I took the photo above (click on it to see a larger version) shows workers once again clearing the blocked drains behind Morrison's supermarket in Erith. The vehicles have been a familiar sight to local residents for an exceedingly long time. The drains get blocked approximately once a week on average. The Thames Water drainage trucks are such frequent visitors that for many local residents, they have become part of the scenery. It is ironic that at the other end of Appold Street, adjacent to the old road bridge, there is a Thames Water pumping station, which hardly ever seems to get any official attention. It just goes to show that however much things change, they can also stay the same. I originally wrote about the drainage system that leads from Morrison's supermarket and into James Watt Way back in January 2012. I wrote: - "For the last couple of weeks, any shopper unfortunate to walk past the exterior of Erith Morrison's on the side of the building that has the windows into the restaurant area, and that contains the cash machines facing the car park cannot have missed one thing - the awesomely terrible pong. It was hard to describe in mere words; in the way that garlic is a highly concentrated onion, the stench was like that of an unflushed loo the morning after a night supping pints of Guinness, followed by an extra hot Brussels Sprout and Stilton Vindaloo. My nose hairs shrivelled at the overpowering smell. Anyway, the facilities team at Morrison's got a specialist drain company onto the problem. After sending remote controlled mobile "mole" cameras down the drains, they soon realised the problems were extensive. On Monday evening I saw the drainage engineers lowering a mole camera down a manhole in Wheatley Terrace Road; they spent several hours hunched over the monitors in their van, watching the small device inching its' way along, back towards the supermarket. The next day they were back, with a small fleet of vehicles parked adjacent to the cash machines in Morrison's car park. I asked one of the workers what was going on, and he said that the drainage pipe was blocked pretty much for its' entire length - which stretched from the main supermarket building all of the way to Wheatley Terrace Road - that's around a hundred yards of poo. No wonder it stank! All seems fine now, so the drainage engineers have obviously conquered the aromatic problem. Not a career I would choose, but as the old adage goes - where there's muck, there's brass". It would seem that in the intervening ten years, very little has actually changed. If you have any insight into this situation, please drop me a line to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A report was published last week by The Royal College of Surgeons, in conjunction with Transport for London. The report highlighted the large number of serious injuries caused by users of electric scooters. Transport for London said that 98 people were badly hurt and three killed in the capital riding the battery-powered scooters, which are illegal to use on public roads and pavements. TfL said the number of casualties had increased dramatically, from one in 2017, and now accounted for three per cent of all people killed or seriously injured on London roads. It came as the first medical study into the injuries suffered by riders - and pedestrians they crash into – found that many suffered “life-changing” wounds, with almost a third requiring surgery. The research found 105 orthopaedic injuries in 83 patients treated at three London hospitals - Chelsea and Westminster, Charing Cross and St Mary’s – between March 1 and November 30, 2020. It was said that many injuries were sustained late at night, with the rider not wearing a helmet or reflective clothing. More than 40 per cent of riders admitted travelling above 15 mph, and a third of the crashes happened on pavements. Four pedestrians were among the injured – including one person who fell over an abandoned e-scooter. Almost three-quarters of injuries were caused by falls, with the remainder resulting from a collision with a moving vehicle or stationary object. Six patients were found to have been drinking or on drugs. TfL chiefs regard the use of privately owned e-scooters as akin to the “Wild West”. The latest data on e-scooter injuries was presented to its safety committee last week. They were banned from the Tube and wider TfL network, including all buses, due to fire safety concerns last December.But this resulted in 258 “interventions” by TfL enforcement officers in the first month to prevent passengers bringing them on to the Underground, with two being prosecuted. TfL said there were 13 incidents of “work-related violence and aggression” involving passengers with e-scooters between October and December, up from seven in the previous three months.
Following my article on the clearing of the wasteland in Walnut Tree Road Erith, adjacent to Bexley College and opposite the Carnegie Library last week, I have had several responses from readers. One in particular came from long time reader and occasional contributor Brian, who wrote the following piece:- "Erith station is the only one in the London Borough of Bexley that doesn’t have a convenient shop to pick up a pint of milk or loaf of bread despite there being an obvious vacant space for it nearby. People who commute by train from Erith don’t have a shop close to the station to get those bits and pieces on their way home or other basic provisions. A small convenience store in that location would not only be used by commuters and people coming to work or study in the town but would probably be used by people who live in Stonewood Road/Cricketers Close, West Street, the new Erith Baths development, Bexley Road and around Christ Church. So it looks like it would have plenty of customers at all times.I understand that at least one well-known supermarket chain has shown an interest in the site. Everyone I have spoken to, such as local friends, think this is a really good idea". What do you think? Email me at email@example.com.
On another local planning and property related issue, it would appear that Lidl have not abandoned plans to redevelop the former Atlas chemical works site in Fraser Road, Erith, which they have owned for around five years. Lidl have applied twice for planning permission to demolish the mostly empty retail units on the site, and to construct a new supermarket, which is close to the Quarry housing estate, and would counter the monopoly that Morrison's has on the local area. On both previous occasions Lidl were denied their application, due to some obscure legal ruling. They have now applied for a variation, which has been granted. The ruling from the Bexley Council Planning Committee reads as follows:- "Variation of Access Rights at Fraser Road, Erith. Decision reference – G05-21/22 - Ward – Erith. Decision – To agree to Lidl’s request for the access rights to its landholding in Fraser Road, Erith to permit a wider range of uses (subject to planning permissions) (excluding residential) and to authorise the Head of Property & Facilities Management to finalise all necessary terms, and: The Deputy Director (Legal Services and Democratic Services) be authorised to undertake all actions and complete all necessary legal agreements to give effect to the agreed terms. Taken by – Councillor Cafer Munur, Cabinet Member for Growth. Date of decision – 28 February 2022" This effectively opens the way for Lidl to reapply for planning permission for the site, and will most likely get it in due course.
A person who was one of the key founders of Britain's internet revolution has died; a man whose name will mean nothing to many, yet whose work has transformed the lives of pretty much anyone who goes online. His name was Cliff Stanford, founder of Demon Internet, and he died last week. Demon Internet was a pioneer - and the first British mass market Internet Service Provider (ISP). Cliff Stanford was an entrepreneur from a very early age. As a child he had a paper round in his native Southend. In a bid to increase sales one of the papers offered a promotion to the kids delivering papers: whoever got the most subscriptions would win a bicycle. Cliff worked out that the cost of taking out a few subscriptions himself would win him the prize. He did this, sold the bike, and cancelled the subscriptions. His name wasn't always Stanford; he anglicised it from Spiegel. In doing so he took the opportunity to retake his driving test because his old licence had points on it. These stories reflect a combination of his always looking for an angle and being smart – very smart in both an insightful and street-smart way. Sometimes he thought so quickly he was hard to follow, which was risky because he didn't suffer fools: gladly or in any other kind of way. A keen chess player, he had a gift for languages. More than a gift, he saw the joy in comparing the etymology of one language with that of another. When millionaires say that they have started with nothing, there is usually a little shading of the story. Unusually for Stanford that wasn't the case with Demon. When, in 1992, he started what was to become the introduction to the internet for much of the UK, Stanford was bankrupt. But he crowdfunded the project. In these days of Kickstarter and Indiegogo that's not so unusual, but this was before widespread internet adoption. Crowdfunding has existed for hundreds of years, but Cliff was one of the first to take it online. Using an internet chatroom system called CIX, he created a group called tenner-a-month. CIX users had modems and were online, but access to the internet was only for universities, military establishments, and the biggest corporates. Stanford reasoned that if he could get 200 people to pay him £10 a month he could buy the £10,000, 64kbps leased line, some modems and some servers, and set up what was later to be known as an Internet Service Provider. He asked people on CIX to send him a cheque for £120, saying that if he gathered enough, he would launch the service. When he had 130 cheques, he reasoned that if he launched, he could pick up the missing 70. Which he did. And then a few more. What made Demon a success was not just the problem-solving and technology – of which there was a huge amount – it was the timing. Stanford launched Demon just as the world was starting to want internet access. The same proved not to be true of his later investments. In many ways he was a man ahead of his time, as one of his next large scale ventures soon proved. Stanford set up Redbus Investments because he "needed a vehicle" to fund new projects. Redbus Films envisaged a time when rather than watch movies in the cinema they might do so from home, downloading them from the internet. It made some original films. In March 1999, Stanford told advertising newspaper Campaign: "The local video store is destined to become a dinosaur as customers gain access to the vast library of films over the internet. The success of Demon Internet has its foundation in enabling the delivery of the internet to the masses, efficiently and cost-effectively. We intend to follow the same philosophy for the delivery of home entertainment." But it proved to be too early at a time of dial-up and limited broadband. Netflix launched streaming in 2007 and today has 221 million subscribers. By 2005, Redbus had unraveled spectacularly, and in September that year, Sandford was convicted of intercepting emails belonging to his former friend John Porter, son of the disgraced Dame Shirley Porter. He tried to claim his actions were legal, but after being given a suspended sentence and ordered to pay a fine of £20,000 and £7,000 in prosecution costs, a later appeal was denied. It is thanks to Stanford that so much of the UK got online early. He sold connectivity through dial-up modems when no one else thought consumers would be interested. Many of those who worked at Demon Internet have gone on to be very senior in telcos, infrastructure, and web giants today.
I have been reporting on the on / off nature of the proposed theme park to be built on the Swanscombe Peninsula, for around a decade. Originally it was to have been built for Paramount. The original plan for the theme park was that the theme park would have been the third largest in the World, covering an area in excess of 100 acres. Unlike the Disney theme parks, which concentrate on Disney only franchises, the Paramount park would feature franchises from outside the Paramount field, including but not limited to the BBC, Aardman Animations and the British Film Institute’s back catalogue. Franchises including the likes of Mission Impossible, Sherlock, The Italian Job, Star Trek, Spooks, Dr Who, Wallace and Gromit, The Godfather, Shaun the Sheep and huge amount more were originally slated to have a presence in the park. I understand that over seventy five percent of the rides were planned to be indoors, as the operators knew how unreliable British weather could be – this was a mistake made by Disney when they opened Disneyland Paris – they merely built a copy of their Florida theme park in mainland France, and most of the rides were in the open, which meant empty rides when it rained. The Paramount park would have had a 1,500 seat theatre for ‘West End quality shows’, exhibition, conference and gig space, 5,000 hotel rooms, a cinema and nightclubs, restaurants and bars and a giant water park. As I have written in the past, the park would have a massive economic and social impact on the entire South East region. The developers confidently expected (!) that the park would attract around 10 million visitors in the first year and around 15 million a year by the fifth, when there would have been more on offer. By way of comparison, Thorpe Park pulls in about 2.5million visitors a year. Paramount originally planned to also be open 365 days a year. The park would have also offered a lot of well-paying permanent jobs – several sets of figures have been bandied about over the last couple of years, but at least twenty thousand full time permanent roles would have been created. Subsequent to these ambitious plans, Paramount pulled out of the project citing operational issues that they could not see a way to resolve. The theme park plans have been proposed by over a decade, without a single brick being laid - the park was originally to have been opened in the Spring of 2022 - now, but of course nothing has happened. Following the departure of Paramount - and all of the high earning franchises listed earlier in this article, the project was dead in the water for some time, until a consortium of organisations that was headed by the BBC and ITV stepped in to rescue the project, which exists under a holding company called London Resorts Ltd. However, last Friday both the BBC and ITV announced that they were pulling out of the deal, citing major concerns about the environmental impact that the construction and operation of a theme park on the site would have. BBC Studios confirmed it was no longer involved with the project. Their statement reads:- "BBC Studios has no commercial agreement in place with London Resort and no current plans to enter into any agreement. We would only consider doing so should there be clear and decisive evidence that the project would have a net positive environmental impact." The ITV statement reads:- "ITV's arrangement with the London Resort was that we were a potential licensor of one of our children's brands, which was Thunderbirds. We can confirm that ITV no longer has a commercial arrangement with London Resort as the agreement has now ended. This means that Thunderbirds will not be a part of the park." It is apparent that the reason for both organisations for pulling out is primarily that they have serious environmental concerns - the Swanscombe Peninsula is home to a number of rare and protected animal and plant species, including one that is almost unique to the area; the Distinguished Jumping Spider is incredibly rare. The species is a conservation priority, and has been placed on the UK list of Biodiversity Action Plan species. In the UK, the spider's only other habitat is the West Thurrock Marshes in Essex. As well as the spider, the Swanscombe Peninsula is home to more than 1,700 invertebrate species, and a quarter of the UK's water beetles. The reedbeds and marshland also provides a vital habitat for wading birds and other marine wildlife, which activists say would be destroyed by the theme park. It would appear that the plans for the park are back on hold - and I would not be in the slightest bit surprised if this did not mean the permanent end to the whole theme park project. What do you think? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following my article last week on the resurgence in interest in Shortwave Radio following the crisis currently unfolding in Ukraine, I have had several emails from readers who have dug out long discarded Shortwave Radio receivers and have begun searching the bands for interesting signals and forgotten radio stations. It would appear that the hobby of Shortwave Listening is back on the increase after around twenty years in the doldrums. It is quite interesting that although many of the longest established international Shortwave Radio stations have ceased transmission in the age of the internet, On Thursday the BBC, which has ceased BBC World Service transmissions on Shortwave back in 2008, instead relying on the internet, announced that it has launched two new Shortwave Radio frequencies to make sure its news was available in parts of Ukraine and Russia after a TV tower in Kyiv was bombed and internet services restricted. The Shortwave services are broadcasting four hours of World Service English news per day. The BBC’s Shortwave Radio broadcasts can be found on 15735 kHz from 6pm to 8pm and on 5875 kHz from midnight to 2am, Ukraine time. Prior to this change in BBC broadcasting policy, few international broadcasters still transmitted their programmes via Shortwave, instead smaller, independent, and often volunteer run radio stations have taken up the mantle. I have in the past mentioned a popular station called Laser Hot Hits. Another station with a long history is Radio Mi Amigo which broadcasts (mostly in English) from Germany. Radio Mi Amigo describes itself thus:- "International radio station, owned and operated from Spain, with powerful Shortwave AM transmitters in the heart of Europe. 'Bringing back the Golden Era of Offshore AM Radio', Radio Mi Amigo International is broadcasting to the World: daily from 9 am - 7 pm on Shortwave 6085 kHz, FM (Spain only) and 24/7 online in HD Stereo. 'Soundtrack to a generation, presented by the team that lived it...' as the entire DJ crew actually served on the original offshore radio ships that housed legendary stations such as: Radio Caroline, Radio Mi Amigo, Radio North Sea International, Laser 558 and 'the Voice of Peace', learning and inventing the Free Radio trade as it came along. See our website for details and programme schedule. 'Europe's Nr.1 Oldies station': all the great music made- and played during the 'Golden Era of Offshore AM Radio"Our Shortwave signals on 6085 kHz and 3985 kHz, originate from a unique transmitter site, located just outside the Eifeldorf Kall-Krekel, Germany. The 3 'all-purpose' 1kW Rohde & Schwarz SK1 transmitters and antenna's we use and have used, are situated in a former police/army radio communication station, in a post-WWII bunker from the 60s, now in private hands.From October 30, 2016, Radio Mi Amigo was able to extend her airtime via a dedicated SW transmitter on the frequency of 6085 kHz, with daily broadcasting hours starting at 9:00 hrs and ending at 19:00 hrs (CET). Weekday programs consist of nonstop music from 'The Golden Era of Offshore AM -FREE- Radio', including our daily presented live programme 'Hello Europe!' daily at 14:00 hrs CET. Until recently this programme' was repeated on weeknights at 19:00 hrs via 3985kHz in the 75 meter band. From Friday till early Monday morning, all programmes on 6085 kHz from 9 in the morning until 7 in the evening, are presented live, in German, English and Dutch. The 6085 kHz and 3985 kHz signals serve West- and Central Europe. All programs can also be enjoyed online, 24/7, in full dynamic stereo, via 3 international web streams. The English programs are repeated throughout the night to accommodate listeners all over the world in other time-zones. Shortwave reception varies depending on the seasons and certain atmospheric conditions, such as solar activity. There are occasions when we receive reception reports from India, Russia and other faraway places". The end video this week is a tour of the transmitter site and operations centre for several privately owned and operated European Shortwave Radio stations, including Radio Mi Amigo. For anyone with even the faintest interest in radio broadcasting, this video makes for absolutely fascinating viewing. Comments to me at email@example.com.
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