Sunday, April 26, 2020

A second incinerator.

Last June I featured an article about a proposal to construct a second waste incinerator in Lower Belvedere. London Mayor Sadiq Khan got involved with a project that has been condemned by both local MP's. Mr Khan had also come down against the plan that has been submitted by Cory Riverside Energy to build a waste incinerator on a site adjacent to the Crossness Nature Reserve, which is home to a number of very rare species of both birds and bats. The site would also be very close to the existing Cory waste incinerator pictured in the photo above - click on it for a larger version.  In an interview that has been published on the News Shopper and elsewhere, Mayor Khan said of the Cory proposal:- "London’s air is a toxic air health crisis and the last thing we need, in our modern green global city is another harmful waste-burning incinerator polluting our city. Emissions from incinerators are bad for our health, bad for our environment and bad for our planet. Instead of granting permission for an unnecessary new incinerator that will raise pollution levels in the boroughs of Bexley and Havering, the Government should focus on boosting recycling rates, reducing the scourge of plastic waste and tackling our lethal air. I am urging ministers to reject this proposal". Unfortunately - and as many had predicted, the second incinerator is now going ahead. The decision was made on 9th April by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to approve the development of a second mass waste incinerator at Belvedere. Councillor Stefano Borella (Slade Green and Northend ward) said “These proposals don’t support increasing recycling rates and evidence shows local authorities that use these facilities have seen their recycling rates suppressed. In addition, the increased traffic and congestion as a result of cable laying to Littlebrook power station in Dartford will impact on air quality as a result of the disruption. It is bitterly disappointing that this announcement was released at the start of the Easter weekend during the current pandemic, when residents priorities will be on other issues.” Councillor Dave Putson (Belvedere ward) said “This plant will detrimentally impact on the immediately adjacent Crossness nature reserve and will have a lasting impact on wildlife and habitats carefully nurtured over many years. In addition, this incinerator will increase fine dust particulate emissions and detrimentally impact on health and air quality in the local area” Local MPs and the Mayor of London have raised objections at the building of a second incinerator. Several key local figures, including Erith and Thamesmead MP Abena Oppong-Asare, indicated they would challenge the decision, while a spokesperson for the Mayor of London said officers would now review details of the decision and would comment further once it has been fully assessed. “The Secretary of State’s decision to approve the application for the Cory Incinerator is extremely disappointing, The Mayor’s team provided evidence and representations through the examination process to demonstrate that this facility is not needed to manage London’s waste and will have a detrimental impact on recycling, climate change and air quality.” There is no statutory appeal process and the decision can now only be challenged by individuals or authorities via a judicial review process. What do you think? Email me in complete confidence at

I don't normally comment on stories that make the national news, but I am making an exception this week, as I had a personal involvement with the individual involved. You may have seen news articles and obituaries for Ronan O'Rahilly, who died last week. I met him a number of times, and had several telephone calls from him in the late 1980's and early 1990's when I worked for his brainchild, Radio Caroline. Much has been written about this maverick and eccentric man, but I am just going to focus on my personal memories and experiences with Ronan (or "The Old Man" as Caroline staff tended to refer to him). I found Ronan to be a thoughtful and charismatic person who would come out with outrageous ideas seemingly from nowhere. He had the same kind of "reality distortion field" often attributed to the late Steve Jobs of Apple. Ronan O'Rahilly was the person who changed the face of British radio – before Caroline the BBC only played a few hours of music a week, and were loath to broadcast anything challenging or different. It is probable that many British bands from the 60’s and 70’s would not have had the success they did without the extensive air time Caroline gave them - certainly both The Rolling Stones and The Who credited their early success to exposure on Radio Caroline, and George Harrison of The Beatles donated a lot of money to the Caroline organisation over the years. Ronan was behind the tours of the UK that the Stax and Motown labels undertook – this was when other UK radio stations played no music of black origin. Ronan was one of life’s eccentrics; he would come up with some utterly crackpot idea, but such was the power of his warmth, charm and personality, he would have you believing him – at least until he left the room. Usually a couple of minutes later, you would get a “hang on a minute” thought, and you would realise how bonkers what you had just been told actually was. Ronan had a soft half Irish / half American accent, and it became a running joke amongst Radio Caroline staff that if you heard the “Old Man” start a sentence with “Hey, I’ve got this really great idea!” you knew what followed was going to be challenging, if impractical, dangerous, or downright contrary to the established laws of physics - nevertheless, it would always be interesting. I recall that during one phone call he made to me, Ronan suggested replacing the antenna system on the Ross Revenge with a fully grown tree(!) He thought it would signal the stations support for environmental issues - the idea of using a tree as a radio antenna was of course impossible, impractical and about as left field as one could imagine - typical Ronan then. In his later years he was crippled by Vascular Dementia, and was moved into a care home in Ireland, Having lost my own father to dementia (albeit of a different type) I know how challenging caring for someone with the condition can be. My thoughts are with his family in Ireland, who have now lost the great, inspirational man, and a truly lovely bloke who changed the face of the British media for ever.

Erith Pier is a popular destination when the weather is good; I took the photo above (click on it for a larger view) yesterday. Whilst not appearing in the photo, a number of people were strolling on the pier, but all were keeping suitably apart from each other, and nobody was fishing.

Now that Spring is with us – incidentally my favourite time of the year. I love the lengthening hours of daylight and the way in which nature appears to wake up from the long winter sleep. Unfortunately it does bring problems with it. On Wednesday afternoon, whilst queuing outside of Morrison's in Erith, I watched two young foxes raiding the bins located outside of Wharfside Close. One resident came out of his townhouse and shouted and waved his arms at the two animals. They merely stared at him, then carried on their business as if he was not there. The problem of urban foxes not being scared of humans has been steadily getting worse for a number of years. Readers may recall my account from some time back; I was sitting in my living room reading one evening. I had the back door open. Suddenly I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye; when I looked up, there was a young adult fox, sitting in the middle of my living room less than ten feet from where I was sitting. I had to stand up and shout at it before it decided to move, and it calmly sauntered back across the living room, over the kitchen lobby, where it picked up one of my gardening boots in its’ mouth, before it tried to then make off with its’ plunder. Fortunately I managed to get it to drop the heavy boot. That was just one of several incidents I have experienced, and I see foxes on an almost daily basis. Some locals have taken to putting bricks on the lids of their recycling wheelie bins, but the intelligent and resourceful foxes soon learned to push the bricks off. 

The Coronavirus lock down has affected so many local businesses; some unfortunately may never recover, whilst others such as Bexley Brewery have introduced a door to door real ale delivery service, which I understand has been extremely successful. Many food outlets have been forced to close. One that has adopted a new business model is the long established Belvedere Tandoori. They recently published the following announcement:- "Dear customers, just an update as to where we are and where we might be going. As you all know we closed the restaurant 4 weeks ago completely, including takeaways. In the meantime, the staff have stayed productive by refreshing their food preparation skills with online courses as well as doing a Coronavirus course (yes there is one, £6.99 and tells you pretty much everything you knew anyway, like self distancing, PPE, sanitising and so on), although there was some interesting info on bacteria life cycles and it’s activeness on various surfaces amongst other things. We are looking at reopening the takeaway collection and delivery service. Deliveries can be contactless, meaning we would simply leave your food by your front door. Obviously for this to work, payments would need to be made over the phone using a credit/debit card. Delivery drivers will be wearing gloves and masks so you can use cash if you need to. All staff will be using masks and gloves at all times, maintaining a wash your hands every 15 minutes policy. Although, if you’ve worked in a restaurant kitchen you’ll know staff wash their hands pretty much every 2-3 minutes. Also all my staff drive so no one is using public transport either. Hope to see you guys soon. Belvedere Tandoori Management". 

I have uncovered a strange link with Hall Place in Bexley to one of the largest and most successful counter – intelligence operations in British history. Some readers may have seen in the past, the excellent Ben Macintyre television documentary on the World War II German spies and double agents that were controlled by MI5 throughout the war. The Nazis were under the impression that they had a widespread and successful network of spies in the UK, when in fact every single agent was working for the British, to the point that MI5 were actually controlling German Military intelligence for much of the war. This was a vital part of Operation Fortitude – the plan to keep Nazi high command from discovering when and where the D-Day invasion of France would take place. As Winston Churchill said “The truth is so precious, it needs to be protected with a bodyguard of lies”. As well as the fake agents sending false information back to the Abwehr (German Military Intelligence) the plan constructed entire armies of fake vehicles, buildings and radio messages indicating troop build – ups where in reality there was nothing but empty fields. On top of all this, the planning to fool the Nazis took some rather surreal turns. It was anticipated that in addition to using portable radio transmitters, and sending letters written in invisible ink via neutral countries, that any German spies in the UK would also want to communicate via carrier pigeon; this was a very old, but virtually undetectable method of passing secret information. The use of animals in covert warfare was nothing new; the Special Operations Executive (SOE) stuffed dead rats with explosive to be used in sabotage operations. The American Navy trained dolphins to place explosive charges under enemy ships, but the most bizarre use of animals has to be a plan hatched by a Royal Air Force officer by the name of Flight Lieutenant Walker; his plan flourished in that grey area that exists between ingenuity and insanity. His idea was called the “Double Cross Pigeon Racket” - a plan designed to wipe out the Nazi carrier pigeon operation in a single stroke. Every German intelligence section in occupied France had a carrier pigeon section; on top of this, collaborators within the French civilian population were being recruited by the Abwehr (German Military Intelligence) to act as a “stay behind” group, who would harbour German carrier pigeons to be released with vital intelligence messages in the event of a successful allied invasion. Lieutenant Walker was aware that Nazi propaganda minister Heinrich Himmler was a keen pigeon fancier, and he began to wonder if Himmler’s interest could be manipulated to the Allied advantage. If the Nazis could be fooled into thinking that British spy pigeons had infiltrated their lofts, then it would throw suspicion on the entire Nazi carrier pigeon service; if the Nazis could no longer trust their own pigeons, they might well end up killing the lot to be on the safe side. In the winter of 1943, Flight Lieutenant Walker presented his plan to MI5 with a memo entitled “Pigeon Contamination Plan” – “A stray or lost pigeon will almost always find its way into some loft. If a number of British pigeons could be disguised as German pigeons by putting forged German identity rings on them, then releasing them on the continent (deliberately choosing second rate birds which would be unlikely to attempt the long flight back over the English Channel) they would eventually find their way into German controlled pigeon lofts. Sooner or later the Germans would discover that they were being fooled. They would find two pigeons with the same leg ring number, or a grey pigeon wearing a ring that was clearly assigned to a red pigeon. They would begin to wonder just how many of their pigeons were phoney, and the only thing they could do would be to call in all of their birds and check them. Until they had checked all of their birds in all of their lofts they would be unable to use any carrier pigeon services, and by the time they had gone through them all, I would have delivered more phonies”. MI5 were enthusiastic and gave the project the go – ahead. The Germans were braced for the invasion of Europe by the Allies, the discovery that their carrier pigeon lofts had been infiltrated by double – agent pigeons could throw them off balance at a critical psychological moment. The double agent pigeons were housed in lofts all over the South East of England, one of which was based at Hall Place in Bexley, which was also the home of an SOE training unit and a Y- Intercept station run by the U.S Army (a radio receiving unit that intercepted Nazi signals communications for onwards transmission via dedicated phone lines to Bletchley Park for decoding). The “Double Cross Pigeon Racket” was put into operation, and …. Nothing happened. After the war, captured Abwehr records showed that the forged identification leg rings on the double agent pigeons were so convincingly crafted that the Nazi pigeon handlers never actually realised that the birds they were receiving were phony. The plan was so well executed that the Germans never realised they had been duped, and so carried on sending messages to their “agents” – all of whom were already working for MI5 anyway. A bizarre, ironic, but true story. What do you think? Email me at

The photo of old Erith above was taken in (I believe) 1901; it shows Pier Road looking up towards Cross Street. On the left is the bookshop owned by R.H Starkey, who also sold stationery. Next is Harry Palmer the Draper, and on the right is C.F Savage's Boot Warehouse. Nothing in the photo exists in Erith today, with the exception of the name Pier Road.

Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly the report from Barnehurst ward:- "Great News for Barnehurst Residents, we have had no crimes to report although the team have been busy on the ward patrolling and reminding members of the public about the Governments Guidelines around COVID-19. We have received reports of golfers continuing to play golf on Barnehurst Golf Course. A number of golfers have been advised, unfortunately we cannot patrol this area 24/7 but when on duty this is an area where we concentrate our foot patrols. The team conducted two stop and searches after officers smelt a strong smell of cannabis coming from the wooded area of the golf course. One male was dealt with for possession of cannabis. The team have also received reports from various residents with regards to vehicles driving dangerously in and around Parkside Avenue, Northall Road, Beverley Road and Manor Way. The team have been carrying out patrols and will be dealing with this matter. Any further sightings please let us know. Please stick to the guidelines and remember the social distancing measures of two metres. Stay Safe". Belvedere ward - no report received this week. Bexleyheath ward:- "Thursday 16/04/2020 0305 Burglary Russell Close -  entry gained by front door believed to have been after vehicle keys, nothing taken, suspects disturbed. Whilst our crimes do remain low at the moment there are still criminals about, please do ensure that doors are double locked with keys and do not keep valuables in your vehicles". Crayford ward:- "Criminal damage was caused to a silver Saab whilst parked outside Lyles Court in London Road between Sunday 15/03/2020 and Thursday 9/04/2020. Number plates EU63FPV stolen from a Silver Ford Kuga on Friday 10th April between 06.00 and 18.00 whilst parked in Heath Road close to the top end of Hillside Road. Garden tools were stolen from a greenhouse at the Crayford Way allotments between Thursday 9th and Friday 10th April. On Friday 17th April at approx. 03.50 police were alerted that 2 males had been seen trying to get in to the petrol station shop, they were apprehended whilst trying to break in to Hobbycraft a short time later. A sat nav was stolen from a silver Volkswagen whilst parked in Heathlee Avenue between 16.00 on Thursday 16th April and 13.05 on Friday 17th April, the front passenger window was smashed. A shed was broken in to at Crayford Way allotments on Saturday 18th April, the padlock was broken off and tools and plants were taken. A dashcam was stolen from a red Skoda whilst parked in Crayford High Street on Sunday 19th April at 23.12, the front passenger window was smashed. We are still in a period of lockdown, unless you are a keyworker, please don't go out unless it is necessary to purchase food/medicines or to take daily exercise with members of your own household. Please stay safe". Erith ward:- "This week we have been regularly visiting all the shops in Erith which I am pleased to add they have all been coping very well and people lining up have been extremely civilised. We will be carrying on visiting all the shops daily around Erith. Again this week crimes are lower than normal, we just need to not let any guards down, if you are going out please remember not to leave any items in you cars, even on lockdown items are still being removed from vehicles. If you go on bike rides and leave your bike for any amount of time for example to enter a shop to get a drink, Lock the bike up!. It takes less than a few seconds for an unlocked bike to be taken. After this lockdown I am hoping to acquire more bike marking kits and I will run a bike making event for local residents. I know this weather has been lovely but if you are sitting on a public bench watching the world go by enjoying the sunshine we will be asking you to go home, we are only doing this to keep everyone as safe as we can. This isn't something we are enjoying asking. Also Erith team have been patrolling Northumberland Heaths ward due to staffing numbers on that ward". Northumberland Heath ward:- "Another good week – Crime levels are down. A community Protection Notice Warning has been issued to a Landlord within Northumberland Park Road. This is aimed to prevent unreasonable behaviour that is having a negative impact on the local community. Hopefully this will prevent anti-social behaviour such as loud music .The residents have also been referred to ASB unit within Bexley Council. If you've having a problem with loud music, rowdy parties or barking dogs in your neighbourhood, your council can help Officers completed stop and searches on two males seen loitering on Londonderry Parade, Stelling Road, Erith .One male was found to be in possession of cannabis. There has been a rise in domestic incidents within the Borough. If you are a victim of a domestic incident please see our twitter page for advice @MPSNorthHeath or speak to a member of the National Domestic Abuse Helpline team at any time, day or night 08082000247 or contact 999 if it's an emergency. We have had reports of Youth congregating and smoking drugs in Northumberland Heath Recreational Grounds and Streamway Erith. Officers have been completing patrols within these hots spot areas. If you see this happening please contact 101 and make us aware. Thank you to our NHS colleagues, those working within the ambulance service, all of the people that are helping to come together and make our communities as safe as they can be in this terrible crisis".

The photo above (click on it for a larger view) shows fly tipped compost and plant bedding material that was illegally dumped in Appold Street, Erith late on Friday night by persons unknown. If you witnessed this criminal act, please contact me in confidence, and I will pass the information on to the Police and Bexley Council. Email me at Slade Green and Northend ward:- "No notable crimes reported in the last week. 9 stop and searches have been made and one male found in possession of drugs near Grange House. A Community Resolution (official warning letter) was issued. Several groups have been moved on from a few places in the ward (Rainbow Road, Hollywood Way park, Frobisher Road) but as a general rule it seems that most people seem to be sticking to the rules and staying in so a big thanks from us. While we are giving out thanks, we would like to say a huge thanks to Mel, Sonya and everyone else helping Slade Green Big Local who, everyday, have a foodbank running from the hall of St Augustines and have been delivering food and activity packs to many residents and not just locally. Leaflets are being delivered where possible and anyone who wishes to help or contribute can pop along to the church to find out more or look up Slade Green Big Local on social media. If you do visit they are following social distancing guidelines. But a fantastic effort by a brllliant local group must be applauded and we wish them all the very best. St Augustines services are broadcasting live on Facebook and Zoom every Sunday from 1030am, anyone can watch, we will be this Sunday. There are prayer services too each day at 9am and 9pm. Lastly, please remember to stay indoors and save lives. Stay safe everyone". Thamesmead East ward:- "On Friday 17/04/20 at 6:15pm an attempted theft of a motorcycle occurred in Wolvercote Road.Sunday 19/04/20 between the hours of 9:15am and 3:30pm a Ford transit vehicle was stolen from Leatherbottle Green. There has been an increase in theft of vehicle number plates. Consider purchasing a set of Anti - Theft screws or bolts for number plates Between Saturday 18/04/20 at 11:00pm and 8:00am on Sunday 19/4/20 the outer pane of a double glazed window was smashed to a property in Maran Way. Sunday 19/04/20 whilst on cycle patrol on Manorway Green, a member of the public spoke to PC Pruden regarding a motor scooter, found parked in an alleyway in Goldcrest Close. Vehicle checks carried out by PC Pruden, came back to an address in Bledlow Close, where the scooter was stolen between the hours 4;00pm and 11:pm on Saturday 18/04/20. Monday 20/04/20 Felixstowe Road, a stolen motorcycle found. PC Pruden attended the motorcycle was recovered. A set of number plates were found in Crossway Park by a local resident, stolen from a vehicle in Bexley, were collected by the team and PC Pruden delivered the plates to the rightful owner". West Heath ward:- "One attempted burglary in Abbotts Walk on Friday 17/04/20 at approximately 4am. The occupant was woken by the sound of the inner porch door being tampered with. The occupant came downstairs and saw a male dressed in a grey tracksuit at the door. The occupant shouted at the male and he ran away in the direction of Brampton Road. A black Ford Fiesta was stolen by means of a burglary in Cumberland Drive overnight on Thursday 16/04/20 20.00 – Friday 17/04/20 10.00. Entry was gained via an implement used to pop the lock on the front door. Keys to the vehicle and house keys were also stolen. Theft from motor vehicle in Gipsy Road between Tuesday 21/04/20 – Wednesday 22/04/20 06.15. It is not clear at this stage if anything has been stolen as the car was rifled through. Theft of rear lights from a Mini Cooper parked in Gipsy Road on Monday 20/04/20 between Midnight and 10am. The team have made one arrest for theft this week. The team have continued to engage and advise members of the public during the Coronavirus and moving people on if necessary".

The end video this week features local stage school Theatre Box, who before the lock down were based in The Old Library in Walnut Tree Road, run by charitable community benefit society The Exchange. Email me at

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