Several readers have asked me what is happening to the block that contains the new Erith Library, the Energie FItness gym and the residential apartments above. Last year work began to remove the hazardous cladding from the exterior of the building. I understand that the original cladding on the outside of the structure was deemed a potential fire hazard, following the Grenfell Tower disaster. When the removal works started, I was led to believe that the whole project would take six to eight weeks to complete; now a year later, workers are still on site and the scaffolding remains in place. Apart from the ugly scaffolding being an eyesore at the centre of Erith, there is a more worrying aspect; residents of the apartments have told me that they are unable to open windows to allow air in - the flats are not air conditioned, and in hot weather they can be unbearably hot and stuffy. The reason for this is that burglars are reported to have climbed the scaffolding to gain access to apartments, and thefts have resulted. If any reader has information as to why the remedial works to the block are taking so long to complete, then please Email me at the usual address, where your information will be treated in confidence - firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have written at some length in the past about criminals using cloned vehicle number plates to avoid paying the charge at the Dartford River Crossing. It turns out that the phenomenon of number plate cloning is now becoming a far wider issue. Cases of criminals found to have cloned cars to avoid detection have risen dramatically in London since the extension of the Ultra Low Emission Zone, a new report reveals. Previously unseen Transport for London figures exposed a 631 per cent rise in the number of cancelled penalty charge notices relating to vehicles using duplicate number plates following the October expansion of the zone. These are penalties originally issued to innocent drivers for failed ULEZ entry payments in their non-compliant vehicle that have been scrapped on appeal after the legitimate owner was proved that the offending vehicle was using copycat number plates, likely in a bid to cover up criminal activity rather than to simply avoid the £12.50 daily charge.The bigger potential catchment area - enforced by CCTV cameras - has highlighted the scale of vehicle cloning by criminals to evade detection in the capital and nationwide. The figures have been revealed by online car marketplace, heycar, which warned that already hard-pressed motorists are being hit with unfair PCNs for offences they didn't commit. It analysed data from TfL regarding the number of ULEZ PCNs being cancelled due to incriminating cars being clones of legitimate vehicles. These are tickets issued to genuine owners of vehicles that are not compliant with the emission charging zone (generally diesel cars older than 2015 and petrols older than 2006) that appear to have been captured driving within the ULEZ on Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras across the city. However, the cars caught on camera are using duplicate plates of the legitimate vehicle. The TfL records showed there had been 641 PCNs overturned for this reason from October 2020 to April 2021. Between October 2021 and April 2022, the number of cancelled charges was 4,687 - an increase of 631 per cent. The ULEZ was extended on 25 October 2021, increasing the boundary to 18 times its size, extending the potential catchment area from the Congestion Charge Zone in Central London out to the North and South Circular Roads. Comparing April 2021 - when lockdown restrictions were being lifted in England - with the same month this year, the data shows a 857 per cent increase (up from 61 fines to 584) in overturned PCNs relating to cloned vehicles. Car cloning can take various forms with a criminal either physically stealing a registration plate from a similar vehicle or having a fake plate illegally made to put on a model is similar description. They use a number of different tactics to identify suitable cars to clone, including scouring sales websites to search for a vehicle that matches the description of their own before buying illegal matching plates to steal its identity. Anyone who fails to make an appeal face a ULEZ PCN charge of £160, which is reduced to £80 if paid within 14 days. Car cloning is part of a wider increase in vehicle crime in the last few years.In total, 88,915 vehicles in England and Wales were stolen in the 12 months to 7 March 2022, according to the 34 police forces that responded to a Freedom of Information request from the PA news agency. That works out at an average of 244 thefts a day. The biggest year-on-year increase was in South Yorkshire, where there was a 28 per cent rise in stolen motors. Car owners have also had to get smart in the battle against keyless car thefts as well as face a growing number of parts thefts, namely catalytic converters ripped from the underside of petrol vehicles. Commenting on the findings, heycar's consumer editor Sarah Tooze said TfL cloning figures are the 'tip of the iceberg' as some drivers are unable to prove their innocence to authorities. "Many drivers are unable to provide the evidence TfL requires to cancel the PCN due to the vehicle being a clone. Appealing the PCN process can also be complicated and intimidating, which means many more victims will pay the fine to avoid the stress and end the matter". The true number of cloned cars in London and elsewhere in the UK will be much higher but there are no official, national statistics which are publicly available.'We are urging the DVLA to publish car cloning figures so drivers can see the true scale of the problem within the UK. There needs to be greater transparency around this serious crime and tighter regulations to help prevent innocent motorists being stung with fines or, worse still, losing thousands of pounds by unknowingly buying a cloned vehicle.'
Robert Turp was an officer in the British army during WWII. After Germany’s surrender, he was part of an army weapons intelligence team called MI-10 that travelled the British occupation zone examining captured German armaments. He was later the First Defence Attache to South Korea. After leaving the army, he purchased a firearms manufacturing and reconditioning workshop in Bexleyheath, just behind Bexleyheath Broadway; he later added an office in the City of London. He also had a warehouse in Belgium, where he stocked items that would have caused him legal problems with the authorities in the UK. Usually just known as “Major Turp”, in particular he sold weapons around Africa, developing something of a knack for supplying newly-independent nations on the continent. His arms company was called International Ordnance, and was registered in Jersey. The photograph above shows him in the Bexleyheath workshop posing with some of the weapons that he sold - click on the photo for a larger view. On a more grim note, he also had a knack for exploiting corruption in these new countries. He was attributed the quote “where arms are concerned, the newer and blacker the country, the greater the graft.”. This did not go unnoticed and in 1966, a petition to P.M. Harold Wilson suggested Britain ban private arms dealers entirely; with Major Turp specifically cited by name as an example why. Major Turp’s most public moment came when he refused to sell guns to 1970s Rhodesia. While he received accolades, his decision was rooted less in morality and more in self-interest: it appeared at the time that Britain and Rhodesia might come into conflict, and he was concerned about criminal charges that might be brought against him if guns he sold ended up used against British troops. Turp’s final notoriety came in 1992. A German arms dealer at the Sheraton hotel in Sofia, Bulgaria contacted Turp and inquired if he’d be interested in brokering a sale of weapons grade plutonium; presumably to Iraq. Turp declined and notified British authorities. A shady and morally dubious figure, he was a minor local celebrity who many would rather have not existed. Turp wrote a "tell all" book in 1972 which he called "Gun Runner" - about his life as an international arms dealer who based himself in Bexleyheath. There are indications that Robert Turp had some input into the design of "Project Babylon" - the Iraqi super gun that was being built for Saddam Hussein by renegade gun designer Gerald Bull, until he was murdered. Gerald Bull was assassinated outside his sixth-floor apartment in Brussels on March 22, 1990, by two assassins who pumped five 7.65mm bullets from a silenced gun into his neck and back and then escaped. It was believed that this was the work of Mossad who feared Bull’s super gun could be used against Israel using chemical and potentially nuclear projectiles. It has since been revealed that senior Israeli intelligence officials have claimed responsibility for the assassination, something that almost never is admitted. In 1985 Bull had been given the long-hidden designs of a legendary German super cannon of World War I. Called the Kaiser’s Paris Gun, it had been fired with devastating effect. At the war’s end, the Germans had dismantled it and hidden the plans. According to Robert Turp, Bull also had reconstructed British reports on two captured Nazi super guns of World War II, including the so-called “V-3,” envisioned by Hitler as a terror weapon to be used against England with the V-1 buzz bomb and the V-2 rocket. Built on the French coast, the V-3 was destroyed by RAF bombers before it could be used. Robert Turp said he and Gerald Bull spent long hours discussing the reports on the Nazi designs. It is thought that the Iraqi super gun design was based on the WWII German V3 gun plans which Turp had uncovered during his time in military intelligence just after the war.
In the past I have published some quite extensive criticism of the roll - out of Smart energy meters; it would appear that a number of newspapers have now picked up on this contentious issue; the problem with Smart meters could potentially affect a large number of UK residents. The Smart meter criticism began after a homeowner complained to the Guardian that her smart meter became “uncommunicative”, with issues beginning just before the April 1st gas tax increase. Her claims sparked similar stories from many others, who also said their smart meters had stopped working. The complaints have led residential estate manager John Curtis to describe the meters as a “government fantasy”. Smart meters have been branded as an “absolute scandal” that wasted “millions of taxpayers’ money” as customers put forward complaints that their meter has stopped working. A residential estate manager has called Smart Meters a 'scandal'. The Smart meter criticism began after a homeowner complained to the Guardian that her smart meter became “uncommunicative”, with issues beginning just before the April 1st gas tax increase. Her claims sparked similar stories from many others, who also said their smart meters had stopped working. The complaints have led residential estate manager John Curtis to describe the meters as a “government fantasy”, The Express reports. Curtis said: "Smart meters are an absolute scandal – millions were spent, yet the majority here are now useless. We have to read almost all of them and are frequently required to provide dated photographs for all phases plus the total, on each meter - sometimes four photos for each reading - since the power companies don’t trust customers to provide accurate readings. Another example of taxpayers’ money wasted on a government fantasy, with unproven technology rolled out nationwide with an almost entirely negative result. The money would have been better spent continuing to employ meter readers instead of devolving this increasingly irksome task to customers." However, in a statement released to the Guardian, Shell energy argued that “As is the case across the industry, a small proportion of smart metering equipment can lose communication. Where the cause of the fault can be identified and is within our control, we work to resolve the issue as swiftly as possible. Where the issue is beyond our control, we work with our industry partners to try to address these". Head of regulation at Uswitch.com Richard Neudegg also says that some smart meters may be operating in “dumb mode”, where they must be read by a customer or a professional. Neudegg described the amount smart meters installed as an “impressive milestone”, but issues such as “dumb mode” means there’s “still a lot of work to be done.” An independent survey by Populus that gathered the views of more than 10,000 people found that less than half of those who didn’t yet have a meter said they would want one installed within the next six months. Negative coverage of the meters including on the BBC’s Watchdog consumer affairs programme may also have dampened householders’ enthusiasm. In July 2018, MPs called on the Government to urgently review the smart meter roll-out which they said was 'over time, over budget and mismanaged'. The British Infrastructure Group of MPs and Lords warned that half of smart meters stop working when customers switch supplier, while a tenth were not functioning due to poor mobile phone signal. The average annual saving on a gas and electricity bill by 2022 was estimated in 2014 to be £26, but this has now been reduced to just £11, MPs said. Smart Meters primarily benefit the energy companies, because they no longer need to employ meter readers.
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