Sunday, May 19, 2024

Waste.


I took the photo above on Monday evening; it shows rubbish illegally fly - tipped in Appold Street, off Manor Road in Erith. A reader had alerted me to the incident. It would appear that the fly tipping occurred late on Sunday night, or very early on Monday morning. The relevant authorities were alerted, and thanks to the very swift and efficient action by local Councillor Stefano Borella, the mess was quickly cleared up. The blatant fly tipping is nothing new; for some reason the dead end that is Appold Street, adjacent to Morrison's car park in Erith is a favourite for the local criminal fly tipping fraternity. Appold Street is lined by historic terraced cottages and has a bridge which once went over the now long gone industrial narrow gauge railway that was used by nearby factories to transport materials. Nowadays it is also home to a Thames Water pumping station. It is frustrating and annoying for residents to have their home environment treated as a dumping ground. According to the most recently available statistics for fly-tipping in England which covers 2019/20 (detailed records were not kept during the Covid lock downs, hence the slightly old statistics) over 75,000 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) were issued for fly-tipping – an increase of 32 percent since 2016 when councils were given the power to issue fly-tipping FPNs. Prosecutions have also more than doubled over the same period, with total court fines last year totalling nearly £1.2 million. Councils in England dealt with 976,000 fly-tipping incidents, an increase of 2 percent from the 957,000 reported in 2018/19, with the most common size category being equivalent to a ‘small van load’ of waste (34 percent of total incidents), followed by the equivalent of a ‘car boot or less’ (28 percent). Head of Regulation at the Environmental Services Association (ESA), Sam Corp, said, in an interview in The Circular magazine - “Today’s figures show that fly-tipping is unfortunately on the rise, with nearly a million incidents in England alone during 2019/20. “Fly-tipping is one of the most common and pervasive environmental crimes, which affects not just the environment, but also has social, economic and health implications too. Regulating against this behaviour and prosecuting offenders is challenging and, coupled with relatively low penalties even when an offender is convicted, these factors unfortunately make fly-tipping a low-risk and high-reward crime.” In 2020 the government set up a new unit to tackle the most serious cases. The Joint Unit for Waste Crime is targeting the organised criminal gangs that make millions by dumping waste on an industrial scale. Councils are able to issue on-the-spot fines to fly-tippers of up to £400 and can stop, search and seize vehicles suspected of being used for fly-tipping. Local authorities and The Environment Agency are also able to issue penalties of up to £400 to householders who do not pass their waste to a licensed carrier and whose waste is then found fly-tipped. Fly-tippers can also be prosecuted and taken to court, which can lead to a significant fine and/or up to 12 months imprisonment if convicted in a Magistrates’ Court or an unlimited fine and/or up to 5 years imprisonment if convicted in a Crown Court. Fly-tipping prosecutions are “highly successful”, Defra says, with over 98 percent of prosecutions resulting in a conviction in 2019/20. The Environment Agency is also clamping down on waste crime and large-scale illegal dumping. A poll has been carried out by a furniture company into the public’s attitude towards fly tipping; the results, if accurate, are quite surprising. An astonishing seventeen percent of the people surveyed admitted having fly tipped on at least one occasion. Of that seventeen percent, the reasons they stated for their fly tipping broke down as follows:- 1. There is nowhere else to take rubbish (38 percent) 2. Unaware it was illegal (30 percent) 3. It was the easiest option available (28 percent) 4. The cost of disposing properly was too high (20 percent) 5. Because they didn’t realise they were fly-tipping at the time (16 percent). I find this utterly staggering, and frankly somewhat hard to believe; for a start, if the respondents were only allowed to pick one response, how come it adds up to 132 percent?. According to Government statistics, local authorities reported 852,000 cases of fly-tipping last year, and almost 98 percent of fly-tipping prosecutions resulted in a conviction. I feel that the responses listed above are actually covering the real truth. From my own experiences investigating fly – tipping, the proponents are well aware of what they are doing is illegal – but they just don't care, as they think the chances of them being caught are minimal at best. It is a cynical and exploitative attitude from criminals who should (and indeed sometimes do) get jailed for their activities. A recent survey conducted by The Environment Agency (EA) has uncovered evidence suggesting that nearly a fifth of all waste in England may be illegally disposed of. Another recent report by The Environment Agency (EA) revealed that approximately 18 per cent of waste in England is falling into the hands of criminals, stressing the urgent need for action to bring perpetrators to justice and safeguard both the environment and the economy. The figure accounts for approximately 34 million tonnes of waste across England annually, enough to fill up to an estimated 4 million skips. The report looked at a range of waste crimes, including the burning, fly-tipping, mis - description and illegal shipping of waste, alongside the operation of illicit waste sites. Industry research indicates that waste crime results in a cost of £1 billion on the English economy each year, stemming from various factors such as landfill-tax evasion, environmental and social damage and the erosion of legitimate business prospects. The EA highlights the economic benefits of increased enforcement resourcing. In a 2020 report, the agency uncovered that every additional £1 spent on waste enforcement would yield an estimated £4.96 back into the legitimate economy. The EA’s findings offer the necessary evidence for the agency to update and refine its enforcement methods in response to the ever-changing tactics employed by waste criminals. Dismantling criminal activity within the waste sector remains one of its top priorities. Steve Molyneux, the EA’s strategic lead on waste regulation, commented in a recent online interview that:- “Waste criminals put us all at risk every time they break the law. Their toxic crimes cause widespread and significant harm to people, places and the economy. The Environment Agency is facing well-resourced, highly organised criminals whose crimes stretch beyond the waste sector to include human trafficking, drugs and money laundering. We know crime in the waste sector is rife and this survey provides us with the evidence we need to help us stay one step ahead of the criminal gangs.”


From a report received last week, it would seem that the 96 year long story of Erith Rugby Club has sadly come to an end with the closure of the club, which was based on the sports ground in Sussex Road, Northumberland Heath. It has been struggling to attract and retain members for several years. If you have any further information on the situation, then please contact me at hugh.neal@gmail.com

A leading utility company boss made a statement last week which could lead to widespread legal, regulatory and compliance issues. Chris O’Shea, the chief executive of the British Gas owner Centrica, told a committee of MPs that smart meters should be compulsorily installed in all homes through a “street by street” programme, in order to cut the costs of creating a smart grid. O’Shea was speaking at a parliamentary hearing on how to make energy bills more affordable just weeks after government data revealed that almost 4 million smart meters have stopped working properly. He told MPs: “In order to have the proper smart grid – that is required to keep costs low in the future and have a responsive grid – everyone should have a smart meter. One of the things we should consider is whether this should be a voluntary programme or a mandatory programme. We have 1,700 smart meter installers and we would be happy to install smart meters for Octopus, for E.On, for anybody. We would split the UK up street by street, rather than customer by customer. If you mandated it, then we could have that change in programme. It could be done within the next five years or so.” I somewhat doubt this will actually happen, as it would be extremely unpopular and very hard to enact. 

Former champion darts player Andy Fordham's old pub in Dartford is up for sale. The Rose, which is located at 36 Overy Street has its lease up for sale for £65,000, although it is also believed that the pub can be purchased outright for £650,000. You can read the details by clicking here. Born in Erith on February 2, 1962, Andy Fordham was the eldest of a brother and two sisters. He grew up in Charlton and attended Charlton Manor Primary School and Eaglesfield Secondary School. He was a keen track-and-field athlete in his younger days and was nicknamed 'The Whippet' at school. He displayed an early aptitude for darts, taking up the game at the age of 16. Initially, he played in local pubs and clubs. Andy Fordham's crowning achievement came in 2004 when he entered the BDO World Championship as a firm underdog. However, his powerful throwing and unwavering self-belief propelled him to the final, where he faced the formidable Mervyn King. In a thrilling match, Fordham demonstrated his unwavering spirit, coming from behind to defeat King and claim the coveted title of BDO World Champion. The victory cemented his position as one of the greatest darts players of all time and earned him the nickname 'The Viking' due to his imposing stature and powerful throwing style. Fordham's health had long been a concern; at one point he weighed 31 stone (200 kg; 430 lb) and was in the habit of regularly consuming 24 bottles of lager and half a bottle of brandy before going on stage to play darts. He admitted to the media that he had felt more comfortable playing when not fully sober. In 2013, Fordham underwent bariatric surgery, successfully losing over 11 stone in weight. This transformation, coupled with his ongoing, mostly unsuccessful efforts to maintain sobriety, marked a new chapter in his life. On 15 July 2021, Fordham died in hospital from organ failure after a long battle with health problems. Fordham had been a very heavy drinker and was diagnosed with cirrhosis, with reportedly more than 70 per cent of his liver had been destroyed. He was only 59.

I have previously written about the problems that beset BBC Local Radio, with stations forced to share non - local programming after a series of cutbacks. Now that the latest RAJAR radio listening audience figures have been released, it would appear that the situation is even worse than I thought. for example, BBC Radio Kent continue to struggle since networking some of their programmes losing almost 13,000 weekly listeners (now 114,300) and 159,000 hours (now 448,400) marking the lowest numbers in over two decades. Ken Bruce has added 1.6 million listeners since joining Greatest Hits Radio, as commercial radio stations continue to eat into the BBC’s audience. Bruce left Radio 2 last year, saying the BBC had failed to offer him a new contract and he wanted a challenge. Aided by his regular PopMaster quiz, he has boosted the audience for his new mid-morning slot on Greatest Hits Radio by 73% in the last 12 months. It is not all doom and gloom on the radio front. Excellent Romford based Time 107.5 FM, which has a very large listener ship in Bexley made the following announcement last week:- "The latest official RAJAR listening figures are out, and we are pleased to say that we have now have more people tuning into Time FM and they’re listening for longer! It’s a significant increase that’s all down to our listeners… a 74% increase in listeners and how long they listen for! And that’s official! What we are doing is clearly connecting with listeners. We couldn’t be happier right now. We can’t do this without you, so we thank you for listening and being part of what we do. Thank you!"

The number of UK bank branches that have shut their doors for good over the last nine years passed 6,000 last Friday, and by the end of the year the pace of closures may leave 33 parliamentary constituencies, including Erith & Thamesmead - a constituency of 117,000 residents, with no bank branches whatsoever. This decline is driven by a shift in consumer behaviour. Online and mobile banking offer greater ease and accessibility, leading to fewer visits to physical branches. Banks are responding by consolidating their networks,  resulting in over 6,000 closures since 2015. Fresh rounds of closures are being announced every few weeks, with banks justifying the reduction of their networks on the grounds that customers are spurning traditional counter services in favour of banking online and via mobile phones. There have already been 200 closures scheduled for the rest of 2024, including 50 from NatWest, 43 from Lloyds, 28 from TSB, 26 from Halifax, 20 from Royal Bank of Scotland and 14 from Barclays. The number of lost branches is equal to 60% of the national network in place nine years ago. The impact falls most heavily on the vulnerable. Elderly customers, those in rural areas, and people with disabilities who may struggle with online banking are left with limited options. While banks argue they are providing alternative services like mobile banking support, the shift is not seamless for everyone. Concerns include:- Digital Literacy: Not everyone is comfortable or familiar with online banking systems. Security Fears: Some people have anxieties about online fraud and prefer the face-to-face interaction for sensitive transactions. Limited Internet Access: Rural areas and low-income communities may have unreliable or nonexistent internet access, hindering online banking options. These closures can create a sense of isolation, particularly for those who relied on in-person assistance for complex transactions or financial advice.  Furthermore, access to cash becomes a concern, as many shuttered branches were also the location of ATMs. The government has taken some steps to mitigate the impact. Regulations aim to ensure continued access to cash through a network of ATMs and post offices hosting banking hubs. However,  questions remain about the long-term viability of these alternatives, particularly in sparsely populated areas.

I need to ask local readers a favour. In a recent episode of BBC's popular house renovation programme "Homes Under The Hammer" a property in Erith was featured. I have watched the episode, but I have been unable to identify where in Erith the house in question is located. You can watch the episode by clicking here. Do you know where the house is? Please let me know.

The end video this week is some recently shot drone footage of Erith Pier. The creator of the video describes it thus:- "Erith Pier is the longest pier on the River Thames in London. Originally used for shipping it is now used for leisure and fishing activities. Good views along the river  (360 metres) constructed in the late 1950s - early 60's. Erith Pier is now popular with anglers, ship-spotters, and walkers wanting a bit of peace and quiet". Comments and feedback to me at hugh.neal@gmail.com