Ever since the Harrow Inn was
demolished in 2009 the site has been an eyesore and bone of contention for
Abbey Wood residents. Peabody Housing bought the site four or five years ago and
since then the southern corner has been occupied by a car wash. Earlier this week it closed.
Chatterers on Facebook often claimed that the car wash was illegal but I have been present at meetings where Peabody managers said they were collecting rent from the car wash owner. In early 2016 the car wash used to send a representative named Nick to the local traders’ association meetings, on one occasion both he and a Peabody director attended the same meeting; it was reasonable to assume that the Knee Hill car wash was an entirely legitimate enterprise.
However it would appear that those who claimed the business occupied the site illegally were not entirely wrong. Peabody’s lease ran for one year only from 5th June 2015 and Mr. Gkonis, the leaseholder, was not immediately offered renewal and not unnaturally he never paid any rent after July 2016.
It was early 2017 before agreement to renew was reached and only in July last year was Mr. Gkonis asked to sign it. The lease stipulated a rent of £17,000 per annum and precluded subletting. Mr. Gkonis never got around to signing the lease and appears to have disappeared from the scene shortly afterwards. Some reports say he became unwell and went abroad. However the car wash continued to operate.
When challenged at the beginning of this year the new principals (trading as Danson Prestige Carwash Limited) at the car wash claimed to have a lease despite nobody at Peabody admitting to entering a signed agreement. Difficulties were placed in the way of getting a copy of the claimed lease to Peabody and when they were overcome it proved to be unsigned. Some reports said that it showed signs of being a forgery, at least in part.
There is no doubt whatever that Peabody owns the site and it was leased to the car wash owner, Mr. Gkonis until July 2016. The car wash has definitely been operating without permission for the past two years but not everything is quite as certain. It is not impossible that the recent owner was deceived by the original lessee but he would have to have been very naive to have believed that the lease he possessed was legitimate.
The whole thing came to a head in Dartford County Court last week when the recent occupiers were accused of trespass and inevitably thrown out.
Peabody Housing proposes to build on the site and is currently working on new plans after their original drawings were not well received locally. Further demolition and site redevelopment is making slow progress.