I had the time to trawl through the three hour recording of
the People Scrutiny
Committee meeting I would eventually find councillor Danny Hackett commenting on
Tuesday’s fatal stabbing incident on his Lesnes Abbey patch. From memory he may have
thanked the police but suggested it might be about time that both they and
Bexley council started to take Thamesmead’s gang culture more seriously. I
remember that when I first met my MP Teresa Pearce nearly five years ago she said something very
similar about Thamesmead’s drug problem but had been told by the Borough
Commander that there wasn’t one.
Danny announced on Twitter that he and the police were going to be at Thamesmead’s Atrium Community Centre on Thursday afternoon so that residents could drop in with their concerns if they had any. He wandered over to tell me the same thing at the end of the ‘People’ meeting and although it may be a bit outside my usual blogging interests it would be churlish to ignore the invitation. One problem was that I had no idea where the Atrium was. Some research showed that it is no more than 200 yards from my home for the past 28 years.
My excuse is that it is the other side of the railway line and there is absolutely no need to go there. The adjacent satellite image includes both my house and the Atrium Centre. I’ve walked along the Green Chain walk to the left of the image loads of times but the parallel road was foreign territory to me.
The rain had only just stopped and it was getting towards dusk and the atmosphere there felt distinctly threatening. I was too timid to get my camera out of its case which was irrational and stupid; the only sign that there was anyone around was some shouting from an anonymous window.
The brutalist architecture is distinctly grim on a gloomy day; when I returned in today’s sunshine (Photo 1) it looked a whole lot better.
The 200 yards took me twelve minutes to walk because all the shortcuts (escape routes) have been blocked off and I had to go all the way up to Wolvercote Road (the scene of the murder) and then retrace my steps on a parallel path. In doing so I passed houses whose owners or landlords had tried to improve and some didn’t look so very bad. (Photo 2.)
Whilst the 1960s planners were manifestly insane and their legacy remains I wouldn’t like you to think the people are just the same although some may be. When I first lived a literal stones throw away I had my windows broken and two petrol bomb attacks. Other neighbours suffered car damage and burglaries and the culprits would make their escape directly across the electrified railway line. There was obvious drug taking in the nearby park. All of that stopped quite a long time ago. Whoever has been caring for Thamesmead has done a good job but further progress may be slow. As far as I know the area shown here is not scheduled for demolition.
At yesterday’s police display I not only met Danny Hackett, but I saw Teresa Pearce pass through as well as representatives of Peabody/Gallions Housing Association and Bexley council and maybe as many as six policemen.
They weren’t inundated with visitors but there was a steady trickle willing to pass on their views about their area, among them Brian Barnett whose photographs of the murder scene were published in the News Shopper.
When I asked one policeman about gangs he said that tackling them isn’t easy because most of them come from across the nearby Greenwich boundary. That’s not very different to what I was told twenty years ago before the local problems disappeared.