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Bonkers Blog June 2019

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15 June - Empty streets and sometimes empty promises

As you might remember I get an invitation to all the Abbey Wood Trader’s Association meetings which I suspect is mainly because they can lumber me with writing their minutes but I’m also an occasional contributor on Council matters. In retrospect it should perhaps have been called the Wilton Road Traders’ Association because it has no members beyond the handful of shops around the corner at its southern (Knee Hill) end.

It’s not appropriate to report those meetings here (†) although in practice there is rarely anything discussed that could be remotely described as ‘Commercially Sensitive’.

Wilton Road Wilton RoadWhat there is you can guess from looking at the road at pretty much any time. Generally empty. Ever since Network Rail moved into the area in August 2013 the number of shoppers has fallen steadily.

Bexley Council didn’t help by taking the Network Rail works as an excuse to further reduce on street parking facilities and massively increase the price of off-street parking. Nearby Gayton Road offers the second most expensive parking in the borough.

The Association has complained to and sought help from various authorities but little has happened. When the brothel operated opposite the Abbey Arms, Anti-Social behaviour began to get out of hand and the police took an interest. However their report was that Wilton Road was far from being the worst locality for ASB and said as much to both Councils. They can’t be blamed for accepting that at face value and turning their attentions elsewhere.

At around the same time as the Police were keeping an eye on things the two Councils hosted a traders’ meeting in the Community Centre. I was specifically excluded from the meeting, not by the traders who wanted me to be there but by the two Councils. Presumably they thought I might make comment and after a year and a half of waiting I am going to prove them right.

None of the six local Councillors representing Wilton Road (it is divided by the borough boundary line so three Councillors from each) were invited either, nor was Teresa Pearce MP.

Eight Greenwich Council Officers were present and three from Bexley plus a police officer from each borough. (The meeting pre-dated the amalgamation of the two borough police structures.)

Between them those eleven Council Officers took away seven action points.

It is exactly 17 months since that meeting was held and there has been no similar contact since. When the AWTA chased those action points ten months ago the Councils had to admit that not one of them had been followed up. Looking at the list of action points as I am right now I think one could say that one from Bexley is no longer an issue but as an illustration of how Councils exist to tick boxes and move on while doing as little as possible it is hard to beat.

But let’s not to be too negative; while the traders say they have had no help from the three Greenwich Councillors, on the Bexley side Labour’s Sally Hinkley takes a close interest and attends every meeting for which there is the slightest reason to do so.

Thanks to her interest the flyover is soon to boast bright blue signposts directing pedestrians and train passengers towards the Wilton Road shops. It is fair to say that Bexley Council were more than cooperative too.

The railway authorities refused to provide signs on their property and it may be a more serious problem than one might imagine. I recently came across someone who had lived in Felixstowe Road for seven years and had no idea that there were shops the other side of the railway line. Felixtowe Road provided a decent bed for the daily commute to London and everything else had passed her by.

The regeneration of Gayton Road ran months late and is an obvious improvement on what was there before but doesn’t look as attractive as what was planned as noted here on 5th June. In particular there are no trees and local resident Craig Jenkins organised a petition about it. Greenwich Council has offered kind words and Bexley Council which is the lead on this project has promised to do something about it come the next planting season.

I do hope they can find a place where they can dig a hole without piercing some vital underground service. I am not entirely confident of Network Rail's mapping. They once admitted to checking through my many photographs to see if they would help them locate a drain.

When Bexley Council restricted access to Wilton Road for six weeks earlier this year I was not alone in predicting traffic chaos but we were wrong. People stayed away and all the evidence is that they have never come back.

The permanent closure of the Post Office has also had a big effect on passing trade and until Peabody builds its tower on the Harrow Inn site there will be no suitable property nearby. The Peabody Tower is more than two years away from completion and the Post Office doesn’t want to wait that long.

And then The Abbey Arms shut down for major refurbishment work.

The loss of Crossrail services is having a major impact on trade right across London. The Traders’ Assocations’ market gurus CC EVents UK managed to interest the News Shopper in their plight which led first to a radio interview, then an item on the local TV news and just last week a Channel 5 film crew was in Wilton Road as part of a planned hour long documentary.

Some of our local traders spent very large sums in preparation for the anticipated Crossrail generated trade. The Councils said they were sitting on little gold mines. How wrong they were.

CC Events UK have proved to be the one and perhaps only bright spot for Wilton Road. Their markets in the Abbey Arms’ car park seem to attract bad weather but have been a resounding financial success. Many stall holders report it is their most lucrative venue, even better than those held in Hall Place in some cases.

Unfortunately there is no evidence that the markets are having any impact on trade beyond market days but there is a determination to carry on.

There will be another market in two weeks time whether the pub is open again by then or not. Don’t discount its garden being accessible to market visitors and refreshments of some sort being available. The new owner shows every sign of wanting to become part of the local community and doing whatever he can to help.

If the market continues to succeed it is more than likely that next year will see it go bi-monthly.

For news on Abbey Wood Village there is a new Facebook page. Expect to see traders’ special offers there soon.

Market Market
† This particular report was not exactly solicited by the AWTA but its Chairman will not be surprised to see it.


13 June - Jews, boos and lose

Whenever there is a break on Bonkers - too many trips to East Ham, Bexley Councillors behaving themselves etc. - a dilemma arises. Does one let the blog die naturally or keep it going on nothing much?

Given the stupidity of politics nationally it is tempting to comment on that, there would be a never ending supply of material.

TweetFor the Many not the Jew
What goes on within the two major political parties is horrifying though in very different ways. Jeremy Corbyn is just a nightmare from every point of view. The anti-Semitism displayed is beyond comprehension. Quoting Anne Frank while welcoming yet another anti-Semite into Parliament. A woman who denies the one incident of Jew hating that got her into the headlines but who has a history of doing the same thing which tends to prove her a liar.

There is simply no excuse for any of it.

Anti-Semitism or maybe I should say anti-anti-Semitism came to the fore in Bexley six months ago when it adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s definition of anti-Semitism.

I had always assumed the Cabinet decision had the backing of everyone locally and Philip Read’s comments suggests it did but unfortunately I missed the debate - if any - and even more unfortunately Bexley’s webcast had no audio track. It still hasn’t.

In ignorance of the detail I find myself wondering what is behind this Twitter exchange. Did the Labour Group have nothing at all to say about the IHRA definition, surely their Leader must have commented but why is the then Labour Councillor Danny Hackett claiming to have his support gagged?

I see nothing at all to justify Councillor Read’s slur on the whole local party but as usual Councillor Ahmet Dourmoush hits the nail squarely on the head.

Boris Johnson
So the man who robbed South East London of its bridge over the Thames (†) is the front runner to be the next Prime Minister. What a sorry state of affairs. It says everything one needs to know about top Tories that he is their best candidate.

I am inclined to agree which makes the situation even worse. I wouldn’t trust Boris Johnson one inch and I’m a firm believer in Elwyn Bryant’s opinion of how he operates. To understand that comment you would have to be present at the meeting between former Bexley Police Borough Commander Victor Olisa and the pair of us when I asked the Chief Superintendent exactly what persuaded him to disregard Crown Prosecution advice and drop the impending charges against Cabinet Member Peter Craske after so much incriminating evidence was found on his laptop.

† Mayor Livingstone’s small scale bridge had been approved and due for completion in 2014 before the newly elected Boris Johnson succumbed to Bexley Council Leader Teresa O’Neill’s NIMBYism.

TV Licences
My email Inbox tells me that some readers are concerned or amused by the impending loss of my free TV licence after becoming eligible for it less than a year ago. Except that I will have to tell Capita where to go at frequent intervals I am not personally concerned at all.

I fell out of love with the BBC many years ago, firstly in my usual nerdy way, for their failure to observe the minimum technical standards for digital broadcasting mandated by the European Broadcasting Union of which they are a founding member and later for distorting and censoring the news.

For reasons I would be hard pressed to specify I gradually stopped watching any TV programme. It started four or five years ago and now I can say with hand on heart that this year I watched most of the Inspector Morse based drama Endeavour (ITV) and the penultimate episode of Line of Duty (BBC) which looked too much like a documentary to me.

And that’s it. I occasionally flick on a news channel if something interesting is going on so I saw a bit of the D-Day celebrations and that really is the lot.

So I won’t be buying a TV licence. From being a major fan twenty years ago I have gone to being perfectly happy to see the BBC closed down.

The only good thing I can say about it is that it has kept my daughter employed for the past 30 years or whatever it is and paid her so well that she has never come to me suggesting that a bit of cash would come in handy.


8 June - The Riverside Energy Park

Bexley Labour Group has been busy producing Press Releases this week. First revealing that the Conservatives had not bothered to attend any of London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee meetings over the past year, then arguing that Bexley’s installation of electric car charging points is going to annoy a lot of people because too high a proportion of car parking spaces will be lost from small shopping areas. (†)

Then yesterday they issued one about the plans to massively expand the Cory incinerator in Belvedere. Cory Environmental made a presentation to Bexley Council last October but didn’t bother to hand out copies to the handful of members of the public in attendance so they have only themselves to blame if their case cannot be made more enthusiastically here.

Things in favour of it are 900,000 megawatts of ‘free’ electricity. Cheap district heating and 655,000 tonnes of rubbish that does not go into landfill.

The other side of the equation is that a quarter of those 655,000 tonnes will arrive by road, it will do nothing to improve air quality and it is right next door to a nature reserve. Three MPs have submitted their concerns to various hearings.

The Government Inspector’s web page is here.

† I am a member of a few electric vehicle owners’ discussion forums. I mentioned Bexley’s plans for 13 dual headed trickle chargers and the consequent loss of parking spaces on one of those forums. The unanimous verdict wass that the loss of a high proportion of parking spaces does indeed outweigh the small advantage of a couple of not very useful charging points.


5 June - Vote green

Below is what Bexley Council told us Gayton Road would look like after they spent £6 million of Network Rail’s money (including the recently started Felixstowe Road) improving the appearance of the area around Abbey Wood station.

Nice isn’t it? Nice and green that is.

Trees Trees

The reality is rather different.

No trees No trees

There are about 16 trees shown in the leaflet issued in November 2016 and now that the work is finished, just the two that survived the diggers.

What happened?

Hole HoleThe refurbished Abbey Arms pub is definitely green but elsewhere everything is hard white stone. I don’t much like the new pub colour and at night it is hard to see it at all but far more don’t like the absence of the promised street trees.

Only three holes have been left in the footpaths that might accomodate trees. Is there anywhere beneath the granite that is clear of service pipes and conduits?

One Abbey Wood resident feels strongly enough about it to have started a petition. If it is directed at Bexley Council - and most of the barren land is within Bexley, I fear for its chances. When did Bexley Council ever respect requests from residents? On the other hand Greenwich Council has shown some interest in fulfilling the original promise.

The petition may be signed here.


4 June - Bexley Conservatives missed the bus. (And the train, and the bikes and taxis too)

Yesterday’s Press Release from the Bexley Labour Group argued that converting 26 of Bexley’s parking bays to electric vehicles only without listening to objections ran the risk of harming business in the borough and they may well be right. In the short term they almost certainly will be but eventually, if government ambitions are to be realised, we are likely to see many more such charging points. Within months new electric vehicles will become available from Vauxhall (the Corsa), KIA (the Soul), BMW (The Mini) Citroën (the C-Zero), MG (the ZS), Peugeot (e-208), Volkswagen (too many to mention) and Audi. More charging points will become essential.

Note the absence of Ford which has been sitting on the sidelines ignoring the trend and hoping it will go away. They will surely pay the price.

Labour is on much firmer ground with another Press Release. Each year Bexley Council allocates Councillors to Committees, some of them London wide ones. Naturally all the best jobs go to Conservatives.

A year ago they put forward three names for the London Councils Transport and Environment Committee. Labour put forward three names too but fat chance!

2018/19 Committee appointees. Councillor Craske and Deputies Councillors Sawyer and Seymour.

As you will know. Bexley is particularly badly served by public transport; no Tube, no tram, no DLR, no river crossings and no Crossrail - the terminating buffers straddle the Greenwich/Bexley boundary.

The Chairman of Bexley’s Transport Users’ Sub-Committee regularly complains that TfL fails to show up at any of her meetings and rightly so but it would appear that there is an element of hypocrisy about that.

It became clear at the last Council meeting that Bexley’s delegate to the London-wide Committee never ever bothered to show up. And what about his two Deputies? Exactly the same. Not a single meeting out of four attended!

How is Bexley ever going to get a fair crack of the whip if it is not represented? We have had no say on electric car charging points, air quality, fly tipping, dockless bikes for hire, concessionary fares and the Freedom Pass, the TaxiCard and the Ultra Low Emission Zone which will soon be loading extra costs on most of us,

Looks to be a disgraceful state of affairs don’t you think?


3 June - Bexley Labour. All charged up

This blog is prompted by Bexley Labour’s Press Release about the Council’s failure to listen to concerns about electric vehicle (EV) charging points.

I have become quite interested in electric vehicles, not because of their green credentials but primarily because they are such fun to drive and cost next to nothing to run. The one I bought nine months ago can easily do 300 miles on a single charge but that is still something of a rarity - not to mention being expensive.

More affordable and second hand vehicles will typically do a little under half of that before needing to find a charging point which is ideal for someone who drives ten miles to work each day. No congestion charge, no ULEZ charge and plug it into a 13 amp socket at the weekend. Virtually free motoring.

For the record I have driven just over 6,000 miles for a total electricity cost of £38.

For longer journeys some planning may be necessary. Where are the chargers? Whilst there are now more charging points than petrol stations in the UK that is not a fair comparison. You can fill your car with diesel in five minutes but even the fastest electric chargers will take half an hour or more.

The UK’s network of chargers has evolved such that 50kW plus chargers are frequently found on major routes, but usually only in ones or twos, and slower charging points are found at destinations where one is likely to be there primarily for other reasons. Anything from supermarkets to National Trust properties.

The problem with both is that you can turn up and find the charging bay(s) already occupied and as often as not by non-electric vehicles. I called in at Sainsbury’s in Becton last Thursday and found five of their eight charging bays occupied by cars that had no business there, one electric car plugged in but not charging and two spare spaces. On examination the electric car was not charging because the charger was broken and the same applied to the vacant spaces.

It is a constant problem, not too bad for those of us with 300 miles of range to play with but disastrous for many.

Bexley Council plans to dip a tentative toe into the water with 13 double headed charging points dotted around its 300 mile road network. Better than nothing but maybe not well thought out.

KIA SoulBecause my electric vehicle is so rare with fewer than 250 in the country and allegedly increasing by only around six a month I have been invited to show it off to a few car enthusiast clubs which is why I was in Brighton a week ago. I mentioned Bexley’s plan to install thirteen dual 7kW chargers and everyone fell about laughing - but you have to start somewhere.

Labour Councillors in Bexley are worried about taking away 26 parking spaces from generally small shopping centres and have issued a Press Release on the subject. They think it will take trade away from nearby businesses and all objections and suggestions have been ignored totally as one would expect in this borough.

There may well be an impact on trade but in my view there are too many unknowns to be sure. Bexley will be charging for the electricity and with all the supermarkets planning to offer the same facility for nothing (and already doing so in many cases) Bexley’s tiny offering might well prove to be a white elephant. On the other hand experience elsewhere shows that many non-EV motorists park alongside EV chargers anyway and risk a ticket.

In the two hours allowed no electric car will take on board more than 60 miles’ worth of ‘fuel’. Will that be attractive? Not to me but then not everyone is lucky enough to have their own charging point in their own garage.

Charging hubWhat Bexley Council should really do is incentivise a commercial company to install a bank of 100kW plus chargers alongside the A2 as more far sighted Councils have done. Now that would be really useful to long distance electric vehicle drivers and experience shows that such people are prepared to pay a premium for the convenience. Feeble efforts in small shopping centres may not compete with the freebies available from Tesco and the like.

The 13 locations are Bellegrove Road, Welling; Blackfen Parade, Blackfen; Danson Lane, Welling; Erith Road, Barnehurst; Methuen Road, Bexleyheath; Nuxley Road, Belvedere; Picardy Street, Belvedere; Sandford Road, Bexleyheath; Sherwood Park Avenue, Blackfen; St Johns Road, Sidcup; The Oval, Blackfen; Walnut Tree Road, Erith and Waterside, Crayford.

Note: The KIA Soul shown here is the electric version. The upgraded model due next September will not be available with an internal combustion engine. The sign of things to come!

It is battery powered or nothing for the European market. With more than 200 horsepower and 400 Newton metres of torque under the bonnet it will put most hot-hatches to shame.


2 June - Bonkers. Where next?

If you have been a close observer of this blog over the years you will very likely have noticed a huge reduction in the number of reports of scandalous and downright dishonest goings on at Bexley Council.

I would like to think that it is a direct result of putting them under close scrutiny both here and across Social Media generally but I suspect webcasting has had something to do with it too.

We will never know for sure but my suspicion is that the real reason is that the bad guys are no longer in Bexley. I sometimes wonder if it is worth continuing with the blog; it is very obvious from visitor numbers that readers want to read bad things about Bexley Council - and there is no longer a daily supply of it.

Over the year to date several small concessions have been made towards Bexley Council, you can’t keep raking old things up if they have mended their ways. Everyone deserves a second chance.

So today Bonkers announces the completion of a big weed out of old stuff. The beneficiaries are Councillors Peter Craske - the obscene blog stuff and the catalogue of parking fibs have gone . Val Clark - the summary of her year as Mayor is banished. Cheryl Bacon is no longer featured - her minor transgression of the Local Government Act led to various people who should have known better lying on her behalf.

Sent to the Recycling Bin is Councillor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis for her misjudged exhibition at the Royal Charlotte public house. Melvin Seymour for making a malicious allegation against former Bexley blogger John Kerlen, possibly after being misinformed but possibly not. All gone. Ditto Linda Bailey for setting upon John Kerlen when he poked a camera through a doorway. All history now.

Other beneficiaries are Councillors Campbell, Massey and Fothergill all of whom are no longer Members of Bexley Council. All the most critical comment is removed and with luck we will never see their like in Council again.

The past is the past. Going soft in my old age? Probably.

Attempts to access any of the removed pages will take you to this notice.


1 June - The man on the Thamesmead omnibus

A reader reported a conversation with a bus driver earlier this week; the news subsequently appeared on The Murky Depths blog but not all of it. The driver gave no dates and there can be no guarantee it is totally accurate but this is the summary of what he said…

Route 301 which had been scheduled to complement Crossrail services from December 2018 will begin service imminently using double deckers operated by Arriva out of Dartford †. It will run from Bexleyheath to Woolwich via Woolwich Road, Long Lane, Brampton Road, Woolwich Road (top of Knee Hill), New Road, Harrow Manorway, Carlyle Road, Bentham Road and Nathan Way.

The 53 from Plumstead Garage will no longer serve stops beyond Lambeth North during the day and a new N53 will service Plumstead to Horseguard’s Parade during night hours.

The 428 will only serve Erith and Crayford/Dartford and not go to Bluewater or Darent Valley Hospital.

The B11 will only operate between Bexleyheath and Lakeside Medical Centre on Yarnton Way and no longer go to Thamesmead.

The driver referred to information on a website called although the changes section doesn’t appear to be very up to date.

There was no reference to the 469 (Woolwich to Erith) for which a diversion via New Road. Woolwich Road and Picardy Road was proposed. That would deprive Abbey Road of more than a third of services, turn New Road into a major bus route and congest Picardy Road even more than is already the case.

† Arriva has recently been granted permission to keep buses at 185 Manor Road, Erith too.
Route 301

Route 301 as originally proposed. However due to Bexley Council’s intransigence over removing the dangerous kink in the road at the top of Knee Hill it will now divert via New Road. That may not seem like much but it is an additional five stops on what was supposed to be an Express Service.


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