Sunday, November 13, 2022


A couple of slightly unusual night shots of the newly completed Erith Pier Square, which I took a couple of nights ago. It is an impressive use of the space in front of the entrance to Erith Pier, albeit delivered extremely late. Further work to the area around Erith's river frontage is shortly to get under way. Bexley Council have announced that "Works to make the Erith High Street area by the Riverside Gardens safer and more pedestrian-friendly begin on Monday 14 November and are expected to last four months. The footpath next to the gardens will be closed to the public during this time, as well as some nearby on-street parking bays. This is so that the parking bays can be reconfigured to expand the gardens and improve access to the riverside. The footpath on the southern side of the road can still be accessed and alternative parking is available nearby on Walnut Tree Road, Stonewood Road and Saltford Close. Councillor Munur, Cabinet Member for Growth, said: The works will make the street area by the gardens safer and more pedestrian friendly with new crossing points and measures in place to reduce traffic speeds, as well as creating a more accessible bus stop waiting area.” JB Riney has been appointed as the main contractor. Further plans to improve the Riverside Gardens are expected to begin early next year. The Riverside Gardens project is being funded by the London Borough of Bexley and the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund." You can find out more by visiting the Greater Erith website.

Just for once, the News Shopper have published an in depth and (mostly) accurate report on the lack of pubs in Erith. You can read the article by clicking here. What do you think? Email me at

It would seem that the recent test sailings into London from Gravesend Pier, that I have previously reported may lead to a new river bus service. London's river bus operator UberBoat by Thames Clippers has ambitious plans to start a new route from Central London all the way to Tilbury, Essex and Gravesend, Kent in its first expansion beyond Greater London. Last week, the company announced it is one step closer to that goal as it has purchased Gravesend Town Pier ahead of the new service. It strikes me that the operators cannot have missed the possibility of also using Erith Pier as another potential river bus stopping point – something that I have covered extensively in the past. UberBoat by Thames Clippers had been testing the waters, literally, in Kent, with a number of one-off day trips into London on Saturdays to test the route's operational and financial sustainability ahead of committing to a full river bus route. A river bus link to the Thames Estuary is an important growth opportunity for the river bus operator as Tilbury en route has thousands of jobs in its ports being planned in the next year, yet Gravesend and Barking, which would also be on this new route, have higher than average unemployment. Linking the two could be vital to improving both the quality of life and local transport in the area. It is a similar driver of a tram project also being developed in the area. The Grade II*-listed, 39 metre-long pier is the world's oldest surviving cast iron pier, built in 1834 and restored in 2000. Until now it has been predominantly used by leisure boats and the Gravesend-Tilbury Ferry, which is the final public crossing point before the Thames reaches the sea. In August, Sean Collins, CEO of UberBoat by Thames Clippers told the MyLondon website that the ferry will continue to run from the pier and there would not be any immediate changes for locals using the crossing. Mr Collins said: "We are thrilled to take ownership of this historic pier from Gravesham Council. We will continue to appreciate its significance to the local community and will be investing in that community. We currently serve 24 other piers in the capital, five of which we own, manage and maintain ourselves. It is vitally important to us to maintain their heritage and make the Piers sustainable for the future, ensuring the local communities can benefit from the river transport links that they provide." UberBoat by Thames Clippers has been progressively expanding east, extending its main river bus route (RB1) to Barking Riverside, supporting 10,000 new homes at the new transit-oriented housing development, creating a new interchange with East London Transit buses and a new Overground station. The company also revamped its fares scheme, introducing a new flat fare cross-river tariff for short hops across the river in East London to encourage and support cross-river growth in the east. Two new, greener hybrid river buses are expected to join the fleet in the coming months. The Clippers' senior leadership team is hosting a public Q&A session on the pier on November 21 from 6.30-8pm. Members of the public are being invited to come and meet the team, and find out more about the future river bus route between London and Kent. Whether Erith Pier will also become a stop for the river bus is currently unclear – I am aware that there are a number of conflicting interests, and the engineering challenges to using the pier for passengers are not inconsiderable. As I have outlined several times before, the use of Erith Pier is not without its complications but a river commuter service from Erith into Central London would be a great benefit to many people, although as we know the number of people now commuting is greatly reduced as so many people now work permanently from home. Nevertheless, a river service to and from London would be a great asset to the local area and the people that live there. There are technical hurdles, including the fact that a floating pontoon would need to be added to the fixed concrete pier to allow vessels to dock whatever the state of the tide. Technically there are many challenges but none are insurmountable. It would all depend on the level of dedication and financial investment into improving the peer to make it suitable for community use. Currently the pier is used for leisure purposes for fishing and for the River police to dock there vessels on occasion. An expansion to become part of the commuter infrastructure for greater London would be a challenge. Nevertheless, if it was to come to pass, it would elevate Erith to be a far more important and vital commuter town within greater London and North Kent. there are considerable barriers to setting up a Thames Clipper / Uber ferry terminal on Erith Pier; the problems can be divided into two specific types. Firstly there are the engineering and physical challenges to enabling a ferry to dock at the pier. A free floating pontoon extension to the existing pier structure would be needed; this would project out into the deep water channel closer to the middle of the river. This would, however create problems of its own. Whilst the floating pontoon would enable ferries to dock at the the pier whatever the state of the tide was, it would also create a hazard to other shipping that uses the river. Commercial vessels, including cargo ships and bulk freighters use the deep water channel, and if a jetty was protruding into the channel, this might create a hazard to navigation, especially at night and at times of reduced visibility. There are several ways to manage this, the most obvious one being to make the floating jetty movable - to swing it out into the deep water channel only when a ferry was approaching the pier. Unfortunately this would add complexity, and therefore cost to the design, and for safety reasons would almost certainly require a supervising operator to be located on site. The jetty, whether movable or fixed, would require hazard warning lights, a fog horn, and a radar reflector. The pier itself would also require some shelters for waiting commuters to occupy in inclement weather - the wind coming off the Thames at Erith in winter can be absolutely bitter, not to mention the freezing rain. Who would foot the bill for all of the alterations and upgrades is uncertain - at this point it has not been debated. The second barrier to using Erith Pier as a landing place for Thames Clipper / Uber Ferries is actually by far the more difficult one - the bureaucracy and vested interests of the likes of The Port of London Authority, Morrison's Supermarket (who currently own the pier) and Bexley Council. I know from personal experience that dealing with these organisations, when any mention of Erith Pier is made, it tends to provoke the response of "The answer is no, now what is the question?"

The Exchange held their annual general meeting for members and community shareholders yesterday; there was also an open day and a number of events took place. You can read more on The Exchange website by clicking here

Another story involving the Dartford Crossing; A single speed camera in Kent has caught more drivers in a 12-month period than most others in the UK. The A282 Dartford Tunnel Approach camera was set off by speeding drivers almost 15,000 times in the last year, according to data acquired by This places the camera in the top 10 most triggered locations nationally and is the second busiest in the South East outside of London. It comes as the site claimed almost half of British road users have admitted to getting a speeding fine in the past. The Dartford Tunnel Approach Road camera was set off 14,423 times last year which equates to nearly 40 fines each day, or an average of more than 275 every week. A camera on the A40 in North West London topped the data and was set off almost 50,000 times in the same period.

Thamesmead and Belvedere Police have been active recently; they have uncovered and raided a very large cannabis factory in Thamesmead. Their announcement on Twitter reads:- "On Thursday 3rd of November officers from @MPSThamesmeadE @MPSBelvedere carried out a drugs warrant at an address in Abbey Wood. A substantial cannabis factory was discovered at the address. No arrests have been made at this stage but the investigation is ongoing".

Last June I wrote at some length about the serial killer, Robert Napper, who is also known as The Plumstead Ripper. There have been recent developments in his case which could possibly have solved an infamous Greenhithe murder, which may have been incorrectly attributed to another person. Robert Napper was the eldest child of Brian Napper, a driving instructor, and his wife Pauline. He was born in Erith in February 1966, and is considered to be probably the most notorious son of the town. Napper was brought up on the Abbey Road Estate in Plumstead. His background was troubled and dysfunctional. The marriage of his parents was violent and Napper witnessed violent attacks on his mother. His parents divorced when he was nine, and he and his siblings (two brothers and a sister) were placed in foster care and underwent psychiatric treatment. The psychiatric counselling Napper had at the Maudsley Hospital in Camberwell lasted for six years. At age of thirteen, Napper underwent a personality change after a family friend sexually assaulted him on a camping holiday. The offender was jailed, but Napper became introverted, obsessively tidy and reclusive, according to his mother. His Asperger's Syndrome was worsened by his experiences, and he began to develop Paranoid Schizophrenia. He attended Abbey Wood Comprehensive School, where classmates said he was “despised”. One said: “No one wanted to sit next to him in class. He did not have any friends and he was teased a lot about his spots. In a game of football once, when he headed the ball, the game stopped because no other boy would go near the boy after it had touched his forehead". Napper left school at 16 with qualifications in seven subjects, lived at home until the age of 21 and took a variety of manual jobs, including work as a warehouse man in the publications and forms store for the Ministry of Defence. His workmates considered him dull and boring: he turned up on time and did not speak much. But undetected by his colleagues and later, the police, his sexual deviancy became ever more extreme. It started with flashing and voyeurism, then it escalated into rape and finally into murder. Before he killed Rachel Nickell, Napper was suspected of four rapes, and he has since been convicted of three of them. Those rapes were part of a series of 106 sexual assaults known as the Green Chain rapes, in south London in the early 1990s near where he lived. It is now thought that Robert Napper may also have been the killer of Claire Tiltman (Photo above) in Greenhithe in 1993. A retired detective Alan Jackaman believes a potential miscarriage of justice led to the wrong man - Colin Ash-Smith - being jailed for life, according to a number of press reports. Claire Tlitman was stabbed forty nine times in an alley in Greenhithe in January 1993. Six months earlier, Rachel, 23, was knifed forty nine times in front of her two-year-old son on Wimbledon Common. Napper, 56, was not connected to Rachel’s killing until a 2004 DNA breakthrough. Mr Jackaman said forensic evidence suggested Claire’s killer was holding the knife with his right-hand. Napper is right-handed, whereas Ash-Smith, 53, uses his left. Mr Jackaman also says police dismissed Napper on the basis he lived in South East London not Kent, yet he could have been at the scene with a 21-minute four-stop train journey at the time. A suspect with a limp, like Napper was also overlooked, according to the former detective:- “If we are looking for modus operandi then look no further than Napper who’d follow lone females before attacking them.” Ash-Smith was jailed in 2014 after a supposed prison cell confession and without forensic evidence. At the time of writing it is unclear from the reports whether the case of the Claire Tiltman murder will be reopened. Napper in any case is spending the rest of his life in Broadmoor Hospital; recent accounts state that he is still highly delusional;  he erroneously believes he has a Master’s degree in Maths, had won the Nobel Peace Prize, been awarded medals for fighting in Angola and had millions stashed in a bank in Sidcup. He also believes that his fingers had been blown off by an IRA parcel bomb but had miraculously grown back. The only good news to come out of this sad and disturbing tale is that Napper will never be released from Broadmoor Hospital, and cannot further threaten the public. Comments and feedback can be sent to me at the usual address -

The end video this week is a documentary on Robert Napper and his murderous crime spree, and on how he was eventually caught by Police, but only after an innocent man was jailed for the crimes actually committed by Napper. Viewer discretion is advised. 

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