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Bonkers Blog August 2018

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31 August (Part 2) - No Crossrail this year. Abbey Woodn’t

Oh, no! It's going to be nearly a year late. Will it mean another twelve months of taking pictures?


Rumours that Bexley Council is responsible because their public realm works around the station are running eight or nine months late are probably not entirely true, but it is a lucky break for them.


31 August (Part 1) - The Bexley Bully

Gill StewardThere have been remarkably few leaks of information about the premature departure of Bexley’s Chief Executive Gill Steward whose last day of service is today, but the fact that Bexley Council is in lock down mode refusing all questions and Freedom of Information requests tells you just one thing, the villain of the piece must be Council Leader Teresa O’Neill.

Piecing together the very few comments from inside Bexley Council one can conclude that the Leader is a world class bully who has to get her own way. The allegation is that she would not listen to advice from the Chief Executive and eventually the rows became too heated. Previous more talkative senior officers have said that the Leader can sack them at any time and that is what appears to have happened in Gill’s case.

Naturally she would have threatened an industrial tribunal the answer to which would be a hefty bribe wrapped up in yet another gagging order.

Looking back over the past two years there have been occasions that made one think that the Chief Executive must be acting under duress; why was almost her first action to pick a fight with Bonkers thereby ensuring her a bad press? She barely knew who I was and had never even seen me. Much more likely is that the Bexley Bully was behind the loss of the Press Desk.

Today her period of ‘gardening leave’ comes to an end and her grimacing visage is about to vanish from the Bonkers banner. The question of the day must be, who should sit there alongside Teresa the Tyrant?


27 August (Part 1) - Just a one off, probably

TimetableFollowing my difficult journey back from Dartford yesterday I returned to Abbey Wood station to see if I had misread their timetable; I had but not in any significant way. My eye had not taken in the 16 minutes past Thameslink train on the line above the other three, but that did not explain where the SouthEastern trains had gone.

I asked.

“There were no trains to Dartford because of engineering work.” So how did the Thameslink train manage to get there?

“Because the engineering work was at Charing Cross”. So how did I get back to Bexley on a Charing Cross train?

No one knew. I had looked at the map of scheduled weekend engineering on Saturday and came to the conclusion that all the problems were well south of Abbey Wood. The weekend engineering map is no longer on display and replaced by another so any evidence one way or another has gone.

However I am assured that yesterday’s lack of trains from Dartford was a one off. The National Rail website was reporting that Thameslink had insufficient drivers available to meet their obligations and SouthEastern trains were not running for reasons unknown.

I must make it clear that all the staff at Abbey Wood station are incredibly helpful. Probably if I had asked one of them on Saturday I would have been more informed than I was just by reading the timetable and engineering notice.


26 August (Part 2) - Bexley and Greenwich Councils end an uneasy truce

RubbishA few days ago a reader asked why I had not reported the changes Greenwich Council is making to its recycling arrangements. I said I had but it turns out I only had an email conversation about it with someone else. It’s an age thing!

And what is it to do with Bexley anyway?

Greenwich plans to charge Bexley residents a tenner for using their recycling centres, that’s what.

The problem arises because Bexley Council has not seen fit to provide the North West of the borough with what is frequently called a dump - which invites a number of bad jokes about the area which are best avoided.

If those of us in the North West corner have some unusual rubbish to get rid of we must drive to the furthest outreaches of the borough or dump it in the woods. The more responsible take a short trip over the border into Greenwich and make use of their facilities - but not any more, the woods it is likely to be in future.

From next Saturday Greenwich Council will begin to charge visitors to their recycling sites £10 unless they can show an RBG Council Tax bill or similar ID.

It has been suggested that Greenwich and Bexley should provide reciprocal services but that won’t work, no Greenwich resident would want to pass their own dump and travel seven more miles almost to Dartford.

Bexley Conservatives are having fun at Greenwich’s expense and I must admit that their graphic (above) is quite funny but at least Greenwich provides their residents with a dump while Bexley ignores a large chunk of its borough and gives them nothing at all.

I am not affected, in 31 years I have not visited any dump, whether it be in Bexley or across the border.

I have at various times dismantled a lawn mower and an A3+ printer and put the components into the bin. The whole of my front garden wall went the same way after someone drove into it. It took several months but eventually it went.

What is defeating me is out of date and unwanted electronic components. Bexley used to provide the appropriate street bins but the cuts saw the end of them. I could just chuck them in the green bin but there is a lot of rare and probably valuable metals on those circuit boards and it seems a shame to send them to landfill. I might care but as usual Bexley Council doesn’t.


26 August (Part 1) - Everything runs late or even not at all

CrossrailIt’s been two months since the last batch of Crossrail photos was brought to your attention so it is time for another lot. Very little of note has happened since June, the minuscule public car park has been finished off and the Felixstowe Road ticket barriers have been installed, beyond that not a lot. Because construction is now down only to snagging jobs the next batch of photos will be stretched through until December, opening day if we are lucky.

I had almost forgotten but when Bexley Council first announced that they were going to rebuild Harrow Manorway as far as the Eastern Way roundabout and refurbish the flyover they said that both jobs would be done by August 2018. File names on Bonkers are frequently date related and I chose 26th August for both photo sets. For the time being at least the relevant pages retain the somewhat optimistic date ID. Flyover pictures and Harrow Manorway pictures to date are available, both sets pushing 300 photos so please be patient while they download.

Some of the initial flyover delays would have been due to the difficult integration with the new station but ten months on from its opening that excuse must be wearing thin.

Harrow ManorwayAt the beginning of July Bonkers’ favourite highways engineer told the Places Scrutiny Committee that the flyover would probably be resurfaced on 23rd July. “We are currently working on the flyover outside Abbey Wood station, final adjustments are being made to the bridge joints prior to resurfacing of the route round about 23rd July.”

Since then three out of the four flyover pedestrian walkways - initially all four - have been inconveniently closed and for long periods no one has been seen working there, although recently more bridge joints have received attention.

I think we can safely say that Bexley Council’s initial and recently restated ambition to have Harrow Manorway, Felixstowe Road and Gayton Road ready for the opening of Elizabeth line services was wishful thinking.

While on the subject of railways, may I be permitted a personal rant?

I can’t remember the last time I went to Dartford but I needed to get there this morning. Yesterday I checked the timetable at Abbey Wood station, making sure I was in the DA (for Dartford) section and looking at the red print because I would be travelling on a Sunday.

SouthEastern services were listed at every 30 minutes with a once an hour Thameslink train listed as running four minutes before one of them.

I went out to catch the ‘isolated’ SouthEastern but it was not listed on the departure board. Fortunately I was at the station with time to spare and an unlisted Thameslink train was showing but running 30 minutes adrift from what was shown on the station timetable; so no harm done, within a few minutes I was in Dartford. I thought I had been lucky but had no idea just how lucky.

I was back at Dartford station at 11:40 and puzzled by what I was reading on the departure board, all trains were due to go via either Sidcup or Bexleyheath, nothing at all on the Greenwich line except the hourly Thameslink train. A 35 minute wait except that it was already announced ‘Cancelled’. Should I wait an hour and a half to maybe see the 13:15 train cancelled too?

I took the Sidcup train but it just missed the Abbey Wood (loop) connection from Crayford so I continued to Bexley with the prospect of half hour or more on a 229 bus. The toilets at Bexley station were ‘permanently closed’, the rain was near torrential and the station bus stop has no shelter. I jumped on a 132 to reduce the risk of drowning and eventually got home just before the Thameslink train was due to leave Dartford, if it wasn’t cancelled!

Once home I checked the National Rail Live Departures site. It is true. Under this bloody awful new timetable there are no SouthEastern Abbey Wood to Dartford trains on a Sunday. Which over-paid lunatic thought that was a good idea?


25 August - Another trick up Bexley Council’s question dodging sleeve

Bexley Council has always had a problem with questions and they have tried all sorts of tactics to avoid answering them. There was a time when they would publish your name and address if you posed a question formally at a Council meeting and although that is no longer the case, if you ask too many awkward ones they will ban you from asking more. My associate John Watson is banned from corresponding with Bexley Council by any means if they deem his communication to be a question and it is not an uncommon Council practice.

The Thurrock and South Essex Independent became very agitated about being given the John Watson treatment by its local Council, although only for six months. Imagine any Council Chief Executive instructing her Press Office not to say anything to the local paper. Utter madness!

Could it happen in Bexley? Probably. The News Shopper was recently pushed away by Bexley’s Press Office. They wouldn’t answer the Shopper’s questions about the unexplained departure of Chief Executive Gill Steward and they would not answer a Freedom of Information request either.

I would hope the Shopper Appeals the decision. Maybe they should FOI Gill Steward’s Contract of Employment to see if it says anything about severance pay. When John Watson FOI’d her predecessor’s contract he was sent a copy.

A new dodge-a-question trick has been referred to Bonkers by a correspondent who makes irregular trips to a small Kentish town. He went there a year ago and was surprised to see the parking places empty and what had been a thriving shopping centre on its uppers. He then discovered that parking had become chargeable and shoppers were going elsewhere.

More recently he had to go there again and found a total transformation, The small town was mobbed with shoppers and he had to look hard for a parking spot. The Council had introduced free short stay (three hours) parking.

The local government election was approaching so my informant wrote to both Bexley Labour and the Conservative Mayor (maybe not the most obvious choice) to ask what their views were on free short stay parking.

Labour did not reply and the Conservatives may as well not have done.

The Mayor referred what was clearly an election question to Committee Services and in due course Kevin Fox told my correspondent that the only way to have his question answered was to formally submit it to him and stand before Full Council to ask the relevant Cabinet Member.

They are question dodging experts aren’t they? A voter cannot ask the two main parties in Bexley what its views are on parking policy.

Maybe I should answer the question. In Bexley all policies are directed at raising as much money as possible irrespective of any harm that they might inflict on the borough’s economy and the populace. 15 minutes free parking was considered two or three years ago. The idea was rejected.


23 August - Forced to live in a slum

I grew up in a succession of Council houses from the age of one (following a little argument with a V1 rocket) until my father managed to buy his own house in 1962. (New, three bedrooms, huge garden and £4,400.)

Three family members live in former Council houses, two acquired under the Right to Buy. I think I know just a little about Council houses; they can be pretty good. But not all of them.

Earlier his week I took a third trip to look at an L&Q disaster zone. It isn’t a bad house but has been bodged beyond the point of no return. Over the years it has been systematically wrecked by tradesmen who should never have been allowed anywhere near a hammer or a screwdriver.

The lady occupant’s main concern is damp that progressively damages her efforts to decorate the place. She is in her early seventies and not in good health, I think she has just about given up with the paint brush but she still makes her voice heard.

My first visit was in October last year and the blog includes 28 photographs of L&Q’s appalling handiwork. I returned nearly three months ago and took some more pictures and the blog includes a video of rain water pouring down a wall. Since the video was made the lady occupant has been assured there is nothing wrong with the guttering.

Coincidentally all my visits have followed a dry spell of weather so I have not seen any slugs in the bathroom or woodlice in the front hall, but I have seen the photographs.

The most obvious change since I was last there is that a broken fence has been replaced - very badly. Not one of the many metal joints, the sort only used by rank amateurs, not proper fencers, fits properly and there are protruding nails. Every time I go I see more electrical nonsense. There are two dedicated fan switches which are quite obviously live but there are no fans. (Photo 4.)
Fence Fence Fence Fan switch

The electrics generally are pretty awful, it is not only the live fan wire which goes nowhere, so does an unidentified cable in the bathroom and who in their right mind pokes an external cable through the wall without a loop to deflect rain drips? (Photo 6.)

It is not only L&Q’s electricians who are not very bright, their plumbers can be stupid too. When the kitchen radiator was replaced with a bigger one it encroached on the fridge space. Now the old freezer needs replacing but it cannot be removed, trapped by the plumbing and the built in cupboard on the other side.(Photo 8.)

Cable Cable Switch Fridge

Considering that damp has been such a problem I find it odd that there are gaps in the outer wall which go straight into the cavity.

Gap Gap Cable Damp

The damp is not confined to the outer walls. Some eight or nine feet from the nearest outer wall, in fact on the party wall with the neighbour (Photo 12) a finger is all that is required to detect the damp. A man with a meter found more than 50 such damp patches but nothing gets done.

LetterL&Q do actually respond to complaints but the problem is that they employ tradesmen who are totally incompetent, L&Q appears to be unconcerned that their property is being converted into a slum.

David Evennett MP has washed his hands of the problem because the occupant showed her annoyance with the situation in one of her letters.

Bexley Council, needless to say, is not interested. Dianne Blazer, their Housing Services Manager does what she usually does, look the other way. According to her all the problems have been resolved. Maybe she should pop round and stick a finger on the wall or maybe dare to put the same wet finger on one of the exposed cables.

But don’t go dressed in your best clothes Dianne, you might snag them on a nail.


21 August - Congratulations are due

As predicted Bexley scored top marks following a recent OFSTED inspection and Twitter was awash with congratulations from all sides as is to be expected.
Almost needless to say Cabinet Member Philip Read found something critical to say about the Labour Group joining in the praise for Children’s Services’ boss Ms. Tiotto. Councillor Perfect’s supportive comments apparently did not come instantly enough to satisfy him.

New Councillor Sue Gower (Conservative, Bexleyheath) has not yet featured on Bonkers but appears to be shaping up as a thoroughly decent individual who can rise above party politics. No good will come of it in Bexley I tell you!

Bonkers too came in for some criticism; for suggesting that Philip Read has done a half decent job in Children’s Services. From inside that department came the following email…

I just hope that people don’t think that Read had anything to do with it. Well done to Jackie Tiotto and the team.

It would appear that Philip Read is just as popular inside his ivory tower as he is outside it.


20 August - A not so super market

My friend Hugh has several times recently blogged his opinion of Erith's Morrison's supermarket and as there is not a lot going on right now and a big DIY job is going to see my electricity off for an indeterminate period later today I thought “on a dull Monday morning, why not?”.

I really do not like the Abbey Wood branch of Sainsbury’s. I used not to use Sainsbury’s at all because in my younger days there was a Lord Sainsbury who kept donating money to the Labour party but I must have mellowed over the years and the Abbey Wood branch is conveniently nearby and is very often nearly empty and probably that is half the reason for it being a disappointment.

That and it being extremely badly managed.

About three weeks ago I found only one cash till open and as I approached, the lady supervisor told me it was about to close. There was no alternative but she told me she was going to phone “for someone to come down”.

When I suggested that a more sensible procedure was to get someone down and then close the only available till she looked at me as if I was mad.

Fortunately, and unlike Hugh, I have overcome my aversion to self-service tills but I do object to them broadcasting what I am buying over their CCTV system.

Over the past fortnight approximately these are the problems that I have encountered in Abbey Wood Sainsbury’s…

Warburton’s small wholemeal loaves, all but a few two days out of date.
Gluten-free cake weeks out of date.
No one pint semi-skimmed milk available.
No four pint semi-skimmed milk available.
No baskets available. (Twice.)
No small trolleys available.
No travelators working. (Neither up nor down.)
One entrance door not working.
Self-service tills card only. (Many times.)
One item repeatedly refusing to scan eventually causing the machine to (in Windows terms) 'Blue Screen'.
Self-service cash till brought up an alarm accusing me of tampering with the change giving mechanism. (As there was no one at all on duty in that area I just left it and went to the adjacent scanner.)

Three different people claiming to be in the know have told me that Sainsbury’s Abbey Wood is performing so poorly that it might close. If that was to be true it would be a nuisance, have you been to Asda in Belvedere? Now that really is a mad house. Give me a deserted Sainsbury’s any time.


19 August - Rumour has it…

…that Bexley Council will get a pretty good OFSTED report tomorrow in respect of its looked after children. A very welcome improvement on the “inadequate” ratings awarded in the past. If rumour translates into fact the credit presumably goes to the whole Children’s Services team headed by Director Jackie Tiotto and Cabinet Member Philip Read. When not swigging vino and spending “late nights cowering behind his keyboard” being rude about residents it seems he can do a half decent job, far better that his predecessor Katie Perrior anyway.


17 August (Part 2) - All change please

The excellent Murky Depths website has commented on the new Crossrail related bus service due for introduction in December. It includes links to the Transport for London website which was the London wide source of the information.

In my experience such websites disappear in time so with an eye on preserving history a PDF version referring only to our own area is preserved on Bonkers.


17 August (Part 1) - Philip Read. Dishonouring his office

ReadA Councillor alerted me to Philip Read’s latest Tweet, I am barred from looking at his account and he is not so important that I feel the need to bypass his block more than once a week.

Just what does he think he is playing at? For a man who is part of a group that lies daily it is surprising to discover that he doesn’t know what a lie is although maybe that explains everything.

I think it is a near certainty that the Twitter account @bexley_tory is closely associated with @PhilipRead1 and may even be him. New Twitter users dip their toes into the water cautiously but this one jumped straight in attacking exactly the same people for exactly the same reasons as Philip Read and offering direct support to him.

It seems very likely that one is working in cahoots with the other. Believing that to be the case does not make me a liar.

BiB is accused of “spouting unsubstantiated venom”. You would be hard pressed to find either of those things, some people say it goes far too easy on Bexley Council because I have a long history of supporting the Conservative cause.

Apparently I should speak to him but Philip Read is someone who has made sure our paths do not cross.

As several Councillors could confirm I had a sneaking admiration for Councillor Craske, of the lovable rogue variety obviously. However when I held out an olive branch to him in connection with his Borough of Culture achievement he rejected my congratulations and swore in front of witnesses that he did not have a clue who I was. Even if that was true it would not excuse his boorishness.

Tweet Tweet
FOn the vinoor the record I try not to use a keyboard after 7 p.m. and be thinking of bed by ten and unlike some Councillors that could be named in no danger of Tweeting while drunk. Read's Tweet reveals which of us “cowers behind a keyboard late at night”.

Please don’t get the idea that Philip Read and Peter Craske are typical Bexley Councillors. One Conservative has already apologised profusely to me for Philip Read’s silly tantrum and going back a few months another Councillor sent me a substantial sum of money to defray the legal expenses incurred because of the vengeful Maxine Forthergill and the utterly contemptible Kent Police. They are still saying I should have been taken to Court.

Making an official complaint against Councillor Read may be an option. When it is rejected out of hand we will all know what the official position of Bexley Conservatives is on such matters.

You may wish to note how many Likes Philip Read achieved. Pathetic isn’t he?


16 August - Paul Moore, not all bad

Although Bexley Council is, as always, intent on secrecy it seems to me that Chief Executive Gill Steward has well and truly gone and Paul Moore is temporarily at least in the hot seat. Mr. Moore has been in Bexley since time began, never quite making it to the top spot.

I have no idea why he seems not to have what it takes to rise any higher than Director level in Bexley. He has the ability to string together a long series of impressive words which upon analysis one realises anyone could have said whether they knew the subject or not, so he appears to have all the required qualities.

Mr. Moore and I had the occasional run in in the early days of Bonkers but I was left with the impression he was fundamentally honest, which perhaps has been his undoing.

When a retired police officer caught Bexley’s parking department out being dishonest - it was under a previous contract, not the current one - but would not allow his PCN appeal, Mr. Moore reimbursed him the cost of the parking fine from his own personal account.

He is inclined to stick up for his staff. When Bonkers revealed that a senior staff member had a girl friend who worked in Downing Street he wrote me a rather stroppy letter of complaint. I doubt I would do that now, Bonkers has moved on a bit since 2013, but it was almost war back then. If you think Bexley Council plays dirty in 2018 it’s nothing compared to what they used to get up to when they thought no one was watching. Social Media has changed all that.

When Councillor Cheryl Bacon illegally excluded everyone from a public meeting, Paul Moore wrote a guidance note to Councillors the next day which made the only honest reference to what happened - not counting all the Councillors who wrote to me independently to say how appalled they all were at the dishonesty coming from Cheryl Bacon and several other senior Council officers.

On the other hand when Councillor Danny Hackett was seen speaking to me in the Council Chamber Mr. Moore told Danny that he should not be speaking to me. Danny pointed out that he was entitled to speak to any resident and most certainly one from his own ward.

Tweet TweetProbably the worst thing that Acting Chief Executive Paul Moore is alleged to have done is to edit a Council webcast so as to make mischief over a comment in the Chamber by former UKIP Councillor Lynn Smith. He then put the video on a DVD for distribution to guests at a retirement party, just for their amusement. It understandably caused Lynn a great deal of distress.

When the Constitutional Review Panel agreed to introduce webcasting they were very worried that members of the public - me probably - would indulge in malicious video editing but the only two known examples of it have both come from within Bexley Council.

At least Paul Moore eventually apologised for his misjudgment, you would never have caught Gill Steward doing that, too many misjudgments to cope with probably.


15 August - Casual misogyny. Constant mendacity

Another no news day which requires resort to Twitter.

The new Bexley Conservatives’ Twitter account wasted no time in choosing a path well trodden by an old hand at the game. Abuse and misogyny. Here he is referring to Teresa Pearce MP as “miserable and moaning” and implying that Councillor Wendy Perfect has been dodging surgeries (Tweet not included) and doesn’t live in her ward. Neither does Philip Read. His nomination paper confirms it even if it has been edited out of his Register of Interests.

In reality @bexley_tory is bitter about the fact that Labour Wendy took Read’s old ward and pushed his old mate Ray Sams out. Maybe that’s what comes from alienating so many of the electors in that ward.

Councillor Mabel Ogundayo has been criticised by Cabinet Member Philip Read since she was elected in 2014, now his alter ego is at it too.

Other females on the receiving end of @bexley_tory’s venom have been Sam Butterfly, which may or may not be her real name, and Emily Thornbury MP. Well maybe he does have a point there!

Tweet Tweet Yesterday while doing a big garage clear up I came across my old Tory membership card. Perhaps it is time to fling it in the bin.

TweetEveryone who follows Twitter locally knows that the official Bexley Conservative account, @bexleynews spews out nonsense and lies daily.

Yesterday they too returned to a familiar theme, that Bexley residents are the happiest in London and embroidered it somewhat by saying that Greenwich is the most miserable. That was nothing like true last time I looked at the Office of National Statistic’s report.

I didn’t have time to check it again myself but to cut a long story short, I told a Labour man who was having similar thoughts to my own where he might find the latest stats. While I was in East Ham he did so.

The recently published figures show that Bexley is far from being top dog. 16 London boroughs score higher on the happiness scale. It is true that Greenwich has slumped in recent years, it is now at 29th position out of 32. It must be all those towerblocks.

To save you searching for the official stats they are linked from here.

I think we can safely say that every bit of propaganda that Bexley Tories put out is a big fat whopping lie.

Note: A click on the final image will provide the complete Twitter correspondence.


13 August (Part 2) - Council Chief Executives. They are all cast in the same mould

The Bexley Times has been getting hot under the collar because their sister paper in Thurrock has been banned from making any contact with Thurrock Council. Naturally they are incensed by the Council’s democratically challenged Chief Executive Lyn Carpenter

And quite right too, the woman should not be allowed to hold any publicly funded position.

Bexley Times What the Bexley Times does not appear to know is that they do not have to cross the Thames to see such lunatic behaviour, Bexley Council has long adopted similar tactics.

Recently they have denied the press any information about the premature departure of the unlamented Chief Executive Gill Steward but more seriously my occasional collaborator - very occasional these days - Mick Barnbrook is banned from making Freedom of Information Requests. Bexley Council said he made too many but they were almost all on different subjects.

He appealed to the Information Commissioner but they supported our bent Council. Mick’s guess and mine is that they had told the Commissioner that he was a “fascist blogger” intent on embarrassing the Council. We don’t know that for sure but we do know that that is how he was described at much the same time by Bexley Council when Tower Hamlets Council made enquiries about Mick.

Mick has never written a blog but as everyone to the right of Jeremy Corbyn can be labelled a Fascist these days, then perhaps we both are.

Another of my occasional collaborators is John Watson. After he caught out Gill Steward lying (all documented) following one of the early Maxine Fothergill episodes he was banned from making contact with the Council by any means ever again.

Maybe when that stupid woman has gone he will be able to sneak in the occasional question once again.

I have never been given a ban but I was threatened with one for complaining that Bexley Council had written outright lies about me. I had ten witnesses to say I had not done what I was accused of and Bexley Council had none but I was told if I made any more complaints I would be declared vexatious. I think I have only made three complaints in the past nine years, all of them for either lying or committing criminal offences against me.

The Bexley Times never noticed any of that. They really should look around their own patch as well as getting indignant about the way their Editor was treated in Thurrock.

Click image for source web page.


13 August (Part 1) - “A Tyranny of Experts” in Bexley and Hong Kong

Once again I am not moving far from home with this little news item but if you live in SE2 or DA17 you may have noticed that all four walkways over the Harrow Manorway flyover have been closed for a week. The reason is difficult to see, I have been there twice on most days and not seen anyone working on the flyover apart from a small gang who have installed a barrier on what might be called the Sainsbury’s leg.

Flyover FlyoverBexley Council appears to be content to inflict the maximum possible inconvenience on residents. Maybe they are awaiting the promised resurfacing work. Five weeks ago the main man at Bexley Council said this…

“We are currently working on the flyover outside Abbey Wood station, final adjustments are being made to the bridge joints prior to resurfacing of the route round about 23rd July.”

Nothing goes right does it? Not with the calibre of highway engineers we have in Bexley anyway.

Ever since work on the flyover commenced in March last year Bonkers has recorded progress. There are in excess of 250 photos now so be patient while they load.

If you scroll down to February and March 2018 you can see lamp posts being installed. The job was completed in April. (Try Photo No. 184 taken on 16th April).

If you look carefully at the LED lamp heads you may see that many are switched on during daylight hours and that is the way it has been since they were installed. Photo No. 237 being one of many examples. A bit of waste.

Bexley Council has given their reason.

They say, not unreasonably perhaps, that the narrow lanes have precluded access. This ignores the fact that southbound traffic has been coned into the central area for the past two weeks.

When this was pointed out to the Highways Manager he said he will try to get the clocks adjusted “over the next few weeks”. What did you expect? Urgent action on saving money?

CrossrailInside the adjacent railway station you might see up to three Crossrail trains but by the look of the destination indicators Woolwich station is no longer on the tube map.

The station, indeed the whole line, is being run by Mass Transit Railways based in Hong Kong under contract to TfL.

Was that a good choice? Not if you read the Chinese Press. Just Google for ‘MTR Scandal’. By all accounts they installed 5,000 faulty steel bars in Chinese stations and tunnels and both actually and metaphorically covered it all up. Anyone might think that Bexley Council has been involved in the construction.

One must hope that Balfour Beatty are better at building stations and tunnels than the “tyranny of experts” who manage MTR.

Will the first Elizabeth line train really run on 9th December?


12 August - Slow road construction and fast broadband

With Bexley Council in recess and Councillor Read’s Twitter doppelgänger @bexley_tory gone quiet it’s not easy to keep Bonkers going on a daily basis but some things carry on as usual.

The weekly record of progress on the Harrow Manorway northern improvements continues and if you examine recent photos closely they proclaim ‘steady but slow’.

Yesterday after taking a few photos by the Yarnton Way roundabout I was chased down the road by a Conway man and I feared the worst. However the fears were unfounded and when I explained that I took pictures every Saturday he was interested and keen to look. The Crossrail photos have an easy to remember shortcut, but I couldn’t remember the Harrow Manorway link so could only suggest searching for Bexley is Bonkers Photo Features. Hopefully there is another new site visitor.

FlyoverOn the flyover itself there are signs of the northbound bus stop taking shape. I had imagined the gap in the concrete wall was to allow a shelter to be cantilevered out over Felixstowe Road below but the newly installed barrier suggests not.

Either way it will be surprising if the two bus stops do not create occasional grid lock, or maybe not so occasionally.

Recently completed Photo galleries feature the demolition of The Barge Pole public house and the off-licence that used to sit alongside The Harrow Inn.

Since 6th May Photo gallery images have been much bigger than before to allow decent quality on Ultra HD screens. Galleries with many images - like the Harrow Manorway ones - will be slow to load on non-fibre broadband.

Note. Be aware that the Crossrail short cut will stop the browser Back button working because you will be leaving Bonkers and making a new entry.


11 August - Think of a number, any big number. Then spend it

At lunchtime today it was warm and sunny and I walked around the Abbey, I can see into the grounds of Lesnes from my upstairs windows. I walked around all the paths and gardens which are within a couple of hundred yards of the ruins. The cafe, the Monk’s Garden, the two viewing platforms all the while counting the coffee drinkers, the dog walkers, the sun bathers and the picnickers. I made it 36 in total but let’s call it 50, I may have missed one or two.

Guessing the turn over for the whole day that could well add up to 500 if one is generous. How many gloriously sunny days do we have in a year? 200? I doubt it but people do visit the Abbey on dull days too, just not as many unless there is snow and the sledgers turn out in force.

TweetWhat’s 200 x 500? Err, 100,000. Councillor Craske says the true number of visitors is 400,000. No one knows how he counts them but with a following wind his figure may be somewhere near right but given his track record for truthful statements and the view from my bedroom window I reserve the right to be sceptical.

There are high days and holidays that boost the numbers and I become only too aware of them when my road fills up with badly parked cars. I have not seen that this year at all but I admit I was away for the day of the musical event.

I was aware of the medieval jousting but wasn’t aware of the starting time and planned to take a look once I heard the noise and saw the street filling with cars. Neither happened. I assumed I must have got the date wrong but it transpired that I was not the only one unaware that anything was going on. Attendance was very poor, I saw the photos.

On 24th August there is to be a film show at the Abbey, I may have to close the windows.

Lesnes Abbey Lesnes AbbeyThe ticket arrangements shout “amateur”. You have to make a booking by email giving your phone number and then the Council or their agent calls you back to ask for your credit card number. If they sell a lot of tickets the labour costs will be enormous and what is Bexley Council doing phoning people up and asking for card numbers when they are usually so keen on issuing scam warnings?

Presumably they have never heard of Eventbrite.

As I said, I was away for the music event but friends and neighbours weren’t. Reports said that it too was poorly attended and was unlikely to make any money. 15 or more security guards with nothing to do would not have helped. One must wonder about the competency of the Lesnes Abbey management. The nursery school and the yoga classes were both chased away although Amal appears to be doing reasonably well in the cafe. I arranged to entertain a lady there but came unstuck. It is closed on Mondays.

I may not have planned to spend much in the Abbey but Bexley Council is spending plenty.

A Freedom of Information request shows that expenditure over the past year has been £90,834 on staff salaries, £3,666 on miscellaneous building costs and £40,567 on office equipment and activities - whatever they may be. Fortunately a grant (from who?) brings those figures more or less into balance.


9 August (Part 4) - The Bonkers Boris of Bexley

As I was saying, the way to increase Twitter followers is to be controversial, can Bonkers be the Boris Johnson of Bexley?

I read his Telegraph article on Monday and was in broad agreement that we should be careful about banning some items of clothing but I saw no way of linking the controversy to Bonkers - until that is the politically correct Police Commissioner Cressida Dick thought it would earn her Brownie points by announcing there had been a police enquiry into Boris’s ill-judged words about letter boxes. Was it necessary?

For me Dick’s actions says all you need to know about modern policing. Knowing what I do about her from my Daniel Morgan connections I have long believed her to be no less corrupt than her predecessors.

Not long ago while in a dentist’s waiting room I calmed a young lad who was terrified of what was in store for him in the surgery. Because of that I struck up a conversation with his mother. She was wearing a full Burka. It was a slightly surreal experience never being able to judge whether there would be a further response or I might safely go back to staring at the wall.

I can count six Muslim women among my acquaintances and have their phone numbers - but only three men. The women in particular are among the nicest people one could hope to meet but one of them admits to not being happy with the pressure to wear what her husband demands.

One of the men freely admits he would like to see his people take over the country. Nice enough bloke but it is a bit worrying.

Some of the six women look extremely attractive to me but I have long felt that those in Burkas are free to wear them if that is what they really want to do but I am equally entitled to think they look silly, just as Boris thinks they look like letter boxes. Probably someone in his position shouldn’t have said it bearing in mind that the country is now full of offence taking trouble making snowflakes. With luck they won’t notice my thoughts. I could do without a Dick investigation.

I get the impression that Councillor Philip Read is inclined to the same view as me. Wonders will never cease.
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Now the question is, will the weather brighten up enough to justify a trip to the Oval?


9 August (Part 3) - Arguing with oneself

NarcissusBonkers has been on Twitter for five years. I was never quite sure of the merit of posting pictures of your breakfast but it became obvious Twitter was a useful source of news. What would The Daily Mail and The News Shopper do if they were unable to quote from Social Media?

I well remember getting 27 followers very quickly and after that the numbers climbed slowly but steadily. Recently the number has reached 1,076 and gone back to 1,068 three times over in just a few weeks. Very odd, but yesterday Bonkers gained a new follower to put the number back on the rise.

The new follower is @bexley_tory and it’s pretty certain (check the IP addresses) it is Councillor Philip Read. He follows me, I follow him. I have never been able to view his @PhilipRead1 account without engaging in a bit of a rigmarole but I’m very well aware of what he gets up to there.

His main subject matter is abuse of residents and the Labour Party but not always. There have been quite a lot of times when I might have Liked Councillor Read’s Tweets except that I was banned from doing so.

TweetMaybe I will be able to Like a post on his new account, but maybe not yet. Right now he has resumed the ‘Young, Female and…’ attack on Councillor Ogundayo he began at Scrutiny meetings back in 2014/15.

Meanwhile as we await an outbreak of common sense, Councillor Read has the opportunity to endorse his views on one account with the other one.

Councillor Read has form for this sort of thing. In 2011 he was the owner of, just a month before Bexley Council first had me done for Harassment.

The secret of large numbers of Twitter followers seems to be controversy. Mick Barnbrook’s account (@sleazebuster) went from 600 followers to seven and a half thousand when he began to be outspoken about the police. He believes, speaking from experience, that far too many of them are corrupt. I very much agree, the Met. has admitted as much and their Directorate of Professional Standards accepts they employ corrupt officers. I saw that in the seven year long Craske obscene blog case.

For speaking the truth as he sees it I have been told that Mick is “a detestable man” and Bonkers would be better if I said as much when mentioning him in future. He joined the BNP because at the time it was the only prominent anti-EU party and then, as is Mick’s way, reported its Leader to the police for financial irregularities and promptly left.

I suspect my response to the email will have lost me another Twitter follower.


9 August (Part 2) - Better off out!

Since Alison Griffin, Bexley’s Finance Director, buzzed off to Southend the honours have been done by Leigh Whitehouse. His comments have appeared on Bonkers but has been credited only a couple of times.

Also buzzing off to pastures new - or in one case, apparently just out to pasture - are two more senior Bexley Council people. Solicitor and Monitoring Officer Teri Osborne buggered off a couple of months ago and Chief Executive Gill Steward has been shown, or at least found, the rear exit.

Just what is going on at Bexley Council? Yesterday news leaked into the media that Finance man Whitehouse has scrambled through the escape tunnel.

Good luck Leigh. Better off out!


9 August (Part 1) - A Fayrer Facebook Group?

As odd job man to the Abbey Wood Traders’ Association may I blatantly plug the first of what it is hoped will be a series of Food and Craft Fayres to be held in and around the Abbey Arms next door to Abbey Wood station? 15th September, put it in your diary.

So far the number of booked stalls is 25 and it is probable that it will be opened by the Mayor of the Royal Borough and a whole load of raffle prizes selected by MP Teresa Pearce. Or maybe the other way around, they can fight it out among themselves.

Posters and leaflets are currently available from almost every Wilton Road shop and vinyl banners - as below - will go up a week beforehand.
FayreThere is a new dedicated Facebook Group mainly because of the draconian restriction placed on advertising local events on a better known group.

Abbey Wood Good Food and Crafts. I wish I knew how to run Facebook properly, too many options I do not understand!


8 August - Bexley’s answer. A load of Bull

It’s been good to see the News Shopper send a reporter to Council meetings this year. I have sat near to their young and enthusiastic Tom Bull several times and he was very supportive through the Maxine Fothergill affair.

ArseWhen news leaked out that Bexley’s Chief Executive had become disenchanted with her two year old job he told me that the Council had refused to talk to him about it, he had put his faith in a Freedom of Information request instead.

My response to him was along the lines of “Fat Chance”, the front page of Bonkers does not proclaim ‘Exposing London’s most secretive council’ for nothing. And so it proved.

Tom Bull wanted to know if the table snatcher was working out her notice and whether she was going with a large (and undeserved) payment.

Gill Steward has been absent from Council meetings for the past month.

Inevitably Bexley Council has pulled down the shutters and gone into the the full on secrecy mode we know so well. Tom’s report may be seen here.

The only chance of discovering how much taxpayer money has been showered on Gill Steward will be to examine the Accounts but even then the figure will likely be lumped in with other outgoings to hide the truth.


7 August (Part 2) - Smelly but fun

FerryLong ago when children could be trusted to behave themselves and adults could be trusted not to molest them I was often given sandwiches and a couple of pennies to take the 101 bus from East Ham or occasionally Wanstead to ride to North Woolwich and the Ferry terminal where the bus used to terminate, it stops short of Woolwich now.

There one could spend the whole day riding the Will Crooks or the John Benn watching the brass piston rods and breathing in the hot oil fumes of the paddle steaming Woolwich free ferries. Sometimes there would be four boats in operation but more often three if I remember correctly.

All gone now of course and from 6th October most definitely gone. For around two months Woolwich will be without its ferries as the terminals are reorganised - there will be four lane road access. Only two boats unfortunately.

TfL says the temporary loss of service will not disrupt traffic at Dartford or Blackwall, well we will believe that when we see it but at least the east west road crossing past the southern terminal will run more freely in future.

With thanks to Teresa Pearce MP for forwarding her official advice letter.


7 August (Part 1) - Two pubs turned to dust

I don’t think there will be a blog today, I ordered a new car and I had no idea how complicated that could be. It’s not something that I do often. It will be my sixth, first was in 1962, my father’s cast off.

Meanwhile some pictures of piles of bricks which were once pubs. The Barge Pole and The Harrow Inn. Never went in either of them.


6 August (Part 1) - Congratulations and Good Luck to Councillor Craske

Once upon a time I was a paid up Member of the Conservative Party, then I saw the light and became an Independent with conservative inclinations.

Following in my footsteps is Councillor Craske, Councillor Harold Craske that is not the Councillor Peter Harold Craske we all know and love.

Harold is one of seven Councillors on Gravesham Council who have jumped ship. Believe it or not the row has its roots in building on park land and allegations of corruption. Bexley all over again.

One of the newly Independent seven has referred to the Conservatives as the Nasty Party. Read all about it here. Gravesham is no longer under Conservative control.


5 August - Wilde Read. He’s lost it

It seems like a long time ago now that Bexley Council announced its intention to sell 27 parks and open spaces but refused to tell anyone which of them they had in mind. It wasn’t until one of the few Cabinet Members with a conscience felt it prick and read out a list at a Scrutiny meeting that the public got to know anything.

Alex Sawyer (it’s not his responsibility any more) said he needed to sell them in order to raise the money necessary to maintain the remaining parks, otherwise they would turn into jungles. The story seemed far fetched at the time and more than three years later with none of the parks sold and the remaining parks still In reasonable shape it seems even more like Project Fear.

Over time the 27 were whittled down to six - or maybe it’s four, it’s difficult to keep up - and they are no longer listed as being for sale but are instead being transferred to BexleyCo who will build and sell the houses. Despite the deception perpetrated in the Tories’ election manifesto it amounts to the same thing. Money into Bexley Council’s coffers and nowhere to walk your dog.

The problem that might arise with that, BexleyCo being Bexley Council by another name, is that Bexley will expect to make its own proposals to build on its own land and grant itself its own permission. Difficult enough for any Council to be seen to be totally transparent in such a situation, near impossible for a Council more akin to the proverbial nine bob note.

And so it nearly proved with the first sites to go through the process, the two open spaces in Wilde Road. It seems likely that someone in a high position thought they could get away with whatever they liked as Bexley Council does most things but no one predicted that the Planning Committee might play by the rules. Bexley’s own plan broke very nearly all of them.

Professional planning officers must know those rules inside out and I bet they knew they were skating on very thin ice. Either that or they are incompetent and I have seen no reason to suspect that in the past - except that their traffic forecasts are usually suspect.

So here we are four years after Bexley Council told us that parks would become jungles if they didn’t sell 27 and none have been sold. If there was a shred of truth in the original story someone should be panicking by now and maybe they are. A public squabble has broken out on Twitter.

However let’s step back four months to a time before the Council elections.

At that time Wilde Road was in a ward represented by three Councillors, Peter Reader, Melvin Seymour and Philip Read. Several other Councillors objected to the proposal but of the three ward Councillors only Peter Reader made a formal presentation at the March planning meeting in support of residents. The not normally shy Philip Read did a disappearing act and as you know the planning application was deferred pending improvements.

The residents group are not aware that Read did any work behind the scenes.

TweetIt was the Conservative Cabinet’s decision to build in Wilde Road and Philip Read voted for it. The detail of the proposals have been available for many months and Philip Read gave no indication that he had misgivings about the original plans but now that the improved plan has been rejected unanimously Philip Read is trying to rewrite history.

According to him it is the Tories who were successful in supporting local residents’ “opposition to inappropriate development” and “no Labour Councillor objected”.

What nonsense, it was Labour Councillor Nicola Taylor who seconded the vote to refuse the application.

Facing both ways at once the hapless Read is now claiming on the one hand that Labour can take no credit for the rejection but also that the residents’ group which overturned the Cabinets’ ambitions is fronted by one or more Labour party activists. How confused/stupid can one man be?

But don’t take my word for it, have a look at some of what has been kicked around Twitter in recent days.

Note: Displayed in a convenient format for web use and because of that not every one is in sequence. However the messages should give a flavour of what has been said.
If you get to the end you will see that having lost the argument - and the vote - with the resident’s group Councillor Read blocks them and prevents further discussion. The action of a coward.

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During her address to the Committee, Mrs. Waters on behalf of the residents’ group thanked Teresa Pearce MP for her help and assistance and for submitting her own personal objection to Bexley Council’s plans. The MP’s letter of objection is reproduced below.

The estate is very busy with vehicular traffic and from personal experience I am aware that it can at times be near grid lock at school imes with residents unable to leave or enter the estate. It is not uncommon for vehicles to drive up on to the pavement to navigate the parked cars. Even outside of these times it is often impossible to find a parking space, a problem which will be exacerbated by any further esidential development.

This planning application is for 12 units, but with what appears to be insufficient parking spaces. Whilst it would be ideal to assume that residents would choose to use public transport rather than cars, this area is not well served by buses and is some distance from the nearest railway station. As such, I believe that the impact of more vehicles, especially with it not being uncommon for households to have more than one car will be very negative indeed.

The style of these proposed buildings are also in my opinion not in keeping with the existing dwellings on the estate. Currently the area feels quite open and this is due largely to these two pieces of land being open and green and creating a sense of space in what is already a densely built up area.

The original planning of this estate also included the provision that these two pieces of land be kept, one as an enclosed area which is frequently used by dog walkers or people with small children to keep them safe and the other as an open green community space.

The loss of these two spaces will in my opinion be detrimental to those iving on this estate.”

But Councillor Read continues to assert that it was the Tories who defeated their own proposal without Labour assistance.

Just who does he think he is kidding?


4 August (Part 2) - Is it worth it?

“I’m not sure it is worth it” I said in this mornings blog. How would one measure such a thing? I’m pretty sure I wish I had never started it back in 2009 but that’s a different question.

Except for the few months after I first signed up for Google Analytics and on freak days when the readership would run into many thousands I’ve not been very interested in the number of readers. The figure climbed fairly steadily at first but then plateaued out a couple of years ago. Did I care? Not really. The blog seems to annoy the Hell out of those who wish to draw a veil over Council activities and sometimes I think that is almost as important as injecting a few truths about Council proceedings for more general consumption. The Philip Reads of this world must be counteracted. More on that tomorrow probably.

I have not logged in to Google Analytics for several months because the figures were always much the same but that doesn’t stop Google sending me a monthly email to let me know how many unique visitors Bonkers has had in the course of the previous month.

The figure has been rising steeply recently, up more than 50% on what it was three months ago. I suppose it has something to do with the site becoming more mobile friendly in early May - although some of the old pages are still a bit of a mess.

I may have not been especially interested in numbers over the past handful of years but the uplift must be good news, Bonkers should be annoying the powers that be even more than before and their enforcement agency in Arnsberg Way has been very quiet of late.


4 August (Part 1) - Abbey Wood. Up and coming or down and out?

Council meeting reports can take a very long time to prepare and yesterday’s was perhaps an extreme example. I made a start at one o’clock yesterday afternoon and carried on until four when I had to get ready to go out.

Work on it restarted at 5 a.m. this morning and it was nine before I had finished fiddling with what was supposed to be yesterday’s blog. That’s seven hours and a couple more to be at the meeting. I’m not sure it is worth it.

Yesterday evening’s outing was to the Oval to see Middlesex make a pretty high score in 20 overs and then watch Surrey slaughter them in only 16.

ParkingOn the train up a beggar handed notes to every passenger without saying a word but I don’t carry money unless I know it will be needed. A short game of cricket needs no more than a few soft drinks and a sandwich prepared at home.

On the 22:06 from London Bridge to Slade Green (and round the loop) I sat opposite a young woman who was totally absorbed in her mobile phone. Every female under 50 looks young to me but this specimen could have been no more than half of that.

I might have passed the time the same way myself but I was on yet another Southeastern train with no wi-fi. There must be something like 30% of carriages in that state. Sometimes one can get a brief connection when stopped alongside another stationary train.

Another beggar stood by the door and very politely and apologetically explained his predicament. He needed £11 to get himself a shower and presumably shelter for the night. I couldn’t help and the young woman didn’t even notice as he walked down the aisle facing away from her.

Five minutes later he retraced his steps with the same pleading message, this time facing the woman so she could not really avoid seeing him. Without a moment’s hesitation she slipped her hand into an expensive looking bag and and gave the man a £20 note. I couldn’t see his face clearly but I think he began to cry, certainly the young lady asked him not to.

Window At Abbey Wood the lady alighted and headed down an almost deserted Wilton Road. Is this the new Abbey Wood that Crossrail is supposed to be bringing? If so, bring it on.

Fortunately the Good Samaritan will have got home just before the flower shop lost its window again. The third time in fewer than 15 months, the fourth if you count the owner’s car windscreen. This time it was a break in. Some things in Abbey Wood may take a long time to change.

Photo 1. A quick bet on 1st August.

Photo 2. Smashed window at Occasions, Wilton Road. Another £300 bill and that’s not counting the lost stock.


3 August - Wilde Road or wild road and future slum?

Last night’s Planning Committee meeting to reconsider Bexley Council’s own plan to transfer the two Wilde Road open spaces to their subsidiary company BexleyCo and wreck the local environment by building all over it was weird to say the least, or maybe just a money-wasting fisaco.
Back in March Councillors were not enthusiastic about the scheme for a variety of reasons, but traffic and transport figured largely, however they lacked the courage to reject it outright. Councillor Danny Hackett proposed that they should do so but Committee Chairman Val Clark was having none of it; according to her the scheme was not that bad.

The Committee eventually asked for some of their reservations to be addressed. Last night the new and improved plan was put before the Committee again and Councillor Clark - not chairing the meeting this time - did not say a word in its support. Weird when she was not against a rather worse scheme four months ago.

Since March the six flats have been given two extra parking spaces, a three bed unit has become a one bed unit and the building height has been reduced, so things are much better now, right?

Well apparently not. There was not even one Committee Member who could find any redeeming features at all. No one stepped forward to propose its acceptance, not even Councillor Val Clarke who had previously thought a few tweaks here and there might do the trick.

The objecting residents, as always, were ably led by Chris Brown. I understand he had help from Labour Leader Daniel Francis and his Conservative ward Councillor John Fuller but he was perhaps helped most of all by Bexley’s Planning Officers who, presumably directed by their Dear Leader, had broken just about every bit of Bexley’s Planning guidance. Maybe their hearts were not in it and they were under duress because they managed to appear incompetent several times.

Chris, as in March, galloped through his catalogue of transport based objections in order to fit them all in to his allotted four minutes.

They were…

The existing development has one parking space per dwelling and there was a covenant about street parking because the roads were very narrow. Increased car ownership has inevitably seen that stipulation fall by the wayside. It is on the record that Bexley has known of the problems for at least twelve years and done nothing about them and now they plan to make the situation worse.

A recent survey has shown vehicle ownership in the area to have risen close to two per household and the school within the estate has doubled in size putting further pressure on the roads. School staff can no longer park on site and now add to the street congestion as do the third of pupils delivered by car. The nearby public car park has been closed. None of these facts are mentioned in the official planning report. It does however recommend parking on corners in contravention of the Highway Code and cars are shown parking nose to tail with no room to manoeuvre. No allowance is made for the accommodation of larger trade vehicles rather than cars.

As is often the case in my own road there can be insufficient room to turn into drive ways because of cars parked opposite. Under the proposed plans some vehicles would have to negotiate bends on the wrong side of the road. “With so many policies ignored and failed, is this the standard Bexley wishes to set?”

Another resident. Mrs. Viv Waters took a different tack and took the opportunity to thank Teresa Pearce, MP for Erith & Thamesmead for he support and assiatnce.

She said the new street scene would not be in keeping with the surrounding area and suggested instead “a couple of semi-detached houses that would blend in”. She pointed out that the plan was based on the standards pertaining to main roads and those in question were certainly nothing of the kind.

Agreed standards were also breached by the close proximity of adjacent walls and windows and the building density per hectare and the report strays towards untruthfulness when it says “the site is within a reasonable walking distance of public transport” when TfL classes it as being in the very worst category for transport accessibility. “This application blatantly fails to meet Bexley’s own Planning Guidelines.”

Mrs. Jenny Turner the Planning Agent spoke in favour of the plans, she said the six proposed dwellings would help to tackle “the significant housing needs”. She had been working on the scheme for the past eighteen months to provide the housing “and protect neighbours”.

She said that all local and national policy requirements were met and the buildings were “sympathetic to the local character”. Someone at this meeting must be fibbing, but who?

There was no mention whatever of the transport issues which were of such concern to residents and offered the opinion that six new homes, three affordable, outweighed the impact on several hundreds of existing residents. I felt a bit sorry for Mrs. Turner as she walked off, hers was a very unconvincing performance.

Bexley’s Planning Officer was no better. He was “confident” that parking provision was “sufficient. It is not used by teachers”. He was also confident that the remaining open space was sufficient too.

FullerCouncillor John Fuller spoke in support of residents. He made some new points.

The traffic survey did not allow for growth, young people now drive cars. The new buildings might generate another 17 cars.

When he visited last week there were only two free parking spaces on the entire estate.

Various access points were near impossible to negotiate.

School expansion had increased first year pupil numbers by 30 but four years of the new stream has seen that figure increase to 120. At 08:30 traffic is impossible. “Wilde Road will soon become a wild road.”

The images of the proposed houses were selective and deceptive and failed to show the entire street scene. “The view now is OK but in the future it will be just brick walls. Residents will just have a mass sitting in front of them. Couldn’t something sympathetic have been put there? Semi-detached houses perhaps with long drives that actually blend in. Let’s enhance the area and keep people happy.”

SlaughterCommittee Members were then invited to speak but there was silence for six seconds, none seemed especially keen to have their say, however Councillor Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) remarking on there being “no rush to step in” decided to “start off”.

She had been to Wilde Road and had “thought what a pleasant looking site this was. The trees are there and maturing nicely and they are obviously going to go”. She wanted to know what would be going in their place.

“What will be the effect of the proposed development on the balconies at the rear of Byron Drive? Seems to me they will look straight into the windows of the east block flats.”

“Time and time we are told of the sufficiency of parking but time and time again we know from experience that the proposals are simply unrealistic. I know what the Mayor of London wants to do but it defies reason.”

The area is “very attractive but the roads are very small and I can imagine at busy times how bad the situation is”. The parking proposals are “an absolute nonsense”.

“The design [of the proposed buildings] is terribly bland and does nothing to enhance the area whereas the existing houses are very attractive properties.”

Speaking of housing density she said “we are trying to cram in numbers which I do not think the site supports. The amenity space is frankly miserable. Just look at it, there is no real amount of amenity space, you can’t really say that [the bits around the edge] is amenity space. It’s not somewhere you could take a chair and read a book. Amenity space is not an optional extra.” We are told that “the proposals do not fully meet policy. They don’t meet policy, they don’t meet the policy and we shouldn’t be approving a development where amenity space is less than the minimum that we consider should be there. When we see that flats on the upper floors do not have any private amenity space I think What Are We Doing?”.

“I applaud the provision of affordable housing and we need to do it but we shouldn’t do it where the density is so great that it is likely to become the social problem of the future. The amenity space is miserable, it is not sufficient and I do not think we should approve this. I am terribly disappointed with what has come forward”.

A planning officer said that ten trees would be removed, a figure which proved to be wrong. There are twelve. He said the distance from the balcony to the new development was 21 metres. It is actually 20, he said so at the previous meeting.

TaylorCouncillor Nicola Taylor (Labour, Erith) spoke next. She queried the claim that the social housing provision exceeded requirements. “My understanding is that Council land has to have 50% and not 35 and therefore it doesn’t exceed.”

The Council officer responded by saying that the eastern block is the affordable block “and our local target for affordable housing is 35% but the London Plan encourages 50%”. The audience corrected the Council officer, it is the western block which is affordable.

Councillor Taylor referred to the loss of a play area required by the 1995 application “so what guarantees are there that the seven pages of conditions on this application will be enforced”. The 1995 conditions were not enforced, “it is the local authority policing itself and with this application we have seen how the authority negotiates with itself. We need transparency.”

“I see the need for affordable housing and we need additional social housing but we are talking of only six units and the report says that is significant and only one property meets the London Plan [space] definition for affordable homes. We have over 2,000 people in temporary accommodation, [at this rate] it will take over 200 years to clear.”

Wilde Road residents were, she said “paying the price of the Council’s failure” to provide sufficient affordable housing on other sites such as the old Civic Centre.

“We condemn garden grabbing but for the flats around there it [the open space] is their garden. If it is not acceptable to build on one family’s garden why is it acceptable to build on the gardens of many many more?”

Reader The Council officer excused the failure to enforce the 1995 conditions “they were made quite some time ago, the new terms here would be enforced but maybe not in perpetuity.”

No other Committee Member wished to speak, so Chairman Peter Reader added a few words. He was in favour of “the development of these two sites but the right development of these two sites. My main concern is the highway issues. The statistics offered are not enough to make me change my mind”.

“Sometimes we have to step back and think about residents and the problems they do have”. (What? Only sometimes?)

“I am not happy that what we have here convinces me that we have resolved the highways issues or that we ever can do to be quite honest. I have no compunction in saying that I cannot support the application.”

“We do however need to vote on the application for approval because that is our procedure, do I have a a proposer and seconder?” The Chairman did not, instead the Committee voted to reject, proposed and seconded by the cross party alliance of Councillors Slaughter and Taylor.

June Slaughter proposed rejection, Nicola Taylor (Labour) seconded and they were backed by every Committee Member.
Note that Chairman Reader does not vote unlike when Councillor Clark is in the Chair. If it was not for her double voting the Eastside eye sore would not have been approved.

TweetWow! how much has that farce cost the taxpayer?

For eighteen months or more the Planning Officers, no doubt under the watchful eye of Council Leader Teresa O’Neill, employed agents and experts to cobble together a plan which broke many of their own rules only to see the Planning Committee honourably stand their ground and refuse to accept the recommendation to approve it. Twice! An application which if submitted by a private individual would not have progressed beyond stage one.

The waste of money should surely be investigated as should the possibility of undue pressure being applied to Planning officers who so often seemed to be out of their depth when questioned. A sure sign that thay were uneasy about the whole sorry thing.

But for now rejoice for the residents of Wilde Road and Byron Drive. They have won a major victory. Will it be permanent?

Something else that needs investigating is Cabinet Member Philip Read. As soon as his Cabinet’s favourite BexleyCo had in effect been kicked in the teeth on its first outing he was busy trying to make out on Twitter that defeat was victory. However isn’t it going a bit too far to claim that the Labour Councillor who seconded the rejection proposal was not objecting to it? He is just a pathetic fool isn’t he, or as my companion at the planning meeting said, “totally unprofessional”.


2 August - Wilde celebrations

Well that was a turn up for the books; after resident Chris Brown forensically examined the down sides of building on the Wilde Road open space and a pathetic - I burst out laughing at one stage - performance by Council Officers and their agent, not a single Councillor spoke in favour of the shockingly poor proposal.

Councillor John Fuller’s (Conservative, Northumberland Heath) objections brilliantly hit exactly the right note and his performance was followed by an excoriating attack by Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup). After that the plans stood no chance and it was unanimously rejected.

Full report at the weekend I hope.

And what happened to the promised report on Kent Police’s rejection of my complaint against them accepting Maxine Fothergill’s harassment allegation because I did what any reporter might have done; reveal her run in with the Libel Laws? I’m afraid it fell victim to a demanding old lady in need of help and an inconvenient IT failure.

Suffice to say at this stage that Kent Police still believe it would have been in the public interest to charge me with harassment. Needless to say their failure to investigate any part of Fothergill’s false statement was in their view entirely correct. No one did anything wrong at all - except me.

What a surprise!


1 August - Read all about it

There is a good chance that I will upset all my Labour supporting friends today as well as a good few Tories, but as long as one in particular isn’t happy, it has to be good.

I currently find some of the things Labour Party officials nationally are saying to be absolutely reprehensible and find it difficult to understand how so many people who I know to be very decent individuals can remain members. I suppose they do so to fight from the inside; although not all do. My daughter’s partner phoned this afternoon to update me on his pursuit of the corrupt police officers who are implicated in the murder of his brother, but more to the point, he has resigned his membership of the Labour Party.

Reprehensible people do of course exist in all walks of life which brings me to Councillor Philip Read’s recent Twitterings.

He has been goading Councillor Daniel Francis into condemning the anti-Semitic Peter Willsman and for some reason Daniel has not yet clearly done so. I suppose, just as I do myself, he considers that it is not always worth answering every single one of Read’s allegations. He will regard it as encouragement and take his juvenile argument to the next step.

However Councillor Read will never be able to take the high ground and win such a debate outright because he and his ilk have a history. A history steeped in hypocrisy.

TweetTake a look at Read’s most recent Tweet.

It has been reported here before that Daniel has been on the receiving end of some choice language from Bexley’s Tories. Not to put too fine a point on it he was called a C at a Council meeting. Now he has made discrete references to Tory Councillors who use the N word and the P word - which of several I am not sure.

Read challenged him to say who used such language. “Make clear to whom you were referring. Failure to do so is just rank cowardice.”

How ironic is that? How many times has Read and his dubious friends @bexleynews referred to ‘Labour supporters’ and a ‘sad old blogger’ who have supposedly condemned Conservative initiatives. The Belvedere Splash Park, the new Civic Offices, street trees and probably more that I have forgotten.

I have usually come to believe that the imagined Labour Supporter to be a reference to myself and I have challenged the Tories to be more specific with their identification but they never have, not once.

But we have it from the horse’s mouth that such reticence is “rank cowardice”. The Conservative allegations differ however from Daniel’s, the former, if they do indeed refer to myself, are definitely untrue whilst Councillor Francis’ accounts most probably are.

You can be absolutely certain that he didn’t make up the following little gem from the Twitter archives.

TweetThree See You Next Tuesdays and a Dickhead plus an implied punch in the mouth for good measure.

Nice people we have running Bexley Council.

If you have the stamina for it most of the Read/Francis Twitter exchange may be seen by clicking the first of the two Tweet images.

By the way, five years ago Bexley Conservatives were asked to recognise and welcome ethnic diversity and stand against “Racism and xenophobia”. Every Conservative Councillor apart from Peter Catterall refused to do so. Peter was drummed out the following year and is no longer a Conservative Councillor.


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