Sunday, February 14, 2021

Community Shares.

Something new, exciting and rather unusual this week; After several years of intense development and planning work, the not for profit Charitable Community Benefit Society The Exchange, who run the Old Carnegie Library in Walnut Tree Road, Erith, have just launched their ground breaking and ambitious project to establish a community shares programme, to engage local people in becoming part of the community and social enterprise. You can read the News Shopper story on the community shares launch by clicking here. Before I explain the details, I do need to make it very clear that I have a vested interest; I am a board member and shareholder with The Exchange, though I receive no monetary or benefit in any kind for my role - it is entirely voluntary and unpaid. With that said, The Exchange published the following press statement explaining exactly what the community share offer actually means:- "The Exchange need to raise the final £130,000 to complete the renovation works at Erith’s Old Library. To do this, the not-for-profit organisation is asking local residents to become owners of The Exchange. Over the past 3 years, The Exchange has secured over £3.5 million for the repair and renovation of the building, and to kick-start a community programme of workshops, markets, festivals and music. In the year before closing as a result of the pandemic, The Exchange received over 25,000 visits from people taking part in the programme or visiting its Bookstore CafĂ©. During the pandemic, the social enterprise worked with Bexley Council and Orbit Housing to deliver emergency hot meals to the most vulnerable in the community, and has focused on delivering a second-phase of renovation works that will bring the entire historic old library back into community use. The building works, delivered by local company GA Harpers and designed by Robin Lee Architecture, are scheduled to complete in late March, with The Exchange reopening to the public in late April / early May, depending on government restrictions. At this point, it is over to The Exchange and local residents to fit the building out using new Craft Skills Workshop spaces for Woodwork, Ceramics, Print, Textiles and Gardens. This approach builds on the community heritage of the Old Library, where back in 1906 local people were responsible for the designing and building of this impressive historic structure. The final £130,000 is needed for all the really special features that people want to see restored, including the Edwardian toilets, the mosaic featuring the town’s coat of arms, and the wrought iron railings that were previously removed. To raise this final amount, The Exchange is asking local people not to donate to the project, but to invest in it, through Community Shares. By investing local people will become owners of The Exchange, and will become stakeholders invested in ensuring that The Exchange succeeds for its community. Investments start at just £20, and organisations as well as individuals can invest. Every investor will have an equal vote and a say on the important issues facing The Exchange and its work in the community. You can also stand for and be elected to the board, and in a few year’s time, get your money back. For everyone giving over £100, you also get 30 percent tax relief and 3 percent annual interest on your investment. The Exchange has also received support from the Booster Programme, which is funded by Power to Change. With this support every £1 invested by the community, will be matched by the Booster Programme up to £75,000. The Old Library was built in 1906, funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and designed by local architect William Egerton. It was built with the aim of providing people living in the District of Erith (now North Bexley) with the opportunity for learning and advancement. The building reflects the incredible craft and trade history of the local area. The bricks were made locally, the windows are early example Crittal windows first fabricated in Sidcup, the timber work crafted by the Thames Steam Saw Mills down Erith’s West Street. The building served as library for over 100 years, and as a local museum since the 1930s, when Librarian Florence Young expanded the building’s remit to look at local heritage, and to introduce an outreach programme using the first custom-built Travelling Library Van. In 2009, the building was closed owing to major dilapidations and a lack of funds to deal with them. The library moved into modern premises, and the museum collection to storage as part of the Bexley Council Museum Collection. For 10 years the building remained closed, until February 2019 when The Exchange partially reopened the building. The Exchange is a Charitable Community Benefit Society, founded in 2016 by local residents who approached Bexley Council with an idea of what the derelict Old Library could be in the future. Since then, the organisation has worked with other local residents to build a programme for the Old Library that celebrates local heritage and cultures, empowers local people, and tackles the issues our local area faces including lack of cohesion and mental health challenges that are being exacerbated as a result of the pandemic. Although currently closed to the public, The Exchange has run a digital programme and delivered much-needed services during the pandemic. It is set to reopen as soon as it is able to do so. The Exchange has a 50-year lease on the Old Library. And won best charity / social enterprise 2020 in the Bexley Business Awards. The repair and renewal works are being carried out in partnership with Bexley Council, which owns the building. The first phase of building works was funded by London Borough of Bexley and the Greater London Authority, delivered by contractors Lengards. The second phase is funded primarily by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Bexley Council, and being delivered by Dartford-based contractor GA Harpers. The Old Library building project forms part of Bexley Council’s Greater Erith Regeneration programme". The Exchange also add, on a more personal note:- "We believe Erith’s best days lie ahead. We think that if more of us start to believe this and act like they are, then they will be. We’re throwing away the cynicism that says that good things don’t happen in places like Erith, and that local people can’t work collectively to make things better in the place we all call home. You’ve given us encouragement and support that has been vital at every stage of the project to get The Exchange open at the Old Library. And now, we want to make you an offer: help us get the project completed and we’ll give everyone who supports us ownership of The Exchange, and control of the Old Library building. It won’t belong to the council, it won’t belong to the Board, it won’t just belong to the current Members or the ‘usual suspects’. It will 100 percent belong to you, the Members, for as long as you want it. Doing whatever it is you want it to do and being whatever it is you want it to be. Local matters more than ever There has never been a better or more important time to invest in local, and Community Shares are an incredibly effective way of doing so and having your say in how your local area develops. This isn’t another project that talks a good game but fails to deliver, because the people driving everything ... are you". A link to download the complete Community Shares information leaflet is here. In addition, More information regarding The Exchange and the Old Carnegie Library can be downloaded by clicking here. If you watch the end video this week, you will see a short promotional film that details the community shares programme - and how you can be involved for an investment as little as £20 - and become a part owner of the social enterprise. There is also a "blink and you will miss it" appearance by yours truly. Sorry about that! More later.

The Homes and Property section of the London Evening Standard is one of the most popular parts of the daily London free paper. Last week they ran an article with the strap line:- "London areas for 2021 home buyers: Highgate, East Sheen and Belvedere among the top locations. Leafy locations seeing renewed interest from pandemic buyers across London this year". Moving straight on to the part of the article featuring Belvedere, the piece continues:- "Belvedere, south-east London - Between Abbey Wood in Bexley and Erith in Kent, Belvedere is popular with first-time buyers, families and buy-to-let investors. Teacher Jenna Stonebanks is looking to buy in the area with her husband Dean and says the green outdoor spaces are a big draw. Having lived with family for around two years to save, the couple are ready to start their property search. “There are huge parks for the kids — I take my niece and nephew there quite a lot,” says Jenna. “It’s got good transport links but is far enough out that you don’t feel the hustle and bustle, there are little villages in it like Upper Nuxley which is lovely. People buying in Belvedere are not necessarily starting their search here, they might search south Bexleyheath or Welling with a mile radius then see the price difference,” says Jack Clyde of Robinson Jackson. Popular roads in the area include Bedonwell Road which has Thirties semi-detached houses a quick walk from the nursery on the same road. “It’s a spine road, so really any road off that one is a good choice,” says Clyde. £375,000: a three-bedroom house with 40ft garden for sale in Upper Holly Hill Road, Belvedere What can you buy? Two-bedroom Victorian terraces in Alfred Road for around £310,000 or three-bedroom semi-detached houses from £380,000 to £400,000. Schools: Bedonwell Infant and Nursery School is rated outstanding by Ofsted. There are well-rated Grammar schools in Welling, Bexleyheath and Dartford". Quite - and I can mentally hear some of my readers inwardly wincing when they read the text above; the editorial team at the Standard were definitely not on the ball when they sense checked the article. Quite where "Upper Nuxley" is meant to be is anyone's guess. I suspect that it is a portmanteau of Upper Belvedere and Nuxley Road. A lot of people, some long – time local residents included, call Nuxley Road in Upper Belvedere “Nuxley Village” – even though no such place has ever existed since the beginning of recorded time. The origin of the names of the  places in the local area, and some of the surrounding landmarks dates back to the early fifteenth century, and the name Belvedere even earlier. The area of Bedonwell gets its name from the Bedon stream, which runs through what is now known as Streamway; the Bedon is a minor tributary of the River Thames, which is now run through an underground drain for much of its length. A fifteenth century form of the name was Beton Well, meaning “praying well”. The exact origin is lost in the mists of time, though the old English word “bydan” meaning a shallow valley may have something to do with it. On the South side of the stream was a further area of open heath land, called Nuxley or Little Heath, which occupied an area around what was later Bedonwell Primary School (and is now a Doctor’s surgery and private flats). The name Nuxley was sometimes spelled Naxley, which in turn is a corruption of Knocksley, meaning a small hill. Nuxley Road was originally named Bexley Road, until March 1939 when it was renamed as Nuxley Road, which it remains to date. There is no record of Upper Belvedere ever having been named Nuxley Village, and parish records for the area date back to 1235 AD, and survived the reformation, when ownership of the parish was transferred from Lesnes Abbey to the owners of Parsonage Farm (on what is now Parsonage Manor Way). During the late 19th century, Parsonage Farm was owned by the Vinson family, who were at the time rich and powerful enough to issue their own trade tokens (a kind of informal local currency). There are records that beer houses such as the Fox, and full pubs such as the Eardley Arms took trade tokens for payment for food and drink until sometime around 1900. The farm buildings, which were  constructed in the Middle Ages (principally to provide food and drink for Abbot and Monks at Lesnes Abbey) lasted until the end of WWII, when it was used to house an auxiliary fire station. After the war the building was so derelict it was demolished. Thus, the name “Nuxley Village” is a construct – a fictional creation of local estate agents who have no knowledge of the history of the area. Upper Belvedere has been so called for at least the last 786 years, and the thoughtless action of a handful of ignorant house peddlers is not going to change facts any time soon.

As I have previously written, the Barclays Bank branch in Erith Riverside Shopping Centre - the only remaining bank in the town - was scheduled to close down for good on the 24th of February. The management of the local branch seem to have jumped the gun somewhat - as the branch would appear to be already closed. I took the photograph above (click on it to see a larger image) early last week when the bank was supposed to be open, but as you can see, the shutter was most firmly down. At the time of my visit, the ATM units were still working - as I saw a lady withdraw some cash. How long the ATM's will continue to operate is currently unknown. I have heard some speculation as to the reason for the early close down, but no concrete information at the time of writing. If you have any insider knowledge that you would like to share in confidence, then Email me at

I don't know if you have noticed over the cold period, that however much snow and ice lays on the pavements of the U.K, there is one area that remains permanently precipitation free. Any guesses? The cast iron manhole covers over the sewerage system. It does not seem to matter where you look, the sewerage system is frost free. The reason for this is down to some fairly complex biochemistry governing the breakdown of organic matter to release nitrogen compounds. In more base terms, poo generates heat. All clever stuff - all I need to do now is work out a way to turn it into a viable alternative energy source - one could say that it was a green alternative to conventional power generation, though to my mind calling it brown would be rather more accurate. The chaps on Top Gear created a car powered by methane released from poo quite some time ago; if memory serves, it was not exactly that successful. Still, as the old saying goes "Where there's muck, there's brass".

You may recall that I broke a story back on the 28th of October 2018, that the Bright Steps children's nursery that had been located at 33A Bexley Road, Erith had lost a legal appeal to the withdrawal of their licence to operate by official regulator Ofsted. The nursery had been closed after a member of the public witnessed a staff member smacking a child. Ofsted and Bexley Police immediately launched an investigation into the incident, which involved examining CCTV security video recordings made in the Bright Steps nursery. It was eventually established that the owner and operator of the nursery, Mr. Saula Ogunkoya had deleted the video footage in order to cover up the assault. The Judge, when summing up the case, said:- "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". A very clear message was sent from the court in relation to Saula Ogunkoya's suitability to operate a children's nursery. I, along with many local people had considered the matter now closed, but evidence has emerged over the last few days which gives further cause for concern. A new nursery then opened on the same site, using the same rooms as the Bright Steps. The new nursery is called Violet Daycare - you can see their website here. It has come to light that this relatively new nursery would seem to be suffering from problems not dissimilar to its predecessor. After a regulatory inspection by representatives of Ofsted on the 20th of January; subsequent to this visit, Ofsted published the following judgement on the operators of the Violet Daycare nursery. The report reads:- "On 20 January 2021, we carried out a regulatory visit. We found the provider was not meeting some of the requirements. We have served a welfare requirements notice. This is a  legal notice that requires the provider to take the actions below within the timescales set out. We also found that the provider had failed to notify Ofsted of a significant event, which is a requirement of their registration. The provider is still registered with Ofsted. The provider will be able to give parents further information about this. The provider is still registered with Ofsted. Actions needed by 19 February 2021:- *Improve the Nominated Individual's knowledge of the safeguarding and welfare requirements. *Improve systems for monitoring the suitability of all staff, including the manager, to ensure they remain able to fulfil the requirements of their role. *Ensure there is a named deputy who is qualified and capable to take charge in the manager's absence. *Ensure that all staff have the required training and skills to meet the safeguarding and welfare needs of all children. *Improve staffing arrangements to enable effective deployment of staff to meet the needs of all children. *Ensure there are sufficient staff available to work directly with the children. *Ensure that there is at least one member of staff present that holds a full and relevant level three qualification. *Improve systems for recording accident and incidents and any first aid treatment given. This includes ensuring accidents are notified to parents as soon as reasonably practicable. *Ensure children's behaviour is managed in an appropriate way. *Ensure that the premises, including overall floor space and outdoor spaces are fit for purpose, this relates particularly to the electrical safety of the premises. *Ensure that resources provided in activities are suitable for the age and current development needs of all children, particularly the youngest children. *Ensure children have daily access to an outdoor play area or that outdoor activities are planned and undertaken on a daily basis. *Improve systems to ensure that effective arrangements are in place to support children with additional needs. *Provide Ofsted with the required information to check the suitability of all adults who are partners in the organisation, or a director, secretary or other officer or members of its governing body. *Improve the Nominated Individual's knowledge and understanding of significant events or changes that must be notified to Ofsted. We will monitor the provider's response to ensure the actions are successfully completed. In addition, we suspended the provider's registration because we believe children may be at risk of harm. Suspension allows time for the provider to take steps to reduce or eliminate the risk of harm to children. The provider has a right to appeal against a suspension. The provider may not provide childcare for which registration is required while the suspension is in place and may commit an offence if they do so". Onerous stuff, indeed. You can read the full complaint, and the summary of outcome document by clicking here. Comments and feedback to me at

I took the photo above on Friday afternoon, at the junction of Appold Street and James Watt Way, behind Morrison's supermarket in Erith. It shows engineers from Thames Water and a drainage contractor once again clearing the drains that lead from the supermarket to the Thames Water treatment plant and pumping station underneath the bridge on the corner of Appold Street and Crescent Road. Historically, the drain in question has suffered from severe blockages over the last decade or more - the drainage contractor can be seen on site, clearing the drains at least twice a week. It strikes me that it would be almost certainly cheaper and more convenient for all involved parties to agree to completely replace the affected drainage - the cost of regularly clearing the pipework must have long ago exceeded the cost of rebuilding and replacing it. 

Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly the report from Barnehurst ward:- "There have been no burglaries however, there was a report of an attempted burglary in Three Corners overnight on Saturday 6/02/2021 where a glass panel of the front door was found smashed. The victim found nothing disturbed or taken from the property. There have been no reports of vehicle crime for Barnehurst Ward over the past week. On Tuesday 2/02/2021 In Eastleigh Road a resident reported the roof of a plastic shed had been removed, nothing was taken from the shed itself". Belvedere ward:- "There have been two recent reports of theft of catalytic converters on the ward – in Gertrude Road and also in Regent Square. A dark coloured vehicle with three or four male occupants has been observed committing these offences. Over last weekend the team completed several patrols around both Clive Road / Upper Abbey Road and Lower Road/ Picardy Manorway (underpass). Both are areas where we have been made aware of suspected drug use/ dealing. Our patrols resulted in two stop/searches (one in each location) and two people dealt with for possession of cannabis. Working jointly with Thamesmead East SNT and Thamesmead Moorings SNT, the team took part in a traffic operation in Yarnton Way last week. This resulted in one male being arrested on suspicion of theft, going equipped to steal and possession of an offensive weapon. A second male was found in possession of a controlled substance and was also dealt with". Belvedere ward:-"Good news there has been no reports of any burglaries or attempted burglaries on the ward recently. Between the Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th February, there was a report of a large part of fencing was removed to gain access to Martens Grove Park. Police were called to Mayplace Road East on Saturday 6th February between 2 pm & 2:30 pm, there was a report of females spray painting cars as well as street furniture. There was a report of a theft of motorbike at Eskdale Road Bexleyheath, which took place overnight on the Wednesday 3rd February between the hours of 9 am and 6:30 pm the next day. On Tuesday 2nd February along Wenvoe Avenue, there was a report of a theft of catalytic converter from the victim's vehicle, time was between 8:8 pm and 8:25 pm". Crayford ward:-"Thankfully, no burglaries this week.  But there have been motor vehicle crime.  On Wednesday 3/02/2021 between 00:01 and 07:30 a white Ford Transit, registration NA60 ORJ was stolen from Maiden Lane.  It had been left locked and secured and the victim has the keys.  Also stolen with the van were the following items, drills, two hoovers (wet and dry), hand tools, cleaning liquid, bathroom cleaner, pressure washer for walls, two carpet cleaning machines, jet washer and painting materials. On Thursday 4th February at approx. 20:55 a grey Fiat 500, number plate RX70 KHP was criminally damaged with intent by two Males in Maiden Lane, it was parked between Beech Walk and Iron Mill Lane.  There is CCTV of this offence and the investigation is ongoing. A bag was stolen from a white Ford Transit number plate EK58 LBP whilst parked in Hillbrow on the Friday 5th February between 18:00 and 20:00. Please try to stay at home in the coming days, not just because of Covid, the pavements are treacherous and compacted with ice". Erith ward - no report this week. Northumberland Heath ward - no report this week. Slade Green and Northend ward - no report this week. Thamesmead East ward:- "No burglaries or Vehicle crime this week. Good News - Excellent partnership working, information received from a housing officer at Peabody Housing Association regarding youths smoking cannabis on the stairwells, officers attended Radley House, Wolvercote Road on Saturday 6/02/21, three persons were stopped and searched". West Heath ward:-"I am pleased to report that the ward has not suffered any burglaries over the past week, however, there have been three Theft from Motor Vehicles, one Vehicle Interference and one Theft of Motor Vehicle. On the Tuesday 2nd, February between 21:00 and 07:00 hours on Wednesday a catalytic converter was stolen from a vehicle in Cumberland Drive. In Gipsy Road between 0:800 and 11:42 on Friday 5th, February cigarettes and tobacco were stolen from a vehicle.  On the Monday 8th, February between 21:00 and 06:15 Tuesday vehicle registration plates were stolen in Downe Close. On the Saturday 6th, February between 09:00 and 09:43 in Brixham Road it was reported that a male was captured on CCTV trying car door handles. At around 04:52 on Saturday 6th February, a vehicle was stolen in Brampton Road".

As mentioned earlier on in this update, the end video this week is a short promotional and explanatory film regarding the community share offer by The Exchange. Email me at

Community Shares from the exchange erith on Vimeo.

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