks, They will be mainly on foot patrol and they will reporting any issues/incidents they come across  to the control room if urgent or otherwise to their ward officers . They will not be given MET radios but will be using the 101 and 999 service via their own mobile phones". My personal reaction to this appeal was that I am not convinced this is a good idea. To me it smacks of "Policing on the cheap". Putting relatively untrained (when compared to Police officers) members of the public on the streets and easily identifiable to the bad guys will leave them vulnerable and unprotected - an easy target, especially as they will have no backup - no Police radio, just a personal mobile phone. Bearing in mind many Neighbourhood Watch members are retired, and some do not have a mobile phone, this seems to me to be an assumption on the part of the proposers.  I don't feel that this has been thought through properly. What will the Met / Home Office liability be when a volunteer gets stabbed to death? The whole strength of Neighbourhood Watch is that they are a covert intelligence gathering organisation. Many in the public incorrectly think that Neighbourhood Watch is about volunteers patrolling the street - which (until now) it has never been. It is actually about passing on observations, and the identification of unusual activity reports to the local Safer Neighbourhood Police teams for investigation, and possible remedial action. The criminals do not know (for the most part) who Neighbourhood Watch members are. What will happen when a criminal follows a hi viz jacketed volunteer home, then later targets the house as a form of punishment? Back in September of 2015, Bexley Police requested that a certain Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator try to get covert photographs of members of a local motorbike gang who were suspected of carrying out a number of crimes. Due to Police cutbacks at that time, the Police did not have sufficient resources to undertake the work themselves, and thus reached out to Neighbourhood Watch. The co-ordinator managed to take photos of the gang members whilst they were engaged in illegal activity, but unfortunately he was seen by the gang, and was seriously assaulted, which let to a hospital visit. Due to various failings in the subsequent investigation, no prosecution of the perpetrators was made. I can foresee similar or worse issues coming to pass if Street Watch goes ahead in the form described above. What do you think? Email me privately using the Email address There will be more on this controversial story in the weeks to come.

An arts group that performed at The Old Carnegie Library in Walnut Tree Road, Erith last year have been nominated for a major award. The Performing Places Bexley project has been shortlisted for one of the National Campaign for the Arts' (NCA) Hearts For The Arts Awards 2020, in the ‘Community Cohesion’ category. The awards are designed to celebrate local authorities who are championing the arts. The short-listed ‘Performing Places’ programme was developed between the London Borough of Bexley and Professor Sally Mackey of The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and was funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. Performing Places used drama to create an exciting and emotional story aimed at encouraging those that live in or visit a place to see it in its best light and to understand each other better.  Performing Places used the story of a parallel universe, Par-Bexia, whose young Par-Bexians came down to Bexleyheath, unplanned and unexpectedly. The project was developed in the borough over two years, working with primary schools, secondary schools and community groups using drama. The second year of the project saw the introduction of the use of augmented reality (AR). The project ended in July last year with a fantastic week of events and a special finale when visitors to the Broadway were able to meet Par Bexians of all ages before they headed back to their home universe. The project was made possible by the support and collaboration of a range of local partners, including Emergency Exit Arts who developed costumes, props and scenery, practitioners from Little Fish Theatre who delivered several community engagement events, Rose Bruford College and Bird College, whose students performed alongside Royal Central School of Speech and Drama students in the Broadway, and Bexleyheath BID who supported the delivery of the project in Bexleyheath Town Centre.

Pradas bar and grill - the large restaurant at 198 - 200 Bexleyheath Broadway, next to the Job Centre has now closed. It is currently being refitted and refurbished. Prior to being Pradas it was The Laughing Buddha - a Chinese restaurant, and before that it was a large Indian restaurant - where back in the 1980's I had my first ever restaurant curry. Once the refit is completed, it is going to be a Thai restaurant. Bearing in mind the nearest other Thai restaurants are in Dartford or Welling, this may well be a good business move on the part of the new owners. Thai cuisine is rather under represented in the local area. Another change to a local trader is that Roman Crops - the barbers shop in Pier Road, Erith is closing. The owner, Marco has been cutting local residents hair since the early 1990's; I understand that he has commuted daily to the shop from his Maidstone home. The shop will shut in February. As I have previously written at some length, leases for the shop units in Electricity House are not being renewed, and Bexley Council are actively seeking to buy out existing leases from the shop operators. The intent is in due course to compulsorily purchase Electricity House for redevelopment. The land is now worth more than the building - the only profitable part of the building is the mobile phone cell transceivers and the associated antennas on the roof, which I understand bring in a rental income of around £100,000 a year. An alternative gents barbers called Sav's is located very close by,  at no.4 Cross Street.

Drain cleaning products containing up to 95 percent sulphuric acid, which are intended for professional use only, have been taken off sale to the public at 4 discount stores by Bexley Trading Standards Officers. The move was made following a trawl of 54 retail premises across the borough. A further 4 suppliers who legitimately deal in ‘trade only’ sales were also found to be willing to sell to the public illegally. High strength sulphuric acid products have been connected to criminal acid attacks on people. In order to buy the industrial strength products, a purchaser must either be registered with The Home Office or registered in the Trade. At the initial visit by a Trading Standards Officer, the 8 suppliers were reminded of their responsibilities. A test purchase exercise was later carried out on all 8 suppliers to make sure that they were no longer supplying members of the public who do not have a legitimate trade use for the products. As a result, one supplier has received a formal written warning for not making the required checks and could face prosecution if they continue to flout the rules around supplying high strength sulphuric acid products to the general public.

Now for the weekly local safety and security reports from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly the update from Barnehurst ward:- "Unfortunately Barnehurst suffered a burglary in Northall Road on Saturday 11/01/2020 just after midnight. Suspects managed to force the porch and the main front door open however due to being disturbed the suspect had only entered the porch and grabbed a hand bag containing personal belongings as they left. Nearby CCTV shows suspects pulling up in an unknown vehicle. Four tall males got out of the vehicle and approached the property. Due to the footage being of poor quality suspects and the vehicle could not be identified. On Thursday Saturday 11/01/2020 In Hillingdon Road three tyres were found punctured. Due to no CCTV footage it is not known how or who caused the damage. PCSO's John and Cathy have made a start rolling out Smart Water in Holmsdale Grove. We welcome a new Neighbourhood Watch Coordinator for Badlow Close. The next coffee with cops will be on Tuesday 21st January 2020 at 04.00pm in Barnehurst Golf Club, hope to see you there". Belvedere ward:- Update from a NW coordinator:- "It was noticed by one of our neighbours who has external CCTV that the lads that have previously broken into our cars were at it again last night (Sat 12th/Sun13th Jan) at about 4am trying their neighbours car boots. If anyone knows of anybody that was broken into can they please pass it on to their Coordinator the NW Office and the police. Also, on Saturday a stolen white transit van that had been taken from Mangold Way over the Railway, was found at the east end of Fendyke Rd by its owner. The door lock and ignition lock had been removed and rear padlock cut off. All his personal building tools had been stolen. The police were informed". Bexleyheath ward:- "Thursday 9/1/20 1340 Marriott Hotel car park - theft of handbag from unlocked vehicle. Friday 10/1/20 2350 Theft of Motor Vehicle Oaklands Road. Friday 10/1/20 1200 Theft of Motor Vehicle Marriott car park. Saturday 11/1/20 1620 – 1715 Burglary Broom Mead Jewellery Stolen door handle lifted but key not turned. Saturday 11/1/20 1645 Theft of Mobile Phone from work place on Broadway. Sunday 12/1/20 1330 – 1430 Theft of Motor Bike Albion Road car park. Sunday 12/1/120 1900 – 2000 Theft of Mobile Phone from table in McDonalds. Sunday 12/1/20 1630 – 1700 Disabled Badge Stolen from unlocked parked vehicle in ASDA. Monday 13/1/20 1500 Purse Stolen from handbag whilst shopping on Broadway – unknown shop of incident. Tuesday 14/1/20 1000 – 1200 Mobile Phone Stolen from handbag whilst shopping on Broadway. Tuesday 14/1/20 1715 Theft of Pushbike from outside The Mall by Burger King. Tuesday 14/1/20 1600 – Wednesday 15/1/20 0120 Theft of Motor Vehicle Long Lane. Tuesday 14/1/20 0730 – 0930 Theft of Catalytic Convertor from vehicle Erith Road. Wednesday 15/1/20 0000 – 1500 Garage broken into Midhurst Hill nothing taken". Crayford ward:- "Over night on 12th/13th January garage break in took place in Lea Vale. Power tools and rolls of lead belonging to a roofer were taken". Erith ward, from NW coordinator:- "Just to inform you all we have had a burglary at the single numbered end of Vickers Road on Wednesday 9th January, whilst the occupant was carrying out the afternoon school run . It appears that entry was gained via the front bay window which was broken at the time or not lockable and then exited through the front door. Contents stolen appear to be small personal items and as such I am not aware of the full details . NW NOTICE Please be aware that the school run time is an ideal time for burglars to target your property, please ensure you lock all doors and windows not forgetting that handles pushed up do not secure lobby or conservatory doors from criminals. Try to get into the habit of following your own course of action when you lock up your home. This will ensure that you don't forget anything. Here's what we recommend you do before you go out: •close and lock all your doors and windows, even if you're only going out for a few minutes •double-lock any door •make sure that any valuables are out of sight •keep handbags away from the letterbox or cat flap and hide all keys including car keys, as a thief could hook keys or valuables through even a small opening •never leave car documents or ID in obvious places such as kitchens or hallways •in the evening, shut the curtains and leave lights on •if you're out all day, then it's advisable to use a timer device to automatically turn lights and a radio on at night •set your burglar alarm •make sure the side gate is locked •lock your shed or garage •lock your bike inside a secure shed or garage, to a robust fitting bolted to the ground or wall, like a ground anchor No crime update from the week we apologise I have had been issues bringing up the crimes for the last week, people has been reported and should be back to normal next week. Motor Vehicle crime is still high in Erith keep checking you leave nothing in your motor overnight". Northumberland Heath ward:- "This week has been a busy week for the team. We have completed 2 multi agency meetings with regards to individuals whose properties have been at the centre of ASB. The team has issued a section 59 warning to a male causing ASB with his vehicle. The team alongside Orbit Housing have issued a breach of tenancy warning. We had a very good turn out to our recent contact session on Monday, we were able to give burglary prevention advice. Unfortunately we have had 2 burglaries this week, the first was on Swanton Road and the second was on Parsonage Manor Way. Again we have had a number of thefts from motor vehicle. Our next community contact session is on Wednesday 29th January at 10am in the Mill Road Library, please do come along and meet a member of the team and discuss any issues or concerns you have, or just pop in and say hello".

Slade Green and Northend ward:- "No crimes of any note to report this week. Please be aware that this does not mean we can be complacent. Keep all valuables out of your vehicles and always ensure you lift the handle and turn the key if you have a UPVC door. Last Sunday PCSO Mark attended Rainbow Road to give out Smart Water property marking kits and was assisted PCSO Adam from Erith SNT (photo above - click on it for a larger version). Over 60 kits were given out to local residents. Please keep an eye out for another event very soon. Our next CCS is on Saturday 25/01/2020 from 6pm at the Pier Road SNT base in Erith. There are some issues around parking and driving at Chrome Road by the Community Centre car park on a daily basis during morning and afternoon school drop off and pick up times. Please please ensure you do not block any driveways or mount the path as you drive around. Yes space is very limited etc but there have been a couple of near misses with some children going to school. If you do drive to Haberdashers, please be careful and if necessary, park further round the estate. We will be carrying our patrols as and when we can to identify any repeat offenders". Thamesmead East ward:- "Attempted Burglary/Business - In Lensbury Way between the hours of 9:30pm and 10:30 pm on Monday 13/01/20 unknown person/s gained entry via an unsecure door to the laundry room and gone into the medical bins. The laundry door has now been made secure. Nothing of value stolen. Motor vehicle crimes - The catalytic converter was stolen from a Toyota parked in Mangold Way between the hours of 00:01am on Wednesday 01/01/20 and 3; 15pm Tuesday 07/01/20. A van containing power tools also parked in Mangold Way was stolen between the hours of 5; 00pm on 07/01/20 and 06:55am on the 08/01/20. A vehicle parked in Wolvercote Road locked, secure had the front passenger window smashed, and the car radio stolen, the theft happened between the hours of 9:00pm on Tuesday 14/01/20 and 5:20am on Wednesday 15/01/20. Criminal Damage Motor Vehicles – On Thursday 09/01/20 suspects were seen jumping on the roof of a vehicle parked in Seacourt Road causing extensive damage. GOOD NEWS - Following a joint operation with another agency, PC's Pruden and Quarshie-Awuah arrested two persons involved in theft of goods from a local pharmacy. A substantive amount of goods are involved Investigation into the theft is ongoing". West Heath ward:- "Our Coordinator for Lodge Hill has reported- that his son's moped was stolen off our drive on Saturday 12th afternoon at around 3pm from Lodge Hill, DA16, we have reported to the police and received a CR number. The bike was locked but they managed to get the lock off. Vehicle details: Black Honda PCX 125 with L plates displayed Reg: KD19NKF NW - If you see this vehicle please let either the police or our office know and we will pass on information to owner. A burglary took place in Madison Crescent on Wednesday January 8th between the hours of 16.20 and 18.30. The rear back door to the property was smashed and cash and jewellery were stolen. Unfortunately another burglary took place in Lenham Road on Tuesday January 14th sometime before 6pm. It is believed entry was gained via the rear door. A laptop and jewellery were stolen. An attempted burglary in Brampton Road took place on Monday January 13th between 01.10 and 01.25. Damage was caused to the rear door but entry was not gained. We have also been hit by motor vehicle crime over the last week. On Friday January 10th at 20.45 two vehicles in Canberra Road suffered substantial damage by an unknown suspect. All the windows to the vehicle were smashed.  Two males were arrested in Harvel Crescent in the early hours on Friday morning January 10th having been seen tampering with vehicles in Woolwich Road. A catalytic converter was stolen from a vehicle parked in Heath Avenue on Tuesday January 7th between 11.40 – 11.55am. A moped was stolen from a driveway in Lodge hill on Saturday January 11th between the hours of midday and 20.10pm. A red Nissan was stolen from outside the victim's address in Hartley Road between midnight on Tuesday January 14th - 7.26am on Wednesday January 15th".

The end video this week features a quick virtual tour around London Southeast College, Bexley Campus - what was formerly called Bexley College. The building is located in Walnut Tree Road, Erith - directly opposite The Old Carnegie Library

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