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Bonkers Blog March 2019

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31 March (Part 2) - Crossness sewage pumping station reopens

CrossnessIt’s been around 18 months since Joseph Bazelgette’s Crossness sewage pump was last open to the public following the discovery of asbestos. It’s been several years since I last looked inside and I thought it was time I went again. Unfortunately I was one of a great many with the same idea and the Trust’s organisation showed signs of buckling under the strain.

Feeling lazy I decided to spend £3 on the shuttle bus from Abbey Wood station the first of which was due at 10:30. I was there with 16 minutes to spare just in time to see the bus depart well before time. It was two minutes to eleven before another bus departed Wilton Road with a load of disgruntled half frozen passengers.

A quick bus turnaround at Crossness was made impossible by the need to queue on the bus while the fares were taken and in many cases change found. It would have been so much quicker to have gone back to the old system of an onboard bus conductor.

The queue for entry was about 15 minutes long and the two ladies on the cash desk were somewhat overwhelmed with both cash and card payments. It would have been faster if they were a little less interested in friendly banter and more intent on reducing the time spent in the bitter cold wind.

An hour later the queue was three times as long.

It must be next to impossible to accurately estimate the demand and the problems were those of success. I hope the tea and cake didn’t run out.

If you have not been to Bexley’s Cathedral you really should make the effort to go at least once. The next steaming day is 19th May.

People were still being left behind by the bus when I returned at about 12:30.

Crossness Crossness Crossness Crossness
Crossness Crossness Crossness Crossness
Crossness Crossness Crossness Crossness


31 March - Slower is good and quicker journeys are good too. Bexley Council likes both

SeymourThe final item of any importance at Thursday’s Places Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting was the Cabinet Member’s report. In some respects it was more forecast than report as Councillor Craske headlined some of the things he planned to say at Cabinet on 9th April. The looking back was largely confined to the new road system affecting Gravel Hill and Albion Road.

The narrowing of Albion Road has resulted in traffic speeds being reduced by 24% which Councillor Craske thought was good. Congestion at the two Gravel Hill junctions (now roundabouts) has been reduced by 25% in the morning and 23% in the evening.

There has been a 7% reduction in congestion on Gravel Hill at the A2 end and the shorter journey times were said to have been noticed by the bus companies.

Another traffic problem is parking around schools and he planned to ask the Committee their opinion on a variety of schemes. Councillor Craske said some Councils had installed bollards that rise out of the road at appropriate times. He described that as “quite extreme”.

Nothing will change until well into next year at best.


30 March (Part 3) - It might put Thamesmead well and truly on the map

Priti Patel PollYeah, I reckon I could live with that. Just one thing though, I went off Priti some years ago when she appeared on TV advocating the restoration of capital punishment. Someone is going to have to tell her that while we have a police force in this country as thoroughly corrupt as it undoubtedly is, there is no way anyone can countenance capital punishment.

Who is the 6% who think Amber Rudd is a suitable candidate? What were they thinking of? I heard Rudd interviewed on Radio 4 Today when she was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. 100% wally who did not have a clue what she was talking about.


30 March (Part 2) - Now it is four bins to clutter your garden

The second part of the Places Overview and Scrutiny meeting was devoted to all things rubbish.

Didsbury Children There was an overlong session on how the recycling message was being spread via school children, a technique which probably has merit. It has certainly worked for left wing school teachers who set out to indoctrinate various aspects of political correctness. Retaliation perhaps for my days at grammar school when all the teachers came out as Tories in 1959, but that is enough digression for one blog.

As you have been told so many times before, Bexley has taken a leading role in pushing upwards its recycling rates. In most recent years it has been the highest in London although the figures took a bit of a knock when residents were asked to separate food and garden waste, save £440,000 a year by so doing, and be charged extra for their efforts. The brown bin tax.

As a one time supporter of the Community Charge I am probably on shaky ground if I criticise the policy but once again Bexley Council was intent on deceiving the general population. Not a whisper about how the service became cheaper to operate, only the implication that it wasn’t, hence the charge.

All policies need to be reviewed occasionally and Bexley Council believes it can save another £450,000 a year by moving all waste collections to a two weekly cycle. The widely disliked plastic boxes are to be replaced by two wheelie bins. Green with a blue lid for paper and cardboard and green with a white lid for plastic, glass, cans and cartons. If it is a service cut, and moving to two weekly collections may well be regarded as one, it is nevertheless relatively painless - unlike the bin tax in 2015.

TweetThe standard arrangement will be a 180 litre bin for paper and a 240 litre bin for the plastic and stuff. Where that may not be enough space, or perhaps too much, alternatives may be chosen. 140, 180 or 240 litres are available with both lid colours.

I shall order small ones and with any luck be able to get them into the roof space where they can join the three black boxes that went up there ten years ago. I don’t suppose I am alone in having no free space for more ugly wheelie bins in my front garden.

The three bin sizes will be on show in the Broadway on 25th, 26th and 27th of April and you will be able to order your preferred size at but not yet, it will be a week or so before the web page goes on line. If you need a bigger paper bin or a non-standard plastics bin (either bigger or smaller) be sure to place your order before the end of May because Bexley Council’s flexibility does not extend to changing the bin size later.

There is no point in restating what is in the leaflet when you can read it for yourself.

Note: If you wonder how I get away without ever having used the three waste boxes, the answer is a compost bin kindly provided to me at a very low price by Bexley Council when it was under Labour and a ‘roadside’ communal collection point just 20 seconds walk away.


30 March (Part 1) - Cutting remarks

There was a new doorman at the Civic Centre on Thursday evening and he had no concept of the term Public Meeting. He told me that I couldn’t go inside without having arranged an escort or sponsor to accompany me. I was told to go away and “sit down over there” until my escort turned up. No one did and eventually the gate was opened and I passed through. Good timing. Once again I found myself holding open the door to the Chamber for none other than Leader Teresa O’Neill.

Her few words were pleasant enough and we went our separate ways. During the meeting itself she came across to offer me a copy of a document that was being circulated to the Committee. Nothing like that has ever happened before and maybe I can assume ‘the war’ is over. I’ve no idea why she inflamed it by reporting me to the police for “criticising Councillors” all those years ago - probably poor advice from the Monitoring Officer or Chief Executive - but I shall try not to mention it again. A truce if not a complete laying down of arms.

I sometimes think the News Shopper is more critical of Bexley Council than Bonkers is except that it has a short memory and doesn’t highlight Councillors’ lies, deceptions and contradictions. If the Leader could reign in the excesses of the Terrible Two I might be able to go away and behave like your average 75 year old.
The meeting itself was one of the most boring in recent memory. Part of the problem was that it was dominated by Network Rail’s report on the Barnehurst landslip which was expertly presented by their Route Asset Manager, Derek Butcher, who had previously addressed the Transport Users’ Sub-Committee. Inevitably his story had not changed.

It was slightly clearer than before that the ground sensors sent an alarm signal at 03:30 on 11th February and a London bound train crawled through “on caution” with the driver on the look out for trouble which he saw on the down track on the London side of Barnehurst station.

LandslipFurther precautionary work on that section of track is going to cause up to 13 days of line closure over the next two years, the first of them being for 27 hours on the last weekend in April followed by a whole weekend in May. it will cost “multi-millions of pounds”.

Councillor Linda Bailey who had not had the benefit of attending the Transport Users’ meeting, asked if there was any chance of “accelerating the work by doing it over three months and fixing it once and for all”. Mr. Butcher said that would from his point of view represent better value for money and current work on the Brighton line had demonstrated the advantages but he would have to consult Southeastern about a protracted line closure.

Councillor Borella (Labour, Slade Green & Northend) repeated his request for turn back facilities west of Barnehurst and again suggested that the line could be put in a tunnel as was done to solve a similar problem at Gerrards Cross. He asked how much each would cost and Mr. Butcher promised to get back to him but not before uttering the word “prohibitive”.

Councillor Nigel Betts (Conservative, Falconwood & Welling) said that when he was a boy every station had crossover points and they have all been taken away. He said that one should be installed somewhere between Bexleyheath and Barnehurst. The loss of services in February had caused his residents a great deal of inconvenience and threatened the survival of some local businesses.

The Chairman, Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Crayford), said that some of his residents were £40 out of pocket because of the loss of their train services.

Councillor John Davey (Conservative, West Heath) asked about tree management and was given the same answer as that provided on 14th March.

Councillor Sally Hinkley (Labour, Belvedere) was concerned that the retaining walls acted as dams and deflected the water elsewhere. Mr. Butcher said the official report would be covering that issue and added that while inspecting the site himself he noted that all the houses closest to the landslip had paved over their front gardens. He was unsure whether that was a good or a bad thing from a railway drainage point of view but would be looking into it.

Councillor Val Clark (Conservative, Crook Log) said that such paved areas must be made of permeable materials. (You would think as Vice-Chairman of the Planning Committee she would know that has only been the case since 1st October 2008.)

Councillor Teresa O’Neill (Conservative, Crook Log) thought the rail lines could do with some litter picking and that someone should be doing that and keeping an eye on the state of cuttings too. Mr. Butcher assured her that the cuttings and embankments were already regularly patrolled by degree qualified geological engineers - and separately - litter pickers.

Mr. Butcher said he would be willing to address residents directly if that would be helpful and Leader Teresa O’Neill volunteered to escort him from the building. She did not return.

Next up. Recycling issues. Where the hell will I be able to store four wheelie bins?


29 March (Part 4) - Not guilty. Bexley Tories are probably making it up

Tweedledum and TweedledeeUsually when the two twerps who run Bexley Conservatives’ Twitter account post something like this they are referring to me, but this time I don’t think they can be.

Tweet The word ‘loony’ has never been used on Bonkers next to the word ‘idea’ which is perhaps surprising.

‘Loony’ has been used a total of six times in nearly ten years and always preceding the word ‘Left’ - and some of the less intelligent Tories still refer to me as a Labour supporter, sometimes Labour Troll.

‘Wreck’ occurs for a total of 21 times but only once about a Bexleyheath road. Fears were expressed for the future of Albion Road which became single tracked instead of two. Tory Councillors said the same.

There are six occurrences of the phrase ‘vanity project’ but none have anything to do with roads.

So I would guess that just for once the Tweedleboys have not got me in mind, and nor should they.

There have been two references to the Gravel Hill roundabouts improving traffic speed, most recently on 20th January 2017 when the following comment appeared…

“I suspect that the roundabouts proposed for Gravel Hill at both the Watling Street and Albion Road junctions might improve traffic flow.”

… while at the same time hoping they would be better designed than some of the others that had gone before. Since the Gravel Hill roundabouts were brought into use my only criticism has been of the standard of driving to be seen there. An almost total disregard for lane discipline.

Bexley Tories have a bit of a cheek claiming that installing roundabouts instead of traffic lights was a brilliant move, it probably was but those of us with long memories may wish to remind them who it was that replaced the original roundabouts with traffic lights. We are merely back to square one.


29 March (Part 3) - Councillor Leaf nails his colours to the flag pole

Scrutiny meetings generally conclude with a report from the relevant Cabinet Member and with Bexley Council running occasional joint meetings we are sometimes given the privilege, ahem, of two such reports. The Resources and Growth Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting was one such meeting, Cabinet Member Louie French (Growth) and Cabinet Member David Leaf (Resources) both had their say.

Councillor French did not have a lot to add to his contributions made earlier in the meeting which is not intended as a criticism but a simple fact. He spent quite a long time ensuring that various staff members were thanked for their hard work and urged everyone to comment on the Local Plan. He took 250 seconds to deliver his address.

We have to look to Councillor Leaf for the best in entertainment value and his remarkably short 192 seconds did not disappoint. He referred to the Council Tax bills landing on doormats and in Inboxes and the need to start looking again at the budget process. He spoke vaguely about digital contracts which I assume is the free wi-fi coming soon to shopping centres and the webcasting contract which is up for renewal soon.

Brexit is causing some additional work because Bexley Council does not intrude too far into personal business (“we do not have a Stalinist approach”) and therefore has no record of how many non-UK citizens it employs. Councillor Leaf was worried that some might read The Guardian or listen to the BBC and thereby “become unnecessarily frightened”. He has made provision to help them apply for “settled status”.

“Unlike other Councils” he said, “we do not have an EU flag flying ready to be pulled down, sadly not on March 29th it seems”. He referred to the Champagne he had laid in for the occasion.

I must learn to look at Councillor Leaf in a different light, no one is all bad.


29 March (Part 2) - Amey down the toilet

There is only one notable thing left unreported from last Wednesday’s Scrutiny Committee meeting and that is Amey. Who is Amey? Among other things it is a facilities management company and Bexley Council became involved with it in 2015.

The plan was - when was it anything else? - to save money by getting Amey to do all the Council’s odd jobs from running the reception desk through school meals to cleaning the Civic Office’s loos. They attend to the housework at 26 Council sites.

Things have not worked out well although the scale of 2015’s poor decision gets nowhere near competing with Conservative Barnet’s decision to hand over pretty well every damned thing to Capita. An all eggs in one basket decision which has brought Barnet to its financial knees.

Bexley Council may be daft at times but it is a long way from being that daft. Here are a couple of choice comments from the meeting.
“Amey did not impress.”

“Amey are not too interested or engaged with us.”

As you might expect the contract is going out to tender again at the first opportunity which is next year.

I asked the doorman on the way out if he knew what was being said in the chamber. He did and he was happy with it, so all’s good.


29 March (Part 1) - Oh no! Not another one. ™ Brenda from Bristol

TweetIt looks as though Bexley Conservatives are going to continue peddling their half truths. Their survey of town centres was not a public consultation but more of a brain storming session among friends.

The result is a list of good things and bad things about the five main shopping centres in the borough.

Bexley Tories, dishonest as ever, have chosen to publicise only the good things. The full list is reproduced below.

• Good mix of retailers - especially national chains and brands
• Strong convenience offering
• A large pedestrianised area - space for events, market stalls and entertainment
• Business Improvement District (BID) works on behalf of businesses
• Low vacancy rates in town core and shopping centre
• Relatively strong leisure offer - including cinema, bowling, bingo, gyms, eating and drinking
• Great bus connections and plenty of parking spaces (many free)
• Increased residential development in town centres will bring more footfall and customers
• Retail mix attractive to younger shoppers
• Central Library - community resource and footfall generator
• Prominent position on high ridge - expansive views over Kent countryside (which seeks an outward-looking opportunity)
• Changing Places facility in town centre - to enhance accessibility for disabled customers
• Impact of numerous secondary school students visiting weekend afternoons
• Dominance of national retailers and lack of opportunity for independents in the core retail area
• Evening economy imbalance - concentration of F&B businesses in one part of town
• Lack of diversity in leisure offer
• Tired and unattractive public realm and some poor quality shop frontages
• High non-core vacancy rates
• Threat of improved offer at Bluewater and other neighbouring centres
• Increased costs of running a retail business and competition from online shopping

Just out of interest can someone tell me where the many free car parks are in Bexleyheath? I am aware of Asda’s but the few times I have looked in it I have concluded that there is no way anyone should leave anything more valuable than a banger there.

Sainsbury’s and Lidl allow free parking if you jump through various hoops and fine you if you don’t. Where are the free car parks I have failed to spot?

F&B? Not a clue. Food and Booze?


28 March (Part 3) - Erith. Itְ’s both good and not so good despite what Bexley Tories say

TweetBexley Conservatives are notorious for Tweeting half truths and untruths. They were at it again earlier today when they decided to edit what visitors and residents have said about Erith.

Just to put the record straight here is what the Council’s survey actually found, good and not so good…

• The River Thames, Riverside Gardens, Erith Marshes, plus walking and cycling routes
• Riverside Shopping Centre - low vacancies and proactive management
• Morrison’s - as an employer and a footfall magnet
• Leisure offer - including Kassiopi Cove, Leisure Centre, Library, gyms, Erith
• Playhouse and Erith FC
• LSEC college campus
• Heritage assets - especially Erith Pier
• Community groups and services - and strong community will to improve Erith
• Diverse residents - many of whom live within walking distance
• New developments and potential new town centre customers
• Rowing and Yacht Clubs could help provide more links to the Thames
• Good quality public realm and public art in places
• The opening of the refurbished Carnegie by the Exchange
• Ongoing Greater Erith regeneration programme - bringing events such as the Erith • Kitchen and potential for future investment
• Plenty of future development opportunities - Opportunity Area
• Future Crossrail connectivity - including potential C2E extension
• Traffic congestion, noise, air pollution and segregation caused by roads
• Visual amenity poor in places - e.g. overgrown planting and public realm
• Wayfinding and legibility of public spaces - poor connectivity with station, the river and wider residential area
• High obesity and diabetes rates in residential population
• Limited choice of food and beverage - and lots of fast food
• Lack of things to do - especially evenings and night time
• Anti-social behaviour, street drinking and perceptions of high crime
• Limited business/commercial space in the centre
• No business organisation or BID
• Lack of sense of arrival or a central focus

So it’s not all good and the bad is more inclined to be a Council responsibility than the good, and do any of the responses look like a genuine consultation? Some look much more like what a Council bureaucrat might say.


28 March (Part 2) - BexleyCo-lapse

BexleyCo is Bexley Council’s wholly owned subsidiary company set up to enable them to do things they could not legally do otherwise; mainly sell public spaces and build on them for a profit. The target is a 7% return to the Council

Soon after it was set up I met someone who had been to a meeting with its management, I have forgotten exactly what was said but I know it was not at all complimentary. The manager at the time, since departed, came in for particular criticism.

Tuesday’s Resources Scrutiny Committee meeting spent 35 minutes proving the forecasts to be true. Deputy Council Leader Louie French said it was all down to “teething issues” and every new company suffered them.

Bexley Council is the sole shareholder in BexleyCo and acts as its banker. There is no other source of funds. The Council has provided working capital of up to £2 million and a loan of up to £200 million. The Finance Director said that only £300,000 of the loan has so far been handed over (the figures below suggest that some of the working capital must have been spent - or rather wasted) and BexleyCo has yet to put “a shovel in the ground” - to quote Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith). He confirmed that the Managing Director position is currently vacant. Cabinet Member Leaf said that another “recruitment process is in place”. A lady Chief Executive has been appointed already.

He went on to say that he wanted the new board to have “expertise” and implied the old one didn’t. Like my ‘someone’ he had been to meetings with BexleyCo and “left more confused than when we went in”.

Cabinet Member French confirmed the gloomy news when he said the new management team “should deliver a better company”. Councillor Cheryl Bacon (Conservative, Sidcup) thought that the management team should be answerable directly to the Resources committee. Her idea was adopted.

It was left to Labour Leader Daniel Francis (Belvedere) to get to the real point. A decision to build on “Old Farm Park was made in May 2017 and only now are we bringing the reserved matters application forward. If it had been a private developer we would be saying why haven’t you got on with it”.

“We brought forward an application on Wilde Road and spent £250,000 of public money on it and refused it.”

“We brought forward an application at Nag’s Head Lane and spent taxpayers’ money on the consultation, the architect, the planning consultants and then withdrew it after submitting the application.”

“We had a Managing Director on a very expensive day rate who left, had an interim Managing Director, one of our own staff, and a new Managing Director and less than a year after his arrival he has left. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money which we have lent the company and not a spade has been put in the ground. Three applications, one refused, one withdrawn, one approved. Not the greatest success rate.”

“The money has been peed up the wall in some respects.”
Tweet Tweet
Deputy Leader French was right to say it was a good thing that the Planning Committee had been impartial and independent when turning down the application for Wilde Road but quite how that excused BexleyCo’s ineptitude he did not say. The point was not lost on Councillor Francis who referred back to the total waste of money which was Nag’s Head Lane. Nobody knew why BexleyCo had withdrawn its expensive application. Deputy Leader French he could shed no light on the matter because no one on the present Committee was in post when the Nag’s Head decision was taken.


28 March (Part 1) - Bexley Council is still near the bottom of the class

This is the time of the year when the Council Tax Table has to be updated. Even at this late stage some Councils have not updated their websites and some do their best to hide the figures but it is clear that the relative positions of Councils in the league table has not changed. Only Barking and Dagenham managed to improve its placing.

Bexley continues to languish in the bottom quartile of London boroughs, a slightly worse position from that inherited from Labour in 2006..


27 March (Part 2) - Not much enthusiasm shown for local shopping facilities

A year ago a collection of Peer Councils gave Bexley a devastating critique of their Scrutiny procedures. Naturally the Conservatives hid it from view before the election but it all came out in the end. “Thousands of hours taken up to achieve nothing positive” was the verdict of the Peer Review on Scrutiny Committees.

Credit where it is due, the Scrutiny Committees have been changed considerably since then with in some cases new Chairmen.

Dourmoush It may be coincidence but I have found the Resources Scrutiny Committee meetings to be much more interesting than they used to be. A year ago I did not look forward to attending but under its new Chairman, Councillor Andy Dourmoush, it is much improved. It probably helps that he is a friendly sort of guy who welcomes public attendance and last night he had an interesting Agenda going for him too.

The first and most substantial subject matter was the Town Centres Strategy. It revealed several interesting things.

Satisfaction with Bexley’s five main shopping centres has fallen since the last survey in 2013. Town centres are increasingly focusing on culture and leisure and for that Bexleyheath scores a lowly 40% satisfaction level while Sidcup struggles to reach 15%. More than 70% of survey respondents said that Crayford, Erith and Welling were not satisfying at all. Only Sidcup was perceived as having improved Public Realm since 2013.

Bexleyheath has a reasonably high selection of national multiple outlets and is ranked 156th out of 3,500 shopping centres in the UK by that criterion but is generally seen to be much like any other small town. Few see it as a major centre.

Visitors come to the borough’s shopping centres overwhelmingly by car and only Erith has a railway station reasonably close to the shopping centres. Bexleyheath in particular suffers from the proximity of Bluewater where parking is free and Charlton is beginning to make itself felt as yet another competitor destination. A revamped Primark in Bluewater is seen as a serious threat to Bexleyheath.

Councillor Dourmoush said “that if we were serious about improving town centres free short term parking should be considered going forward”.

Crayford has the largest Sainsbury’s store in the UK but hasn’t got much more going for it. The dog track was seen as a natural place for more flats if it ever closed and so was Asda in Bexleyheath. Neither is likely in the near future but once again it shows that Councils are prepared to build housing without, and even reducing, the supporting infrastructure.

However there are some bright spots to look forward to, Sidcup will get a small cinema and Bexleyheath will get free wi-fi before long.

The Town Centre Strategy is a huge 115 page document crammed with information and the foregoing can only skim the surface of a very few things. Anyone with a serious interest in retail should be studying the report very carefully.

For light relief here is what people have been saying about the local nightlife (plus Bexleheath by Day).
Bexleyheath Bexleyheath

Bexleyheath Day and Night

Crayford Erith

Crayford and Erith (Night)

Sidcup Welling

Sidcup and Welling (Night)


27 March (Part 1) - Defeating Brussels

Last night’s Resources Scrutiny meeting was quite interesting but it will take more time to report than is available right now, so here’s a quick filler.

The buffoons who are determined to control every aspect of our lives have come up with another set of ideas and the one that is attracting the most publicity is limiting the speed of your car.

Politicians are rightly worried about the slow down in the car industry but whose fault is that? In 2012 I bought a car that was not subject to Vehicle Excise Duty. A Conservative Chancellor then changed the rules such that I couldn’t replace it and pay no VED without spending a silly amount of money, so I put off the purchase. Diesel owners are in a similar predicament, politicians have made their cars worthless so the cost of buying new effectively goes up and they probably don’t.

Such examples are fairly numerous. Politicians do not appear to be very bright at times.

Signs RadarAs I’ve mentioned before I eventually replaced my 2012 KIA last September and the new car can do all the things that were mandated by Brussels yesterday. It will steer down the motorway without touching the steering wheel (1). It will slam on the brakes if it thinks I am going to hit something (2) and start yelling at me if it detects I am not paying attention, but what about this speed limiting thing?

The basic set up menu allows me to specify a maximum speed. It works but I soon switched it off. Then while driving, one press on a steering wheel button will limit the vehicle to any speed you like. 10, 30, 53, 67 m.p.h. Literally any speed you choose. That works too but I don’t often use it.

The sort of thing that the EU dictators are talking about is somewhat different. The car reads speed limit signs, any warning sign actually, and flashes it up on the dashboard (Photo 1) and the head up display. A menu setting allows it to make a warning sound if you go over the limit. That is switched off too.

It can’t be too difficult to link the speed limiting system that is already installed with the sign reading system.

So the system is possible but will it work in practice? I doubt it. If the information is coming from the Sat Nav - and my car does that too - it is disabled by pulling out the SD card. My dashboard symbols are derived from radar. It’s a panel at the front of the car (Photo 2). Stick a postage stamp on it and it stops working.

An unfortunate friend ran into a pheasant and smashed his radar panel. It cost over £2,000 to replace. The extra costs of these systems will be another reason people put off buying new cars. Politicians simply don’t think, especially European ones.

1) Testing with hands just brushing the wheel in the early hours of the morning and nothing else around.
2) There is a place in Bexley where the road design is so stupid that I have to look behind me to be sure I am not going to scare the life out of the bloke behind by unnecessarily braking.


26 March (Part 2) - Jackie Belton

It only took eight months or so but Bexley seems to have found someone willing to work here as Chief Executive. Let’s hope this one is more reasonable than the last. Her first move was to attack me and then she apparently fell out big time with the Leader. Bye Bye Gill Steward.

I’m sure we all look forward to a period of peaceful co-existence. When her predecessor Gill Steward rolled up I found the web awash with adverse comment from her time in Cornwall and West Sussex. Numerous bloggers and internet commentators had come to the same conclusion as Bonkers soon did.

But for our latest recruit I found very little and amazingly it was complimentary. Maybe Bexley is on to a good thing. It looks promising so far and we have something in common. Jackie Belton has worked in Newham.

Press Release here.
Jackie Belton


26 March (Part 1) - Just sayin’

17,410,742 (~52%) - 16,141,241 (~48%) Slim majority.
329 (~52%) - 302 (~48%) Big majority.

No Bexley Conservatives joined the rebellion of non-democrats.


25 March - Crossrail. More money to be spent

CrossrailAbbey Wood residents whose lives have been disrupted by Crossrail works for the past six years may not get much of a respite from the dust and dirt and noise. The Government has found £4·85 million to fund further studies in to extending the line to Ebbsfleet. Bexley residents in Belvedere and Erith are very poorly served by Southeastern following the May 2018 timetable changes, they deserve better.

Read all about it here.

Let’s hope the answer does not involve knocking a big hole in the new station - or more precisely, knocking down the flyover to provide for a second track to pass beneath it.


24 March - Farcebook

I have mentioned in passing more than once that I don’t like Facebook, it’s the way it operates that annoys me, it can be too difficult to find something that was on the top of the pile only yesterday and I still haven’t a clue what a Friend request is. What advantages does that confer? I ignore them all and hope for the best.

e_NiroI’d cancel my account except that it is the only way of way of keeping in touch with some people. Today for example I was in Surrey because a Facebook Group based there asked me to take my car to one of their car enthusiast meetings. I didn’t realise until very recently that the car I bought six months ago is one of fewer than 200 in the country and they wanted to look at it. So I had a nice day out because of Facebook.

On the other hand I joined a group based in my old home town called ‘Farnborough (Hants) nostalgia’. I have a load of old photos of the place taken in the 1950s and thought I would share them. I wasn’t completely surprised that a dozen or more of my photos were already on the site. I have passed on a few over the years and that they end up on the internet is to be expected these days. I didn’t care much that none were credited but two were being passed off as the site administrator’s own work.

The most recently posted one was still attracting comments and someone was wondering which school badge was on a blazer. I made no comment except to scan the negative again and post a big blow up of the badge. Whilst I didn’t actually complain about someone claiming my ancient snap was theirs it nevertheless exposed the Administrator as a copyright thief. He promptly handed me a permanent ban from his site.

So there's the good and the bad about Facebook, what about the in between?

There is something about Facebook that can turn some Administrators into tyrants. It may not be that tyrants are attracted to the job but the job seems to change people. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Take my local SE2 based Group. It’s mainly for reporting lost cats, vandalised cars and the occasional flasher. I contribute to it only if there is Council news to report or maybe correct something of that ilk. I have made no secret of the fact that I don’t like the way the Group has developed although one must recognise that controlling what can easily turn out to be an unruly mob is never going to be easy.

The Moderator - what’s the difference between and Administrator and a Moderator? - asked me why I didn’t like the SE2 Group and after a couple of messages each way I decided that the exchange was in danger of becoming ill tempered, so I ignored further messages. There was probably an element of misunderstanding but I was threatened with a ban for ignoring the questions. What makes Moderators so aggressive and with a finger permanently hovering over their Ban Button?

Would I have cared? No. Their loss not mine.

Venturing further afield there is a Bexleyheath Group. Unlike the SE2 one it allows discussion about national politics. A good recipe for arguments especially right now. I think I have only made one contribution to that Facebook Group and I won’t make any more. People get banned for what the Administrators term abuse, like labelling Sadiq Khan a cock. Not even a warning, They announce immediate bans for a first offence. Presumably it makes them feel good.

As I said, Facebook appears to have the power to turn mild mannered people into tyrants. It probably comes from the top, Mark Zuckerberg the founder of Facebook is perfectly happy to interfere in politics. If anyone needs banning from Facebook it is him.

For the record, I didn’t set up the Bexley is Bonkers Facebook Group and for a long time it wasn’t me who operated it. When its Administrator no longer had the time to look after it was neglected; no one is there to ban rude words and so far there haven’t been any. As far as I know.


23 March - Designed by a loser?

Wilton Road Wilton RoadAmong the many design disasters on Abbey Wood’s refurbished flyover is this one.

Knowing how cyclists ignore red lights the road designer appears to have accepted their lawlessness and routed them through any pedestrians who might be observing the rules of the road.

This inconsequential blog entry appears here mainly because I don’t want anyone thinking that I may have caught a train to join the Losers’ March.

I have instead done the usual Saturday thing and updated some of the Photo Features. Check the time stamps if you wish, you won’t catch me on any march.

Gayton Road.
Harrow Manorway.

Harrow Manorway has another silly cycle track design like the one shown opposite Sainsbury’s but there is also another (Photo 42, 23rd March) which is probably as good as they are likely to get.

Just for fun an old map of Bexley has been added. My favourite landmark is perhaps the Trolleybus Depot but maybe the Bexley Mental Hospital runs it close.


22 March (Part 2) - Drive into Abbey Wood’s Wilton Road at your peril, there may be no way out

The Gayton Road regeneration project has been moving on rapidly and the goal posts refuse to stay still. At Bexley’s Transport User’s Sub-Committee meeting just over a week ago the Highways Manager said it would be closed for four weeks causing Wilton Road to be made two-way. A local Councillor was told that a turning circle would be provided outside the Abbey Arms pub.

Wilton Road Wilton RoadBoth of those things are wide of the mark. Gayton Road will close on 1st April for up to six weeks and the turning circle will be a space for three point turns at the entrance to the telephone exchange. It is a recipe for total chaos especially for the cab company.

Except for outside Occasions where parking will be restricted to allow for three point turns, parking arrangements will continue as usual. Two big cars with less than confident drivers and the result will be instant gridlock extending into Abbey Road and Knee Hill.

You may note that the date on the No Parking notice is for five weeks not six. So that is three guesses Bexley Council has made, four, five and six weeks!

What about the lorries that deliver to WH Smiths and McColls each morning? How will they get out of a narrow cul-de-sac? At least the 244 bus is on diversion. It will no longer terminate and wait ten minutes outside the Community Centre but according to a Council source will go around the roundabout and back the way it came. If it waits ten minutes on the flyover we are well and truly stuffed.

What about the passengers who wait on Knee Hill? Well somehow they will have to get themselves up to the flyover bus stop a quarter of a mile away. With luck the lifts will be back in service by 1st April but don’t count on it.

Nearby residents have supposedly been notified but it is not them who will be most affected. As of this afternoon some of the traders had received a similar letter. Their businesses have been under concerted attack since 2013.

Click links for PDFs.


22 March (Part 1) - People are at breaking point and Bexley Council lies again

TweedledumIt has become almost acceptable for the Tweedle Brothers to lie on Twitter, it’s what they do, no one takes much notice and they make fools of themselves before those of us who are better informed. Overall it seems better that they should continue, life might be duller without the pair of jesters.

However everyone should object when the Council itself thinks that lying is acceptable.

I received my green bin subscription notice yesterday. It says that Bexley’s garden waste service is the cheapest in London. It is hard to imagine a bigger lie. I’ve not checked all 32 boroughs but I know my relatives in Newham, Redbridge and Waltham Forest all pay nothing at all. I’ve checked their Council’s websites in case their information is out of date, but it isn’t.

Those Councils provide the service for free because it makes money. Bexley Council admitted that the brown bin service would save £440,000 a year compared to what preceded it but decided to hide that inconvenient fact, pretend it was a costly operation, and charge you for it.

Bexley Council has reverted to type, they are lying to you.
Garden waste
Today another Council letter dropped on to my doorstep, my Council Tax is going up by £8 a month.

I’m lucky, it’s a very long away above the inflation rate which governs my income but it is not in practice going to make a scrap of difference to me. A small bonus is that it may provide ammunition for when Bexley Tories next claim to be a low tax borough, it simply isn’t.

Not everyone can shrug off an £8 increase. people who send emails like this for example - suitably anonymised.

I am a simple person struggling to get to the end of each month, however I have been hit with another rise in bills, namely Council Tax. Last year I paid £1,235 , this year it is £1,305.

Bexley mess Bexley mess Bexley messI might understand it if everything was kept in tip top condition where I live (SE28) but the road looks like a dump, rubbish everywhere, shopping carts abandoned and no one from the Council with a broom. Should I hassle them with photos or just leave it? I don’t want to become the Council’s enemy Number One like you are.

I can’t object to yet another rise in Council Tax pay rise which I find criminal but I am beginning to lose control. Should I give up? Default on the mortgage and go on benefits… like too many in Bexley.

Do you have any ideas? Please help!

P.S. I looked at Council Tax reduction but unless I am unemployed none of it applies to an honest hard working person.

There’s nothing I can do obviously except perhaps to point out that Bexley’s Council Tax reduction scheme has been whittled away over the years so it may not provide the help that is needed. The only option is to vote for someone else but without a change in Central Government policy that is unlikely to change anything either.

Daniel Francis, Bexley’s Labour Leader seems to understand the problem. He knows that increasing Council Tax by 20% in five years is unsustainable and wrote about it in the South London Press. He was not against the entirety of Bexley’s recent budget but was in favour of spending a bit more on the homeless. Money that has been sitting around doing nothing. A gift from property developers. Unfortunately it won’t stop those who lie for a living saying that Labour voted against worthwhile investment, they already have.

The South London Press doesn’t have a wide circulation in Bexley so let’s help Daniel out. (The full article is longer. Click link.)

The increase for the council tax payer in Bexley’s share of the council tax has been 20·4 per cent since 2014 which includes this year’s 4·99 per cent increase.

Even then council tax equates to just under 62 per cent of what the council spends, which is why residents see charges for services have to also rise sharply.

As a result of the pressures on our budgets, the council is projected to overspend its budget in 2018/19 by £2·9 million, spend 20 per cent of its reserves to balance budgets in the space of one year and find savings of more than £18 million (over 10 per cent of our budget) to balance the books next year.

We are also in the unprecedented territory of setting a deficit education budget of £3·2 million because the Government has refused to fully fund the cost of supporting children with disabilities.

Labour councillors identified that the council has allowed almost £1·5 million given to us by developers for new social homes to sit in the bank while more than 1,400 families and 2,000 children are being placed in temporary accommodation by the council.

While not a single social home was built in Bexley in 2017/18, the amount Bexley spends on temporary accommodation has risen from £1·072 million in 2014/15 to £7·507 million in 2019/20, the equivalent of a 6·1 per cent council tax increase.

So while the Prime Minister may tell you that austerity is over, the reality is that the Government’s policy of 60 per cent cuts to our budgets over the last nine years is leaving finances but more importantly people at breaking point.


21 March (Part 4) - Abbey Wood again. It’s going to be carnage

It is pretty clear now that the information about the Abbey Arms that reached the local traders at their monthly meeting was to coin a phrase, total bullsh*t. What has in practice happened is in line with what was said six months ago but not what the traders were told only two weeks ago. The Abbey Arms is shut for three months while it is transformed into something more in keeping with what Peabody and others have in mind for the area.

It was on the basis of what turns out to be misinformation that the traders chose to stage the next Market on 29th June but with pub closure scheduled until mid-Summer there will be some who may wish they hadn’t.

Given that you can’t rely on what anyone says any more I hesitate to pass on the following but it comes from within F.M. Conway and someone who really should know what he is talking about.

Wilton Road is now scheduled for closure on 1st April. It will allow Gayton Road and the area outside the Abbey Arms to be given the granite block treatment.

The road barrier will be placed such that BT vehicles can get into the telephone exchange but vehicles will not be allowed to go any further. The road will be made two way but the turning circle which a Councillor was promised will not be provided.

Drivers will be expected to perform a three point turn, using the BT entrance road presumably, and depart as they arrived.

What is even odder is that parking will be permitted on both sides of the road except perhaps for a couple of bays outside the flower shop to allow for easier reversals.

The promise to resurface the whole of Wilton Road, made when the new footpaths were constructed, appears to have fallen down a budgetary black hole for now at least.

It is going to be total chaos and I will make a point of not taking my car there. Fortunately the 244 buses will have no need to use the road, they will have to do a U turn on Knee Hill. If you have never thought that Bexley’s traffic planning is crazy you soon will.
Wilton Road closure Wilton Road closure
Note: All as stated by a man on the ground today. Believe it if you like!


21 March (Part 3) - The Public meeting that isn’t really

I usually check the calendar of Council meetings a month in advance so that I can see which days are clear to make personal arrangements. On that basis and about a month ago I arranged a trip to North London for today but last week it had to be cancelled. On rechecking the Council calendar I was surprised to see a Joint Scrutiny meeting listed for this evening which I felt sure must be a recent addition. Today I checked the Agenda to see if it might be worth attending.

Lucky I did. Only when I opened the PDF document did I see that the meeting is to be held in Bromley and without the benefit of a webcast. Councillors from a variety of local Councils will be there and only two from Bexley. I suppose such things cannot be avoided but it makes a bit of a mockery of Public meetings. I suppose I should be grateful it isn’t being held in Lambeth Town Hall.
Joint meeting


21 March (Part 2) - Pause for thought

Attending more Council meetings than most Councillors is a bit of a drag if I am honest and last Tuesday I really didn’t feel up to going to Cafer Munur’s Joint Children’s and Adult’s Services Scrutiny meeting. A quick glance at the Agenda was enough to convince me that the webcast would be good enough.

PauseThe first speaker was from an organisation called Pause which has partnered with Bexley Council and aims to reduce the number of children taken into care by offering wide ranging support to mothers. I’m all for that. Soon after Bonkers started I met up at least three times with a very nice lady whose son had been taken into Bexley’s dubious care.

Her husband was clearly a thoroughly bad lot who had among other things had notices and cards printed and distributed with his wife’s mobile number advertising her services as, what shall we say, a good time girl.

She reported it to the police who were as one has come to expect, absolutely useless, and all they did was report the matter to Bexley Council. Bexley Council promptly took the child away. I looked through the file of papers.

One of the reasons cited for the removal was that the lady’s house was spotless. Apparently normal people do not have tidy houses and it was a sign of poor parenting skills.

Bexley Council Social Workers gained the support of the Courts by lying outrageously to them. No one did anything about the errant husband.

Nothing will convince me that Bexley’s Social Services were at the time comprised of anyone other than despicable individuals.

What did the Director of Communications for Pause have to say?

There are 94 women in Bexley who have had two or more children removed and have none left in their care. Five of the very young ladies affected had since died.

26 of the 94 had had 82 children removed from their care, several of them more than five children each. Experience suggested that such mothers will go on to have seven or more children with intervals between pregnancies of under two years. The intervention of Social Services is thought in some cases to create more pregnancies which mothers attempt to keep secret from them.

85% of the women involved admit to experiencing domestic abuse, some of it as children, but the real figure is believed to be close to 100%. In Bexley half have issues with drugs and a third with alcohol. Some have mental health issues too.

A slide presentation had been given to Councillors before the meeting began but like so many on Bexley’s website, the two links provided are broken.

Chairman Munur asked what happens to mothers who refuse contraception. Ms. Tanner said it was always the woman’s choice.

Both Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Director Tiotto welcomed Pause to the borough. Rachel Bates is the Pause Manager for Bexley.


21 March (Part 1) - A thirst for knowledge

Abbey ArmsYet another local pub has closed its doors, temporarily at least.

I cannot claim to know it well. When I moved to Belvedere in 1987, but only five minutes walk from Abbey Wood station and the pub, a work colleague who lived just off McLeod Road (SE2) told me I should never go into the Abbey Arms. “Why not?” ”Because it is a rough house and someone was knifed in there last week.”

The News Shopper said it was “unforgivably repellent with the atmosphere of a morgue”.

I took the advice and would never have been inside if it were not for the fact I found myself co-opted to the Abbey Wood Traders’ Association three years ago for secretarial duties. The new landlady of the Abbey Arms was its Vice-Chairman and the Association met monthly in the Abbey Arms.

It was there that I picked up what little knowledge I have of the Abbey Arms and I am a little surprised that what I learned at those meetings is not quite lining up with what has happened this week.

Contrary to what is being said on the local Facebook pages, the pub does not appear to have been sold to Dirty Liquor by the massive (5,000 premises) pub operator Enterprise Inns. It is a partnership, although it is perhaps notable that Enterprise Inns’ web based pub search facility no longer shows the Abbey Arms.

The information provided to the Traders’ Association has been gradually amended over the past six months until two weeks ago it was reported that the pub would close after celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day and that the new management would take over on Tuesday 19th March.

That does appear to have happened but on reflection the assumption that it would immediately reopen looks to have been wide of the mark. It was reported that the refurbishment had been postponed until next Autumn at least and that the Association would be able to meet in the Abbey Arms as usual at the beginning of April.

It is possible that what is going on now, causing the pub to remain shut, is just a general cleaning up operation falling short of refurbishment. I am not aware of any news that may have leaked out into the street.

Dirty Liquor has gained an enviable reputation if web comments are any guide and I look forward to having a pub on my doorstep to which one would happily take friends.

Dirty Liquor


20 March (Part 2) - Fines, taxes and charges. In Bexley they are all skyrocketing

Now that notices are being wrapped around lamp posts and emails are going out to residents the complaints are coming in. Bexley Council is not just putting up the price of Residents’ Parking Permits by 25%, for second cars the increase is 50%.

Bexley’s email claims to offer an explanation but it does not…

Dear Controlled Parking Zone Permit Holder,
Controlled Parking Zone Parking Permits – Proposed Changes and Price Increase
We are writing to advise you that at the Budget Council meeting held on 6th March 2019 it was decided that the price of Controlled Parking Zone Parking Permits should be increased and an “Additional Vehicle Supplement” charge be introduced for the second and subsequent permits applied for by a household or business.
The full details of the proposed increases are available on the Council’s Public Notices Page for 13 March 2019  using the following link:
Should you require a copy of the tables that appear on the website then please let me know and I will arrange for a copy to be sent to you.
The formal advertising of the proposed traffic management order to make this change is currently taking place. Copies of the proposed Order, the corresponding Parent Order (and any Orders that have amended that Order), the Council’s statement of reasons for proposing to make the Order, can be inspected during normal office hours on Mondays to Fridays inclusive, at the Contact Centre, 2 Watling Street, Bexleyheath, Kent DA6 7AT.
If you have any comments about the proposals, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Should you wish to formally object to the proposed traffic management order then this must be in writing or by email ( and must be received by the 3 April 2019. Please note that for an objection to be valid a full name and postal address must be included, and that all comments may be made available for public inspection.
Yours sincerely
Bruce Woodhams
Traffic and Road Safety Services

If you click on the link that Mr. Woodhams provides you will find nothing about the “Additional Vehicle Supplement”. The truth was buried deeply in January’s Cabinet papers and reproduced below. From next month residents will have to pay £150 to park a second or subsequent car instead of the £100 they pay now, £175 if you live close to a town centre.

Parking rip off

I doubt Bexley Council will choose to justify the increase, when they tried to justify the increase from £35 to £100 eight years ago Councillor Craske did what he always did back then. Among the inventions was that a Councillor had consulted his ward residents and found that residents were happy with their CPZ and the charges. A Council official admitted in a Freedom of Information request that there had been no consultation.

Councillor Craske claimed that the administrative costs associated with every parking permit was £240 a year. A breakdown of costs showed that could only be possible if all the white lines were repainted annually at a cost of £6 a foot. Since then paper permits have been replaced by digital systems, thereby lowering the admin. costs.

The new charges of up to £225 for a Parking Permit do not compare well with other boroughs.

Bromley charges either £40 or £80 a year dependent on where one lives. Greenwich charges different rates dependent on how long the restriction applies. £57 in Abbey Wood where two hour restrictions apply and up to £100 in Blackheath where the restriction is all day. At that rate most Bexley residents would be on £57 a year not Bexley’s extortionate £125. (Link to Greewich’s price list.)

Richmond is another Council that charges different rates for short or long restrictions but they go further, the charges are linked to a car’s CO2 emissions. If you pay no Road Tax you don’t pay to park either. Maybe there is some merit to having a Lib Dem Council after all.

If you own a gas guzzler in Richmond you will pay either £48·50 a year, £82·50 or £109 dependent on the length of the local restriction.

Second car owners get clobbered in town centres but not as much as in Bexley and Richmond is less than half the price for residential streets with two hour restrictions. Nowhere in Outer London is as punitive as Bexley. In Newham residents have a choice of a free permit or 30 free visitors permits annually.

No one should ever fall for Bexley Conservatives’ line that they run a low tax Council, maybe the government grant system does treat them harshly but that doesn’t change the facts. Bexley charges more than most Councils for nearly everything.

Note: Bexley Council has corrected its link and the full scale of their increases may be found at


20 March (Part 1) - The police no longer deserve any respect whatsoever

TweetYet another thing on which Councillor Philip Read and I wholly agree.

Leaving an S off a pronoun is now a criminal offence and pursuing offenders leaves no time for burglaries and car theft to be investigated.

The sergeant from Belvedere admitted as much at the recent crime prevention meeting in Abbey Wood.

Philip Read has called me a cretin and a Labour Troll and other things as well and it is water off a duck’s back, but if he ever dares to call me a bit of an old woman I am going to have him for it. Misgendering is just not on!

Daily Telegraph 20th March 2019.


19 March - Another money raising trap to look out for

I was alerted to a ‘new’ yellow box camera in Erith Road so I went along to take a look. I’m not sure how new it is; the yellow box has been there since time began but I confess to never having noticed the camera.

Yellow box junction Yellow box junction Yellow box junctionI’m not much bothered to be honest, I don’t go into yellow boxes whether a Council has added a CCTV money trap or not. This one must be fairly new because it is not listed on last yearְ’s list of sites where PCNs were issued. (Council provided Excel spreadsheet.)

It may be a successful money spinner because of Bexley Council’s poorly designed roundabout 150 yards ahead. Thanks to their idiocy it is frequently gridlocked with a long tail back. Maybe that is all part of the grand plan.

I’m sure that if you asked Bexley Council why they like camera monitored yellow box junctions they would tell you that it is a safety measure. Nonsense of course, there is no way a yellow box junction improves road safety although if one is installed in a half sensible place it may improve traffic flow.

However the real reason for their proliferation is very well known, they are an easy way to raise money and with a 5% rise in Council Tax only a couple of weeks away, a 15% increase in the bin tax, 25% on the already extortionate Residents’ Parking Permits and 30% on some car park charges, who will be surprised by Bexley Council’s attitude towards motorists?

Two years ago the Agenda for a Resources Scrutiny meeting confirmed that Bexley Council was banking on an increase in Enforcement revenue.

One of my pet dislikes about yellow box junctions is that if they are not kept in good condition they become near invisible after dark and in the rain because of a variety of coloured reflections on a wet road. The fact that Bexley’s yellow boxes are fading away is proof positive that they have absolutely nothing to do with safety.

It may be worth repeating the rules about yellow box junctions. It is well known that stopping when turning right provides an exemption but Bexley Council believes that all other stopping is illegal and they will attempt to fine you for it.

You must then ask them for evidence that the exit was not clear when you entered the box because that is the law. You may only enter the box if your exit is clear. If some loon barges in from your left and occupies your intended space or someone overtakes and races to it, then you should be in the clear. Argue your case and appeal if necessary. Experience has shown that Bexley Council prefers to ignore the law, but then they always did.

Note: I have been involved with illegally issued yellow box PCNs in Bexley. Know your rights, the Council bully boys will see sense eventually.


18 March - Sell ’em cheap and buy ’em dear

The days when I could rely on a team of five researching and submitting Bexley stories have long gone and for the most part Bonkers relies on random input from strangers, sometimes anonymous strangers.

One such individual must have an interest in the lamentable housing situation in the borough because he - or she, but I am going to stick with he - has several times pointed me in an interesting direction or comes up with some little gems of information himself.

He has a good memory too and recently steered me all the way back to 1st July 2017. Bonkers had reported that Councillor Stefano Borella revealed at a People Scrutiny meeting that Bexley Council was wasting money - over a longish period perhaps - by selling off its own housing stock only to buy it back again at inflated prices for use as temporary accommodation.

Nearly two years ago 74 homes had been purchased with another 190 to follow soon and we know that it is still going on, Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer said so.

Bonkers’ tame researcher is trying to track them via the Land Registry looking out for large batch purchases

One batch he came up with recently includes the following addresses which at one time may have been Council houses. He thinks Bexley Council is likely to be the buyer; whether it is, only Bexley Council and the immediate neighbours are likely to know.

18 Halstead Road, DA8 3HX
140 Birling Road, DA8 3HS
10 Elmstead Road, DA8 3JA
12 Stelling Road, DA8 3JH
153 Birling Road, DA8 3HR
82 Halcot Avenue, DA6 7QD
169 Halcot Avenue, DA6 7QA
97 Lensbury Way, SE2 9TA

The price of all the DA8 properties was £550,000 while SE2 went for just under half a million and one of the DA6s a hundred grand less than that.

Four months later it sold for an extra £120,000.


17 March - Network Rail explain the Barnehurst landslip and TfL fails to say anything about their DLR map which includes Abbey Wood

The last hour of the Transport Users’ Sub-Committee meeting may not have been especially interesting but the first 45 minutes revealed quite a lot about last month’s land slip at Barnehurst which stopped all trains for a week. Both Network Rail and Southeastern were represented.

It was the fourth Barnehurst land slip in the past ten years and Network Rail had sent their Route Asset Manager for Geotechnical Drainage and Off Track Assets (Derek Butcher) to the meeting. He explained that he looked after “embankments and cuttings, drainage, trees and access points”.

I know that Chairman Val Clark tries to turn her ignorance of transport matters into a virtue but I thought that the need to explain the difference between a railway embankment and a cutting was somewhat extreme.
Committee The line through Barnehurst opened in 1895 and the Victorians built it on the cheap. They bought up as little land as possible and so the cuttings are much steeper sided than they should be; they slipped during construction and they have been inclined to do so when it rains ever since. The Barnehurst cutting is east of the station and one and a half miles long.

Because it is one of Network Rail’s worst land slip problems electronic monitors were installed following the previous land slip and February’s one made history by being the first to alert staff over the mobile phone network so that trains could be brought to a halt before hitting any obstruction. The alarms went off at about three thirty on the morning of Monday 11th February. The five o’clock train went through very slowly and the driver reported a tree down and a signalling cabinet had been pushed on to the track. The line was closed shortly afterwards, both tracks because of the need to bring in heavy engineering equipment.

Since February the number of sensors east of Barnehurst has been increased fourfold.

The problem arises because there is a layer of blue grey clay near the bottom of the cutting and water runs down to that level and a line of springs form at the clay level which softens and moves.

Successive slippages have been adjacent to each other and the theory is that retaining walls act as dams and displace the water to the next available spot. It is currently being investigated and a formal report will become available within the next couple of weeks.

Another 400 metres of cutting nearer to Barnehurst station has been identified as vulnerable and will be given attention within the next five years. The whole one and a half mile section cannot be dealt with any time soon for budgetary reasons. “It would cost £20 million. One sixth of the available budget on 1% of [cutting] assets.”

The Chairman said she “couldn’t understand why Network Rail did not want to do the whole bit in advance”. She isn’t very bright is she? However the Network Rail man was patient and explained the budget again and that the 50 metres that slipped in February caused a week of line closure, one and a half miles “would take a significant amount of time”.

Councillor Clark said residents blamed tree removal and Mr. Butcher said that trees represented a very difficult balancing act between safety, leaf fall, ground stabilisation and trees coming down during storms. Generally trees within seven metres of the track are cleared.

Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green & Northend) asked why the Bexleyheath line to London is the only one without the ability to turn around trains somewhere along the route. The Woolwich line has Plumstead and Slade Green and the Crayford loop has Sidcup, but there is nothing for the line from Barnehurst. I don’t think he expected to get a wholly satisfactory answer so presumably he is not too disappointed with the one he was given. However a promise was made to submit the question to a higher authority.

Stefano being something of a railway geek knew that problems with cuttings have sometimes been solved by construction of a tunnel. Unfortunately estimates are that it would cost more than fixing the cutting and might take the line out of use for even longer.

Councillor June Slaughter’s (Conservative, Sidcup) question elicited confirmation that the removal of trees and landslips are statistically linked in the obvious way, sometimes the connection is a quick one.

Councillor Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Crayford) was critical of the fact that there had been four landslips in ten years and only now had a specialist team of experts been commissioned to report on the problem. Mr. Butcher accepted that Network Rail could have been more proactive than they had been but their repaired sections, on which about £7 million had been spent on the engineering alone, had never failed. He accepted that the consequential disruption would have been costly too.

Those costs included passenger compensation and replacement bus services. Buses had provided a 30 minute interval service to Lewisham and were very little used, an average of fewer than 15 people on each one. Councillor Borella suggested it might have made more sense to run an express bus service to Abbey Wood. The Southeastern man welcomed the suggestion.

Councillor Clark thought that buses should have been run all the way into London. Clueless isn’t she?

Delay Repay compensation rates had been doubled for affected passengers.

The ongoing signalling problems in Lewisham are regarded as “top priority” and will have £85 million thrown at them over the Easter holiday weekend as all railway users (Woolwich and Bexleyheath lines) will find to their cost. There will be no trains for three days. Another £81 million will be spent in and around Hither Green next year. The total bill will be £300 million and, according to Councillor Clark, the disruption will continue for a year.

It was at this point that Cabinet Member Craske posed his faltering and rambling three minute err and umm ridden question. I was tempted to place an audio clip here to see if you will think what I have been thinking, but somehow or other Mr. Butcher was able to formulate a response revolving around his contingency plans.

Following the criticism of the station skipping leaf fall timetable introduced last Autumn, Southeastern announced that they would not skip adjacent stations in future.

The Agenda included proposals for an extension of the Docklands Light Railway but with no one from TfL bothering to put in an appearance there was no discussion on it. The map below indicates possible routes (the blue lines) to both Abbey Wood and Belvedere.

There are two options around the Beckton Depot connecting to Thamesmead Central, one of them via Thamesmead West. The route then runs down to Eastern Way with one possible alignment along Harrow Manorway to Abbey Wood with the alternative skirting Southmere Lake and thence to Abbey Wood via Yarnton Way and another along Yarnton Way into Belvedere.

No clue as to dates but if you have already left school you should probably not get your hopes up.
The map appears to show an Overground line from Barking too (Orange line) but it was not mentioned in either the Agenda or the meeting itself.


16 March - Ancient woodland destroyed while Bexley Council stands by powerless to stop it

Garden destructionI think the devastation wreaked on gardens adjacent to the Lesnes Abbey Woods and indeed the woods themselves was first given a public airing here on Bonkers.

From there it went to Belvedere Councillor Sally Hinkley who went around to take a look and she called in Councillor John Davey whose ward it is in. He alerted the Planning Department.

Teresa Pearce MP immediately went to take a look and has lent her support.

Currently the Planning Department appears to be paralysed by the cunning of the rogue developer who has a long track record of circumventing planning law and wrecking the lives of his neighbours.

This week the resident who has the misfortune to live next door to the developer and who was initially fooled by his promises has made a public plea for help.

Bonkers cannot do better than present it to you in full.

Click on the photos to enlarge them and get the best possible view.

Some of you already know about the trouble we have had when a developer purchased the property neighbouring ours. They have destroyed the gently flowing slopes down to the forest, the green garden borders that seamlessly blended into the forest and ripped out the ancient trees. They have excavated the land and created a six metre cliff edge on the other neighbour’s boundary with no protection from falling. They have left our gardens so dangerous, we have to supervise our kids if they play outside.

Lesnes Woods Lesnes WoodsThey have built an enormous concrete raised platform, essentially IN Lesnes Abbey Woods - suitably engineered to put buildings of many storeys in height on top. It looms over the footpath in the woods like a huge monolith and is terribly out of keeping with the gardens around it. Looking out of our windows now is like looking out on a mining operation.

Anyone who has walked in the last six months or so along the south edge of Lesnes Abbey Woods will have seen it – it’s massive, it’s ugly and it overshadows the footpath terribly. Unless we speak up it will stay there.

The council finally put a stop notice on the works and the site has been lying still, our gardens slowly eroding away while not much else happens for months. The developer has now retrospectively applied for planning permission to keep all the existing earthworks and the enormous 300 square metre concrete slab and not repair any of the damage done to the boundaries. The documents they have submitted are a complete work of fiction - suggesting that the concrete structure - that would have cost them upwards of £50k. to pour the concrete and materials - are in fact a base for a lawn! I assume they think we are terribly stupid.

Apart from the horrible situation that this leaves our families in, with the potential that maybe, just maybe, they choose to flout the planning laws again and choose not to put a ‘lawn’ on top of it.... allowing this application to pass without objection will create a precedent to any developer with property on the border of Lesnes Abbey woods to do the same thing. There will be nothing to stop the forest becoming ringed all around with a wall of concrete. Lawns or not.

Unfortunately we are not allowed to object on the basis of what the structure ‘may’ be for, we can only object on what they say they are applying for - however, this is pretty easy as what they have built already is a gross violation of our beautiful forest.

But time is critical!

The first deadline has already passed for objections (13th March), but Bexley Council say they will consider all opinions and objections lodged on the website ‘until they close the application’ whatever that means - so please, please, please, would you consider taking five minutes as soon as you can to go on to the planning portal and registering an objection (if you do?). The sooner you can do this the better. According to the Council, voices really count.

The link to the planning portal is here.

Just enter 238 Woolwich Road in the search box to see the application. It takes five minutes to register, tick some boxes as to why you object and leave a short comment if you wish.

Have a look at the pictures to see what they have done to your forest and our families garden. It’s quite difficult to actually get the scale of the destruction in a few photos, but I think you will get the idea.

Please consider lending your voice to this cause!

Thank you!

Directly related blogs.
2nd October 2018 - The background to this story.
4th October 2018 - Concrete delivery.
9th October 2018 - Bexley Council belatedly marks out the boundary line.
29th January 2019 - Neighbour has to apply for planning permission.
31st January 2019 - Enforcement Notice.
26th February 2019 - Singh makes another planning application.


15 March (Part 2) - Not every journey matters. © TfL

Choices, choices. An invitation to a pub quiz? No there will be another one next month. Sadiq Khan speaking at Crook Log? (How apt!) Not a lot of point, that’ll be all over the web later and he’ll only blame someone else for his failings. Bexley’s Transport User’s Sub-Committee? It will have to be that; if I don’t go absolutely no one will know what goes on there and it is usually interesting.
Councillors Khan
The decision was made, Councillor Clark’s meeting it had to be.

It’s not a meeting where I go overboard with the photography. One or two shots to prove I have been there and put the camera away. Yesterday the shutter button was pressed twice as the meeting started which earned me a minor telling off from the Chairman. I hadn’t waited for her to grant permission for photography.

It is about time that someone told her she has no choice in the matter courtesy of the laws brought in by Saint Eric Pickles in 2013.

Maybe I will take my long lens along next time to make the point.

The meeting was one of two halves; a three quarters of an hour session on railway matters and then a quick run through school transport, police matters, bus performance, road safety and road works.

The non-railway matters were quick because the Youth Council people failed to show up, the Police South East Traffic Team failed to show up, the Police Safer Transport Team were AWOL and Transport for London were presumably lost in transit. Chairman Clark said the TfL non-attendance was “deplorable”.

Cabinet Member Peter Craske didn’t look well; always highly coloured, this time he bore a passing resemblance to a raw steak. He spoke for three whole minutes early on, somewhat incoherently to my mind, and then promptly waddled out banging the door loudly and was never seen again.

I do hope he is well, maybe he went off to do battle on our behalf at Crook Log.

Bus stop Bus stopCouncillor Clark is probably right about TfL; if they cannot even get the routes on a bus stop right what hope is there?

The brand spanking new stops shown here are right outside Abbey Wood station, Photo 1 is on the southbound side and Photo 2 is for buses to Thamesmead. Where has the B11 gone?

The clue is in the location notice. The second bus stop should not be there at all, marked ‘Lensbury Way’ it belongs outside Thistlebrook. The B11 doesn’t stop there.

With no TfL staff present it was left to a Bexley Council officer to say a very few words about buses. I learned that not only has route 486 had its frequency reduced, eight minutes to ten minute intervals Monday to Friday, twelve Saturdays and 15 on Sunday, the journey time has been stretched by twelve minutes.

Councillor Borella (Labour, Slade Green & Northend) said he had the impression that the 486 bus sometimes skipped the Clock Tower in Bexleyheath because the due time simply disappeared from the display.

Route B14 which is Bexley’s worst performing bus has if anything got slightly worse. TfL are still looking for an extra vehicle but the type required is “not readily available”.

The cycling man never once switched his microphone on so I am not sure what he said; not a great deal but I did hear something in relation to hired bikes that it was easier to go down hill than up. Bexley Council’s cycling expert suggested that electric hire bikes might fix that problem.

Bexley’s killed and seriously injured statistics compare quite well with London as a whole but it is possible that their position as third greatest improver may have something to do with being not very good in the recent past. Car and pedestrian accidents of all severities are all trending upwards.

It continues to be very difficult to recruit school crossing patrols, currently there are three vacancies.

We heard that Yarnton Way in Thamesmead is becoming an accident blackspot which will surprise no one who lives nearby. I have personally encountered drivers who will take a short cut around the wrong side of a roundabout.

Chairman Clark was scathing about the way parents park while dropping off children at school, sometimes turfing them out into the middle of the road. Every one of us out at the right time will have seen the same.

Continuing road works mainly concern Abbey Wood. Gayton Road will be blocked for four weeks in April and on the other side of the railway work on Felixstowe Road will commence after Easter, The station lifts will be taken out of service for anything between six and ten weeks dependent on whether you listen to Network Rail or Bexley Council.

Work at the three ‘gatewaysְ’ to Bexley Village continues and a new Zebra crossing will be installed in Halfway Street Sidcup. When? No one said.

Fortunately the 45 minutes spent on railway matters was much more productive. Full report during the coming weekend.

Wilton RoadNote 1: This time last year Bexley was covered with snow and very few buses were running. This was because a recent idiotic rearrangement by TfL had based many of Bexley’s buses in Dartford where they were blocked in by snow drifts. Moves may be afoot to remedy that situation. Arriva has made an application to operate from 185 Manor Road, Erith. As many as 50 buses could be stationed there.

Note 2: I asked my local Councillor how vehicles would get back out of Wilton Road when it is temporarily blocked at the station end and made two way. Her enquiries revealed that a turning circle would be provided. It is hard to see how such a thing would be possible. At busy times vehicles might back up and block Wilton Road to the extent that no one will be able to get out again.



15 March (Part 1) - How does she do it?

After eight years of tackling the police incompetence and corruption which has been sparked by authoring this blog I think it may be coming an end, there is only one complaint left in the pipeline.

I can’t claim that when looking back on earlier ones I see any admission of the more serious Police malpractice but I have twice along the way obtained apologies from them on realtively minor issues.

More interesting is that three cases have resulted in off the record admissions of police wrong doing from Sergeants and Inspectors followed up by an official whitewash job.

There can be no doubt (because the evidence exists in writing) that in the past Bexley Council has exerted unlawful pressure on Bexley Police in order to secure exoneration of their own criminal behaviour.

All the effort has perhaps produced only thing; confirmation that no one should ever trust a policeman.

TweetCorrespondence from the Independent Office for Police Conduct has been clear; if I believe Kent Police has been guilty of misconduct I must make an allegation to the Crime Commissioner.

There is a long history of Kent Police ignoring allegations of crime from several sources made against former Bexley Councillor Maxine Fothergill. There is also a long history of Kent Police immediately arresting those at which Ms. Fothergill points her finger. No evidence produces no charges of course, but how does she do it?

Her attempt to get me banged up also went nowhere but Kent Police absolutely refuses to accept I was the victim of ill intent. The statement made against me was untrue in almost every respect.

I am firmly of the opinion that Kent Police are up to no good, hence another letter. The complete correspondence file is hidden away on this website for those who know where to look.

In a few months time we can no doubt look forward to an implausible explanation of how I was charged with harassment and eventually awarded costs against the Police but somehow it was nothing to do with me.


14 March (Part 2) - Trolling Philip Read

TweetI wonder if it would be possible to keep Bonkers jogging along until the next Council meeting is held solely on the strength of Philip Read’s Tweets. Despite him calling me a cretin and a Labour Troll our political views are near identical and it would appear so are our political awakenings.

I too first engaged in politics when I was 16 years old. My friend Michael Webb and I went to the village hall in Church Crookham (Aldershot constituency) for the hustings that preceded the 1959 General Election. We stood at the back fresh from voting Conservative in the school mock election doing what, I no longer remember. But I do remember the pair of us being unceremoniously grabbed by the scruff of our necks and shown the door.

I don’t know what became of Michael Webb but I do know that I never contemplated voting anything but Conservative until Michael Howard provided an insight into his true state of mind in the 2005 election campaign. He insisted on the deselection of Howard Flight his candidate for Arundel and South Downs who had advocated more spending cuts than Howard wanted to see.

I never was in favour of dictators and Howard who had until then seemed like a decent enough guy proved himself to be one. He lost my vote solely on that issue and I don’t think I have voted Conservative at a General Election since then. No chance now.


14 March (Part 1) - Don’t count on it Philip

TweetThe problem with your theory Philip is that Teresa will retain a personal following and your party doesn’t have one.

Then lapsed Conservatives like me who have seen what a shower of traitorous incompetents fill the government benches will not risk putting another one there, not even a Brexiteer like Anna Firth. We have seen how any one of them might prove to be a turncoat. Gove, Davis etc. not to mention quislings like Grieve.

Much more likely is that those of us who share your political views will put their cross against whichever non-mainstream candidate looks likely to do their bidding.

Very likely Teresa would come through the divisions and the Conservatives would reap their just rewards.

Always assuming that Teresa doesn’t decide she would rather have her life back.


13 March - Deception is our game

TweetWell that didn’t take long did it?

A week ago Bexley Conservatives said that they were going to spend £5,000,000 on temporary accommodation and the Labour Group proposed spending £6,459,136 and came up with a way of finding the extra money. The Finance Director said their calculations were entirely valid.

The Tories voted against spending the extra £1·5 million and Labour voted for it.

Here you have the inevitable, close to lying, response.

With their Leader in No. 10 the biggest liar ever known to politics I suppose that ought not to be too much of a surprise.



12 March - Hypocrisy among politicians is not really news

ShamrockIt’s one of those days when real Bexley news is in short supply. There have been three anonymous contributions. One is about out of control and sometimes corrupt police although that is now such an everyday occurrence that maybe it is not news any more. I think most of you will have seen the YouTube footage anyway so just this time I will give it a miss. (Keeping a copy so that it embeds properly within Bonkers uses oodles of web space.)

Another will be used when it can be linked in with something else coming along and the third has a Brexit connection.

A large number of Conservative Councillors in Bexley have come out strongly in favour of leaving the European Union as indeed the local population at large did. Our government Minister MP has been left dangling on the wrong side of the fence and is suitably discomfitted.

I have just heard on Radio 4 News (I got so sick of James O’Brien on LBC I turned him off today) that the Irish Embassy is overwhelmed by applications for Irish passports. At least two to my knowledge come from Bexley Councillors.

One is self-confessed the other is tittle-tattle from someone who claims a close family connection. He says it is total hypocrisy to go so publicly on the record in favour of Brexit (this one went well beyond Bexley’s boundaries with his message) but be rushing off to the Irish Embassy at the same time. It’s comforting to know that mine is not the only family to have developed a bit of a rift over Brexit.

I’m not too bothered myself, it is not illegal and hypocrisy from politicians is like police corruption - not big news.

In any case the anonymous contributor may be telling Porkies intent on stirring family trouble.

Oh, I almost forgot. Bexley Council is consulting on housing allocations. There is a Press Release and a survey. A quick look suggests income level restrictions are on the cards.


11 March - Responsible fly tipping

Black bagsIf you have been to as many Council meetings as I have you will have heard it said that some homes are not suitable for wheelie bins and require a bespoke solution. The same will happen under the revised arrangements coming soon.

It’s not just flats that that may be unsuitable for wheelies, some houses have steeply sloping front gardens with steps up to the footpath and dragging a green bin would not be easy, especially for the elderly.

For such people Bexley Council kindly continues with the old black bag system and judging by what happens just up the road from me they collect them weekly.

The foxes absolutely love it because far too many people chuck their food waste into their black bags; Councillor Craske is not always wrong.

But it isn’t only foxes who like the black bag collection.

I’ve spotted this twice now, the first time I stood and watched not absolutely sure what was going on but having seen it again I think I do.

A car drives up early on bin collection day and the doors and boot are opened and a load of black bags emerge. They are then distributed along a short stretch of pavement and the car disappears into the distance. It was a similar car on both occasions, maybe the same one.

A fly tip hidden in plain sight!

I can’t make up my mind whether it is a good thing or a bad thing. Its ingenious and it costs taxpayers less money than clearing up fly tips. On the other hand it does nothing for the recycling rates so I suppose Craskie wouldn’t like it.

It’s amazing that it is not a common occurrence, maybe it is, but I had never thought of it before.


10 March - The budget debate - Seconds out, Round 2

After the Conservatives’ attempt to shred the Labour budget amendment and refusal to provide additional help for the homeless the Tories set about boosting their own scheme.

The first speaker was Councillor Cafer Munur (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey). He said that the Council’s biggest achievements were in the field of Childrens’ and Adults’ Social Care and praised the voluntary sector for their contribution.

No Conservative speech would be complete without a slagging off of Labour politics and Councillor Munur did not disappoint. He thought that Labour Councillors should apologise for the “disgraceful” behaviour of their activists. They had allegedly referred to Bexley’s children in care as victims of Tory financial policies. Councillor Perfect could be heard protesting the activists’ innocence.
Full Council
Councillor Caroline Newton (Conservative, East Wickham) was next to speak and wished to see early implementation of the Housing Strategy and not the “rushed” spending of Labour’s £1·5 million. Somehow or other she managed to link their idea to “that other great Socialist and pension fund raider Robert Maxwell”. Councillor Putson (Labour, Belvedere) had been guilty of a “rant”.

CamseyCouncillor Sybil Camsey (Conservative, Crook Log) spoke on her favourite subject, children and Special Educational Needs children. Unsurprisingly Council Perfect was in her line of fire. Bexley had always done its best for children and had delivered the first Special Needs Free School in the country.

Councillor Melvin Seymour (Conservative, Crayford) referred to the new recycling arrangements and was enthusiastic about the financial savings in prospect and getting rid of the recycling boxes. He was dismissive of complaints about the garden waste charges.

Councillor Alan Downing (Conservative, St. Mary’s & St. James) as already reported made jokes about his idea for a dog walkers’ tax. I heard nothing else worthy of inclusion here apart perhaps for his claim that the housing crisis began under a Labour government.

Nick O’Hare (Conservative, Blendon & Penhill) was another Councillor who managed to add nothing significant to the debate, however he did find time for criticism of Labour. “Setting budgets is about making choices and Labour refuses to make choices.” He then expressed exactly the same message using alternative words before saying that Labour Leader Daniel Francis had engaged “in an extraordinary rant”. Running out of ideas he dragged up Labour’s 2002-2006 40% tax rise again.

Could Councillor Dourmoush (Conservative, Longlands) do any better? It was not a very high bar, but yes, just a bit. As Chairman of the Budget Joint Scrutiny Committee he had asked the Labour Group for “alternative proposals again and again but none was forthcoming, but I was not surprised at all. This is their trademark.”

He spoke in favour of BexleyCo which he said would enable £77 million to be invested in housing and town centres over the next four years.

“It takes a certain amount of skill to prepare a balanced budget. Theirs appear to have been written on the back of a cigarette packet and it is certainly a token gesture.”

Pallen Diment Councillor Eileen Pallen (Conservative, Bexleyheath) spoke only about the plans for looking after old people and countering their loneliness. The Council had paid a hospice to provide suitable services.

Councillor Richard Diment (Conservative, Sidcup) spoke in favour of the budget setting process and against the Labour Group’s alleged failure to participate. He praised the increase in the SEN transport budget, up to two and three quarter million pounds in 2018/19 but the costs continue to rise.

“The Council has acted to control this budget” and he referred to the new route planning software which is generating large savings. (About £200,000.) “From next September we are introducing a modest contribution towards costs for those newly passing Keystage 4.”

Price increases are never far away.

Hunt BaconCouncillor James Hunt (Conservative, Blackfen & Lamorbey) spoke of “car parks and car parking” and “even my mother has grasped paying by phone. It will now always be cheaper to pay by phone. We are also freezing short term rates in car parks and one to two hour rates for on street parking for people who pay by phone”.

Very profound James but what about the 30% increase at my nearest car park?

Councillor Howard Jackson (Conservative, Barnehurst) said the Tory manifesto spoke of “keeping Council Tax as low as possible”. He thought the budget had achieved that. (It is going up by the maximum that the law allows.)

Councillor Peter Reader (Conservative, West Heath) quoted many statistics which suggested that Social Care Services must be much improved. “The Labour Group’s Fake News is laid bare.”

Councillor Cheryl Bacon (Conservative) spoke only about her Sidcup ward and how brilliant it was. The retail experience, the new library, the new cinema, two micro breweries and a spa hotel.

Councillor Daniel Francis said it remained the case that “the cake was 60% smaller than it was nine years ago. As a result of that, for the second year, we have to be heavily supported by drawing on our reserves”.

“In 104 days the budget gap grew from £14·4 million in November to £18·8 million. The Section 551 Officer [Finance Director] has said that in a few months time we will have to rip up the budget.”

He protested that when he had asked questions about overspends at Scrutiny meetings he was told that he could not ask the question. The overspend of the temporary accommodation budget had been kept secret for the first ten months of the financial year. A reference to Page 333 of the Cabinet Agenda published here yesterday.

Leader O’Neill summed up. “Councillor Francis obviously doesn’t understand the financial landscape. The Section 551 Officer has only put down red lines that say we do not know what the future holds”.

“The housing crisis started in 2004, Jeremy Corbyn said so. Bexley punches well above our weight which was shown last year when our residents voted for us and gave us a majority.” She asked the opposition to vote for her budget. They didn’t.

Tweedledum We will now have Tweedledum and Tweedledee Tweeting that Bexley Labour voted against various good things, like freezing short term parking fees. I don’t know why they do that. Having lost the amendment surely it makes sense to go with second best? There’s only a comparatively small difference between the two parties.

I’ll never make a politician will I?


9 March (Part 2) - The budget debate - Seconds out, Round 1

The priority when writing the earlier report on last week’s Full Council meeting was brevity and alleviating boredom, whether it succeeded is not for me to judge but where it certainly failed is in conveying the intricacies of the budgetary argument between the Conservatives and the Labour opposition.

With that debate going on for two and a half hours there can be no possibility of covering everything but it may be worthwhile cataloguing the more interesting comments. My suspicion is that it will gain an audience of exactly 45!

Part one will deal only with the debate on a Labour budget amendment. A report on the Tories’ proposals will come later.

For months now the Conservatives have been poking fun at Labour Councillors for not coming up with any money saving ideas for next year’s budget, or indeed, any ideas at all so they may have been taken aback when Labour put forward an eleventh hour budget amendment, one that the Director of Finance confirmed represented a balanced budget.
Full Council
O'NeillThe meeting began with the Council Leader bragging about her significant victory at the election last year and the inevitable brief reference back to Labour’s time in office.

She accepted that Bexley “had too many people in temporary accommodation” so she was going to bring forward her Housing Strategy. She said, and not without justification, that if the government gave Bexley the same grant that it does Greenwich the Council Tax in Bexley would be 30% lower. (That would put it in fifth best position in London instead of 25th and close to where it was 30 years ago.)

Cabinet Member David Leaf followed the Leader and wittered on for six and a half minutes. Along the way he claimed that the Labour opposition had twice last year voted against investing £30 million in housing and dreamt up from his vivid imagination that Labour Councillors were hoping that this year’s budget would “stumble and fall”.

He accused Labour Councillor Wendy Perfect (Labour, Northumberland Heath) of “deliberately misleading the public” about two million pounds of cuts when he was “putting £3·9 million of investment in”. He questioned her competency and accused her of preferring “spin and smears over substance and truth” while “ranting in this Chamber”.

Councillor Joe Ferreira (Erith), Labour’s housing spokesman then introduced his amendment the object of which was to allocate £1·5 million of unallocated funds to the housing crisis. Why had the Tories not spotted that money lying around?

The budget amendment may be read in full here. (Page 2.)

His theme that Central Government had cut funding for local authorities and their finances were now “at breaking point”. There had been “a 63% real terms cut in London since 2010. Housing and temporary accommodation costs in Bexley this year were £1·7 million over budget”.

The additional money he wished to see injected to the housing budget “was already sitting in the bank”.

Councillor Dave Putson (Labour, Belvedere) reminded everyone that several government ministers and the Prime Minister herself had said that austerity was over while Bexley Council had put it on the record that its “material [budget] shortfall was caused by Central Government”.

Councillor Dave Putson pulls the Tory housing budget apart.

Putson BorellaCouncillor Putson went on to say that Bexley’s investment in social housing was non-existent and 222 homes purchased for temporary accommodation was “pitiful”. He didn’t let other budget items off the hook either, for the first time ever the education budget had gone negative. (Bexley is spending £3·2m. more than it receives in grants.) #doitforbexley was “a cheapskate’s charter. Austerity was not over”.

The Mayor asked Councillor Leader Teresa O’Neill if she was prepared to modify her budget in line with the Labour amendment but she refused to countenance any extra spending on the homeless.

Cabinet Member Philip Read complained that Labour had ignored all previous opportunities to amend the budget and had contributed nothing. “A deafening silence.” He said that the Joint Scrutiny Committee Chairman (Councillor Dourmoush) repeatedly asked for contributions but Labour had offered none.

“Their rag bag proposals are presented far too late for scrutiny and action. Labour is a collection of slogans masquerading as a political party. Hot air and hysteria.” Councillor Read rounded it off with a very personal attack on Labour Leader Daniel Francis.

Perfect OgundayoCouncillor Stefano Borella (Labour, Slade Green & Northend) hit back with a list of the across the board steep (up to 30%) rises in fees, charges and taxes coupled with cuts to services foisted upon residents by Bexley Council. It was no surprise that Bexley had dropped its ‘Listening to you working for you’ strapline.

Councillor Nicola Taylor (Labour, Erith) reeled off some not very good statistics gleaned from planning applications. Last year barely half of the bigger schemes included any affordable housing and at the very best there might be 49 homes built at an affordable level of rent. “At the current rate of progress it will take more than 28 years to house the homeless.”

Councillor Esther Amaning said that 30 families a month were presenting themselves to the Council as homeless. She complained that the Tories kept blaming the former Labour administration for their failings. “That was ages ago.”

Cabinet Member Alex Sawyer referred back to Councillor Putson’s description of the provision of 222 houses as “pitiful”. He had just spent another £5 million on houses and said that Labour’s complaint when contrasted with their proposed expenditure of £1,459,136 “was hypocritical. There is nothing more nauseating than a hypocritical socialist”.

Councillor Wendy Perfect embarked on a rerun of her earlier complaints with particular emphasis on the negative education budget.

Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) said that housing people outside the borough caused them a great deal of extra expense because their roots were still in Bexley. “it is imperative that this administration goes back to their government and sets out their case for suporting our residents better”

Cabinet Member for Adults’ Services Brad Smith accused Councillor Perfect of “either misunderstanding his proposals or deliberately misrepresenting them”.

Hinkley FrenchCouncillor Sally Hinkley (Labour, Belvedere) objected to the Tory assumption that “Labour was somehow to blame for everything. Labour has only been in control in Bexley for four out of the past forty four years. It is about time they blamed their own government”.

She said that when a chargeable garden waste service was introduced the recycling rate dropped by 3% and now the charge was going up by another £5. “It works against our goal of an increase in recycling rates.” She didn’t like the idea of charging for entry to the gardens at Hall Place either.

The Planning Committee fights for more parking space for residents but then drives motorists away with 20% hikes in parking charges, she said. “Why on earth are we not updating parking policy to encourage the widespread use of cleaner or electric vehicles?”

Deputy Leader Louie French said that his “big issue with the amendment is that it doesn’t say how the money should be spent” and Mayor Sadiq Khan’s failure to meet his affordable homes target was having “a big impact on Bexley”.

Bexley Council is having to spend money on fighting against the Mayor’s plans which are not appropriate to Bexley and his failure to deliver Crossrail and the cutting of the transport grant “is not helping at all”.

FrancisLabour Leader Daniel Francis (Belvedere) went back to 2016 when the Conservatives slashed £12·5 million from the Adults’ Services budget. The budget now is less than it was eight years ago despite all the inflationary pressures.“The cuts have gone too far” and “the amount we collect in Council Tax in the past six years has increased by a third”.

Continuing to criticise the way local authorities are treated he asked, “who is responsible for this policy? It is the Member of Parliament for Old Bexley & Sidcup, the Secretary of State for Local Government.”

“Which is the new Cabinet Member for Finance [David Leaf] most proud of? Agreeing budget cuts that included £355,000 of savings that did not exist, was it setting a deficit education budget of £3·2 million, was it spending [almost inaudible so may be wrong) 27% of reserves in one year, increasing the overspend of £800,000 to £2·9 million in one year or increasing the budget gap from £14 million last November to over £18 million now?”

Cabinet Member Leaf replied with something rude, Councillor Francis objected and a Tory voice rang out “Be quiet”. It was all rather noisy. He criticised all the Labour Councillors one by one. Councillor Putson in particular was “disgusting” for his #doitforbexley comment. His criticism of Labour politicians was so wide ranging that he even managed to drag in Jeremy Corbyn’s Deputy, Tom Watson.

Cabinet Member John Fuller defended his decisions on education and highlighted his successes while being constantly barracked by his opposite number, it sounded like the yelling of “Rubbish” to me and whatever it was the Mayor objected to it. Councillor Fuller had been to the Commons and written to the Minister asking for more money. “The SEN team is doing an excellent job.”

Councillor Craske delivered a political diatribe rebutting everything of which the Conservatives had been accused. It was not without its amusing moments (in-jokes about Councillor Hackett’s defection) and he was not going to support the “Labour nonsense”.

Leader O’Neill rounded things off with more of the same. The Labour amendment was “smoke and mirrors” and every Tory duly voted it down.


9 March (Part 1) - TfL. Failed again

Failed pedestrian crossing Bus stopI was out on the weekly reconnoitre of any progress made on the Harrow Manorway regeneration project and risking life and limb crossing it four times between Lensbury Way and Yarnton Way and for the fifth time thought it would be best to cross at the new traffic lights.

Didn’t last long did they? How long since Transport for London commissioned the long awaited pedestrian crossing outside Abbey Wood’s Elizabeth line station? I’ll save you looking it up, it’s nine days.

On the plus side they have put up a proper bus stop flag on the pole.

Note: An eagle eyed reader has spotted that taken literally you had better not wait there for the B11. Reported.


8 March (Part 2) - Am I black listed?

KhanA week or so ago I learned that the Mayor of London is coming to the Crook Log Sports Centre next Thursday. A chance to ask about his plans his website says. I didn’t feel inclined to go, firstly I was already signed up for a pub quiz that night and secondly I probably wouldn’t have the courage to nudge him into the deep end of the pool.

However my friend Elwyn phoned and twisted my arm to go with him. I did him a favour and booked two tickets on line, ploughed through the interminable questions and gave them my contact@bexley-is-bonkers email address. At the end of the process the website said it would email me one ticket, not the two I had asked for.

Nothing showed up, it still hasn’t more than a day later.

I told Elwyn he was going to have to book his own tickets and one for me too please.

The same has happened to him. Filled in the application form, it told him one ticket was on its way and then nothing.

Maybe the same has happened to you but will it be worth tearing yourself away from home anyway?

Taxpayer: What have you done to improve passenger safety on the buses?
Sadiq: I have cancelled quite a few routes.
Taxpayer: Have you improved safety on the Tube?
Sadiq: Yes, I have stopped you staring at girls in yellow bikinis so that you will not wander absent mindedly on to the track.
Taxpayer: Are you doing anything to improve road safety?
Sadiq: Yes lots. I have stopped you parking your car at your new expensive block of flats and I am going to stop poor people from driving closer to London than the Woolwich Ferry.
Taxpayer: When will Elizabeth line services begin?
Sadiq: I have no idea but honestly, it is not my fault. You are welcome to continue to pay the premium prices charged by Southeastern.
Taxpayer: Are you tackling knife crime?
Sadiq: Yes definitely. I will shortly announce the closure of Robert Dyas shops.
Taxpayer: Is that all?
Sadiq: What else am I supposed to do until my PR department comes up with a decent slogan?
Taxpayer: How do you justify a near 9% increase in the Council Tax Precept this year?
Sadiq: I got away with it last year so why not and I have boosted the wage bill by nearly 100% in the last two years. Not many Mayors could do that. Can I go now?
Taxpayer: Yes please and don’t come back.

There, you don’t have to go now do you? We can all go down the pub.


8 March (Part 1) - No one is impressed. Two years of disruption and it is not pedestrian friendly

I find myself driving from Thamesmead through to Abbey Wood via Harrow Manorway only once a fortnight and it requires a great deal of care because every time I do so the road layout has changed. The only good news is that I think the speed restriction signs which said 40 on one side of the road and 20 on the other may have gone now, they threw the speed alert alarm in my car into a right old tizzy. (No, it’s still there.)

Heading south across the Yarnton Road roundabout requires special attention, my regular trip is after dark and it is blind when looking towards Eynsham Drive and the exit to the south is far from clear among a plethora of barriers and cones. For a while there was no provision for pedestrians to get from Yarnton Way to Eynsham Drive without traversing the roundabout itself. Fortunately that situation did not last long.

As a pedestrian I was almost knocked down on that junction a couple of months ago because the road markings suggested one thing and the barriers another. It is a little bit better now but perhaps still not good enough.

It would appear that I am not alone in thinking that things could be better. From a BiB reader this week…

I would like to share with you some of my recent experiences on Harrow Manorway which I hope you can share with your readers and get their comments.

While trying to cross Harrow Manorway near the Yarnton Way roundabout at the absolutely pathetic and highly dangerous alleged crossing, a women with a pram was crossing in the opposite direction. A car coming off the roundabout and heading towards the station barely missed both her and her baby. This is not the first time I have witnessed such a scene.

Is it going to take the death or severe injury (and I’m not over exaggerating here) of someone at this junction before the imbecile highways officer/road planner makes changes, or replaces the traffic crossing signals, on a highly dangerous crossing where no one seems to know what’s going on?

The imbecile/road planner has literally turned crossing the road at this point into a game of chicken.

The same imbecile highways officer/road planner must be as pleased as punch to put an absolutely laughable bus shelter outside what is a lovely design led new station. Having spent multi-millions of pounds on an as yet unfinished highways scheme which was supposed to incorporate a properly designed bus canopy, the cretins decide to go down the cheap route and put in a load of crap which isn’t worth its weight in salt and gets everyone soaking wet!!!!

Also when I was standing there the other day along with about 40 or 50 other people waiting for a bus heading towards Thamesmead, people who were walking towards Sainsbury’s were having to walk in the road to get past the bus shelter as the path was too narrow for both bus passengers and pedestrians walking past.

Is this a design flaw as this stop is only going to get busier with the opening of Crossrail???

It beggars belief that they haven’t thought of that. Is it going to take an injury to someone before this is changed as well???

BashfordAnd just a last note on this idiot of a highways office/road planner, I know they are extremely late on starting the road works on the Felixstowe Road side but when are they going to stop the cars from parking directly outside the station and making the road into a narrow single lane on a blind bend?? Is Bexley Council or their contractors really that gormless that they can’t see how dangerous it is?

I’m sure a lot of your readers would have experienced the same problems and it would be interesting to hear their comments as this Council led debacle really does take some believing.

Bus shelterMaybe the “highways officer/road planner” should be unmasked. It is the ‘founder’ of Bexley-is-Bonkers himself. The man who tried to stop me questioning his dangerous redesign of Abbey Road ten years ago by saying his plan was entirely in accordance with Transport Research Laboratory guidance. He thought that blinding me with science was a masterstroke but he hadn’t checked who was head of the TRL Department that issued it. It was my son so I know he was simply trying it on.

It didn’t do him any harm though, Bexley Council promoted him. It is no surprise to find road planning in Bexley goes from bad to worse.

The pictures below illustrate the BiB reader’s point.

Felixstowe Road is running well over a year late, work was supposed to start in January 2018 and there is still no sign of it. The excuse of Crossrail works getting in the way has long since gone. As the contributor says, Felixstowe Road has been turned into a parking lot.

The bus stops are a total disaster zone; this, never forget, is the terminus of the most prestigious railway line to be built in London for 100 years, and what do we get, a Meccano set bus shelter with a roof no more effective than a broken umbrella.

The northbound bus shelter will be the one that gets used most, on the other side of the road the buses go to places better served by other railway stations. The shelter was supposed to be modelled on the original bus shelter which is now a bike rack. It wasn’t supposed to be like that, a proper shelter should have been cantilevered out over the car park below. Why else would there be a gap in the concrete wall which has been plugged by some railings? Do we blame Transport for London or Bexley Council for the inadequacies?

There is no shelter from the elements, there is no arrivals board, there is no room for passengers and pedestrians on the footpath. It’s what you get when a track record of poor design is rewarded.

Pedestrian crossing Felixstowe Road Felixstowe Road Harrow Manorway bus stop

The Harrow Manorway developments have been photographed at weekly intervals since work began in May 2017. They are Indexed here.


7 March (Part 2) - Myth busting

Yesterday’s report on Bexley Council's tentative plans to install electric car chargers in streets went on to extoll the virtues of electric vehicles and some of the downsides. The cars are too expensive and whilst there are tens of thousands of chargers across the country there are still too many ‘deserts’.

News of the blog was passed around on Twitter and attracted the usual ill-informed criticism. I answered each Tweet and them muted them as I have no wish to be distracted by such people, especially ignoramuses with Twitter handles like @rs_hole.

The complaint was that the cars are not green because they rely on coal burning power stations and failed batteries are themselves big polluters.

Speaking personally I didn’t give a thought to my electric vehicle being green, I bought it because I like high tech things and because they are so easy to drive and inject some much needed fun into motoring. With 400 Newton metres of torque available from the start giving a 0-30 m.p.h. time of around two seconds one can be very quickly in the right position on the road or if you have a mind to, almost always be first away from the traffic lights.

For comparison that’s the same power and torque output as a supercharged Honda Civic Type R which can only produce it when the engine is screaming for mercy. The electric equivalent will deliver everything quietly from a standstill. No possibility of stalling the engine; no contest. Maybe some burned rubber!

But back to answering the criticism. The batteries have not been failing right left and centre otherwise batteries would not be given longer warranties than the car they are built into. Up to ten years, eight in my own case.

When they do degrade they can be reused for less critical applications. Batteries are now sold to store solar energy for use overnight. They are commonly rated at two or three kilowatt hours. A car battery will be 30, 40 or 60 kilowatt hours. Sometimes more. The technology is available to enable cars to power your household requirements directly. A car battery could keep most houses going for days.

Far from electric vehicles breaking the national grid some in the industry see them as its salvation by evening out the demands. The technologies are moving on fast and will be widely adopted in the reasonably near future.

In any case power generation is not nearly as dirty as it was. On days like today, windy and bright, more than half of it comes from renewables and if you add in nuclear it is much cleaner than the Luddites would have you believe.

If you Google ‘real time energy generation’ you will find several websites which display both the UK’s energy requirements and how it is being met.

One is crudely embedded below. It doesn’t display as well as it should at all screen sizes but it updates itself occasionally. If it doesn’t work for you, choose the Google option instead.

Back to Bexley’s roads tomorrow.


7 March (Part 1) - Full Council report. The moderately short version

With two meetings scheduled for the same evening I scraped into the Council Chamber yesterday evening just in time to hear Mayor Bishop ask Councillors to behave themselves during the meeting which in the main they did. There was a handful of members of the public there to listen to Bexley Council formally increase Council Tax by 5% and they had dwindled to two by the time the meeting ended two and three quarter hours later.

TweetJust as Councillors do at the beginning of every meeting I am going to declare an interest here; I do not like paying tax and I resent having to pay more than strictly necessary, hence my lack of enthusiasm for the 4·99% increase. It could have been 3·99% if it were not for the cowardice shown over recycling. My guess is that we will get a three weekly residuals collection after the next election. That way we get the worst of both worlds; an extra 1% on the Council Tax and a reduced refuse service.

In 1992 my local taxes went up five fold. A single occupant of a band E house when the multi-millionaire Michael Heseltine decided to abolish the Community Charge the introduction of which the Tories had completely botched. Now we have local Tories proclaiming that we should only pay for the services we use (see Tweet). The irony seems to be lost on them.

I resigned my membership of the Conservative Party and haven’t had a good word to say about them since - although I have cast votes in their direction on the grounds that the other lot were worse.

In 2004 I complained to Bexley Council that Council Tax had been put up by 20% in two years and by four times the rate of inflation in that year alone and if they continued at that rate it would not take long for Council Tax to swallow up all of my pension.

The reply came back from the Council Leader himself who said that whilst he did not particularly like the increases because he had to pay them too, he nevertheless thought the increases were “reasonable”. Four times the rate of inflation was apparently reasonable but in 2019 according to members of his own party 50% above inflation rises are not. And people wonder why I am such a cynic when it comes to politics!

There are three ways of reporting last night’s meeting; the almost verbatim way which might bore you to death - the quick way or the very easy way. The latter might consist of no more than referring you to the Labour Group’s Press Release in which they say they would have preferred a different budget that spent some Section 106 money to fix Bexley’s dreadful homelessness statistics. There’s 1,400 families with 2,000 children between them with nowhere permanent to live in Bexley. How appalling is that?

Bexley Council has failed to spend nearly one and a half million pounds which was provided by housing developers to help solve the problem. The Council’s own budget statement (Page 333 of the recent Cabinet Agenda) admits they screwed up on homelessness but it was not something they were prepared to admit last night.

Let’s take the middle way for the Full Council meeting report.

For some unexplained reason the sound quality was not as good as usual and my recorder struggled somewhat. The view was limited too, OK for a hairdressers’ convention perhaps but not ideal for anything else.

Craske Dourmoush French French French
O'Hare O'Neill Read Reader Seymour

TweetThe meeting could have been over much quicker if it was not for Labour’s last minute Motion. Why they couldn’t have argued that particular case months ago I have no idea unless they wanted to provide Tweedledum and Tweedledee with the ammunition to Tweet constantly that Labour had no budget ideas.

An insight into a Labour strategist’s mind might be interesting. Most of the Labour Councillors put the case for fixing the housing crisis and to me it sounded reasonable enough and the Labour Leader’s point that some of the budget arithmetic seemed not to stack up appeared to be entirely valid.

He said that Bexley Council was spending less now on Social Services than it was in 2011/12.

Despite that a Councillor Twitter Direct Messaged me to say the Labour Motion was “back of a fag packet stuff that merely tinkered at the edges”, so what do I know?

When it came to the vote every Tory was against the Labour Amendment aided and abetted by the Independent Councillor for Thamesmead East, Danny Hackett. He was soon rewarded on Twitter.

TweetThe problem with Danny is that he has always been too damned honest; if he is not careful it will leave him isolated.

All the usual Tory suspects delivered their scripted speeches in support of their own budget and the only one that was a little out of the ordinary was Councillor Alan Downing’s.

He said he had achieved a level of notoriety by being the only Councillor who had come up with a new money raising idea. The dog walker’s tax. By the sound of it he had been ribbed mercilessly by his colleagues.

The discussion was rounded off by Councillor Leader Teresa O’Neill saying that “Bexley punched well above its weight” and was looked up to by many Councils some of which looked at what was happening in Bexley and simply copied from it.

HackettIt was no surprise at all that the budget vote divided precisely along party lines with the Independent abstaining. I’ve no idea why he did that, maybe the word Independent has been taken far too literally.

On the way out Deputy Leader Louie French was just in front of me struggling with an enormous pile of papers. I held the door for him as one does but right behind loomed the Council Leader herself. I continued to be unpaid doorman. She thanked me and not in a grudging way. I have never before received so much as a grunt from our dear Leader. I think it is my Council highlight of the year so far.


After eight years is it time to forgive her for asking the police to arrest me for being “critical” of Councillors and interferring in the Craske arrest business? I’ll have to think about it.

I may have time to review some of the recording at the weekend, but I may not.


6 March (Part 2) - Better late than never

Bexley Council is asking residents if they would like to see publicly accessible electric car charging points on their street and has put out a Press Release and questionnaire today.

Press ReleaseIt’s one of those subjects one may not get to know intimately until after one has jumped in with both feet and I suspect Bexley Council doesn’t know much about electric vehicles.

They imply that you will get a government grant on plug in vehicles which isn’t strictly correct. You will get a £3,500 grant if the vehicle is powered wholly by its battery and an electric motor. If it’s a hybrid you won’t get anything, plug in or not.

Sadiq Khan has already announced that the 100% Congestion Charge discount for electric vehicles is scheduled for the chop.

Bexley’s survey is very simple. If you tell it you have an electric car and off street parking it will tell you to buzz off, they don’t want to know. Only if you tell it you own, or plan to buy, an electric vehicle and would like to see on-street chargers will it take you to the final page where it simply asks for your contact details. That is probably fair enough but it is not a survey as claimed but an application form to have a charger installed in your street.

There are two big problems with electric cars. They are brilliant to drive, no gears, they just go; quietly and very very quickly. One problem is that you cannot buy any of the popular models straight out of the showroom. There is a waiting list and if you are looking for what is in effect the new standard of 250 miles plus of range you currently cannot buy one at all unless you have £70,000 to spend.

The few that were available can no longer be ordered in the UK. When the waiting list went over a year long the order books were closed.

Six months ago I bought one of only 50 imported at the time. There may be something like 500 now but you can no longer buy one. I worry about the availability of spare parts with so few on the road but on the other hand they are being sold second hand for about £7,500 more than I paid for it.
Charging is a complex issue. I have a home charger (£500 government grants are still available) which is clever enough to divert my excess solar generation into the car and there are enough chargers in supermarket car parks to easily satisfy current demand. My 4,000 miles have cost me precisely nothing.

However that wouldn’t work for everyone. If you are out all day and cannot charge at home things get complicated. There are chargers around - usually at a cost - that will fill a battery at the rate of about three miles a minute and faster ones are coming but that is not the sort of unit that Bexley Council has in mind. They will require an overnight charge to put a useful amount of electricity into a car battery.

There are unlikely to be enough of them to keep everyone happy.

A major problem at the moment is that there are quite a lot of plug-in hybrid cars around and they can only be charged slowly, much more slowly than a true electric vehicle. So they hog chargers for ages when they could if necessary use their combustion engine to get on their way. Meanwhile a battery only powered car may be stuck for lack of a charge point.

Much as I love my electric car and would never go pack to petrol the way forward is fraught with difficulty because governments simply do not think.

I hope Bexley Council knows what it is doing.

By the way, I have had three people tell me that Toyota’s new self-charging hybrids will take over from electric cars. What a con Toyota is perpetuating! In terms of the drive train their ‘new’ self-charging car is exactly the same as the very first Prius they produced more than 20 years ago. It is a dinosaur running wholly on the product of fossilised dinosaurs.


6 March (Part 1) - Same here!

I’m not sure anonymous messages deserve an answer when there is no good reason for them to be anonymous, but trying to be helpful, here goes…

Have been trying to view councillors Register of Interest, all I get is ‘This site can’t be reached’. This is second day of trying. Are they purposely hiding details or is it a technical hiccup?

A few years ago I might have been suspicious but Bexley Council has cleaned up its act a bit since then. This will be a their IT contractor cocking up again.


5 March - Hunger, Idiocy, Contradiction, Corruption and Incompetence

The following should have appeared here yesterday but to paraphrase Harold ‘You’ve Never Had It So Good’ MacMillan, events got in the way, but here we go…

Bexley Foodbank
Fortunately I am never likely to be a Foodbank user and I don’t know much about them except that a neighbour helps out in one. I gave him a hundred quid once to get some essentials in but there my involvement ends.

I didn’t realise until recently that Danny Hackett, is a Moderator on a Bexleyheath Facebook Group. That’s another thing that I don’t know much about, Facebook. I find it difficult to navigate and it often attracts the sort of people I’d rather avoid.

Despite that Danny asked me to join the Bexleyheath Group.

That led me to an announcement about a Foodbank and as you might expect, Danny is well into Foodbanks and lends them whatever support he can. The organisers’ latest efforts are directed towards equipping themselves with a van. To this end there is a fund raising web page which is looking to raise £2,000.

It will be a pittance to some people and would probably not even scratch the surface of the funds available to a political party, but when did they ever help anyone?

It’s early days for the Foodbank Appeal but so far it has not been doing too well. Perhaps you can help out?

“This van is sponsored by Bexley is Bonkers.” Hmmm.

Click image to go to the donation page.

You don’t have to be mad to be a road planner in Bexley but it will help your promotion prospects if you are
Harrow Manorway Harrow ManorwayI simply do not understand the mentality of the people who design road markings like these. We have a light controlled pedestrian crossing where you might expect a cyclist to carry on regardless, whether the lights be red or green.

No one likes that so Bexley Council has come up with an innovative wheeze. Cyclists are directed up on to the pavement away from the crossing where they can scatter any waiting pedestrians and then join the traffic flow a few yards further on - very probably without a backward glance.

Harrow Manorway for those who are not familiar with the area.

The Tweedle Brothers are at it again
TweedledumThey want it all ways and are stupid enough to think we will fall for it.

Outnumbered as they are 35 to 10, the Labour Group in Bexley has zero chance of getting a budget proposal accepted which may or may not be a good reason for not expending a great deal of effort in putting their ideas forward.

The consequence is that Bexley Tories constantly take the proverbial out of them which they would probably claim is part of the cut and thrust of politics, but do they have to constantly lie about it?

In recent days their Tweets suggest that when Labour does come up with an idea they are promptly gagged - by whom they fail to say. Then they follow up with the claim that Labour produce so many expensive ideas that they would cost another 5% on Council Tax, neatly avoiding the fact that the law would not allow them to raise taxes that high.

Tweet Tweet
Neither Tweet is truthful, it is rare for any Bexley Tory Tweet to be other than a lie, and they frequently contradict what is actually said in Council meetings. The liars rely on the fact that almost no one attends Council meetings and they won’t be caught out.

However here is a week old audio clip of Cabinet Member Peter Craske complaining that Bexley Labour were silent when he asked for budget ideas.

Cabinet Member Craske complains that Labour Councillors remain silent. One of many examples.

Bent cops (is there any other sort?)

I wrote to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) to complain that Kent Police were refusing to tell me what they had done after confirming that my allegation of crime against former Bexley Councillor Maxine Fothergill had been referred to the appropriate department. They replied to say they could not compel the police to investigate any crime.

TweetI wrote back to say the issue was not that they had refused to investigate but that they were refusing to update me on progress on the grounds that I was not the victim of Maxine’s criminal intent.

The IOPC said they could not compel the police to reply to letters, they exist only to investigate “misconduct” by police, so they leave me with no choice.

A letter will have to be sent alleging that the Chief Constable of Kent is engaged in a criminal conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. I am one of five people who have made criminal allegations against Maxine Fothergill and Kent Police has ignored every single one of them. But they had formerly arrested three of the complainants on Fothergill’s say so. No case to answer obviously.

All the correspondence relating to the allegation that Maxine Fothergill committed a crime is available here.

Note:I should have said “some Councillors” in the Tweet that referred to Sunday's episode of Endeavour in which the Councillor was definitely bent and so were the most senior CID officers who set about killing the honest ones but were thwarted by Traffic Division.

Bulb Energy
BulbRemember I said that three people had taken the £100 incentive to take energy from Bulb, giving me £300 at the same time? I got the confirmation emails OK but Bulb has credited someone else entirely. A software glitch they say. The same happened last July and they promised me it was fixed.

P.S. I have just received an email which says the error cannot be corrected but I will be given a credit next month. That’s £900 dished out; no wonder your energy bills are so high. Or is that down to Ed Miliband’s Climate Change Act?


3 March (Part 3) - The Leather Bottle site remains a mess, should we believe the developer’s plans for Woolwich Road?

This is just heartbreaking isn’t it? It's the view from 240 Woolwich Road of the devastation wreaked on the owner’s garden and Lesnes Abbey Woods by Mr. Kulvinder Singh, the rogue property developer responsible for a number of eyesores around town.

How would you feel if the house you bought for its wonderful woodland views and in which you had invested so much time and money was brought to this in just a week or two by someone who ignores the planning laws while Bexley Council slumbers?

Soul destroying.

Woolwich RoadHow does he get away with it?

Beneath the grass is a massive concrete slab held in place by huge walls penetrating many feet into the ground.

The excavated spoil was dumped on neighbours’ gardens resulting in the loss of some trees and the gardens were changed to the extent that one neighbour was advised to seek planning permission for the new and unwanted landscape.

Mr. Singh has been issued with an Enforcement Notice to remove his eyesore and he must do so by the end of April.

The day after the Notice was served Singh submitted another planning application for the works he has done and still wants to do. 19/00194/FUL.

The plans may not be strictly inaccurate. It is not made very obvious that the slab boundary extends into the woods.

The foundation is described as a lawn and the stated boundary wall heights suggest that someone equipped with a tape measure should be taking a close look.

The boundary to 236 is currently in danger of crumbling but there is no reference to any remedial work.

It is all very difficult to understand. In common with its neighbours 238 Woolwich Road had a very steeply falling garden. Now it is being suggested that the primary purpose of the works is terracing connected by attractive sweeping staircases.

Why would a property developer, a property developer with a reputation for leaving ugly blots on the landscape - dare we mention the Leather Bottle - wish to create something worthy of a latter day Capability Brown?

His neighbours are deeply suspicious. Why does a lawn require foundations which they estimated to have cost in the region of £100,000?

It simply doesn't make sense. Will Bexley Council be fool enough to withdraw their Enforcement Notice?

At the present time there does not appear to have been any formal objection to the scheme, perhaps one or two of the regular Lesnes Abbey Wood walkers will have their say about people who encroach on the woods and dramatically change the landscape.

According to a Woolwich Road resident, rather too late in the day, Bexley Council has made a Tree Preservation Order that covers the area in question.

Woolwich Road

Directly related blogs.
2nd October 2018 - The background to this story.
4th October 2018 - Concrete delivery.
9th October 2018 - Bexley Council belatedly marks out the boundary line.
29th January 2019 - Neighbour has to apply for planning permission.
31st January 2019 - Enforcement Notice.
26th February 2019 - Singh makes another planning application.


3 March (Part 2) - Just what was the point of that?

MeetingI went to the ‘crime’ meeting on Friday on behalf of local traders to see if any resident indicated that anti-social behaviour might be affecting their businesses. No one mentioned the shops or Wilton Road or any other bad behaviour apart from the motorcycling menaces that blight some residential roads on a nightly basis.

Only the day before I saw a youngster on an L plated Vespa style scooter go right over the Harrow Manorway flyover using only his rear wheel and while standing upright on the pillion seat all the while revving his engine up and down in an aggressive fashion. It was quite some skill and the rider really does deserve to end up in a circus - or a coffin.

The meeting dealt mainly with Greenwich but did not entirely ignore Bexley. Most of it was taken up with the Neighbourhood Watch and Safer Greenwich speakers who told us how the police could not be everywhere and how residents had to be their ears and eyes. It was a big advertising session for Neighbourhood Watch and there is nothing wrong with that.

Several residents rather made the case for them with examples of how the police never showed up for what they thought were quite serious crimes and how the Abbey Wood ward Councillors were ineffective and never responded. Probably there is an element of exaggeration about that.

Abbey Wood was said to be the only Greenwich Council ward that did not have a Safer Neighbourhoods Panel and it was suggested that that was the only way to get the police to recognise - prioritise I suppose - low level crime. It’s a message I have heard before.

The Neighbourhood Watch lady said that Councillors should respond because Councillors had a budget to deal with local problems. Maybe that is a Greenwich thing, I have never heard of it elsewhere.

There were three police officers present and at twenty two minutes past eight a sergeant from Belvedere - see; there is a Bexley connection in this blog - addressed the not quite 20 members of the audience.

He regretted the “propensity for violence” in modern society but said that “the internet gives us more crimes and it takes us away every day. The police just cannot be there. Neighbourhood Watch is the way forward.”

As someone in the audience remarked, “if the police stopped nicking people for using bad words maybe they could be there”.

Just before the clock showed eight twenty four the police sergeant handed the meeting back to Neighbourhood Watch and all three police officers left the building.

If you had gone to the meeting to listen to the Metropolitan Police’s crime prevention message you would have got your hundred seconds’ worth. They really are a waste of space aren’t they?

The only thing I got out of it was about sixty miles of free motoring thanks to Sainsbury’ electric car charger. What Abbey Wood residents got out of it I do not know, disillusionment probably. Do people who cannot spell the name of the area they supposedly serve deserve anything more?


3 March (Part 1) - Four offences in one. OV58 DZU

The weekly Parkrun in Lesnes Abbey Park is very popular and takes up a good deal of the available parking space. It’s not a problem, even on this wet and miserable morning there are spaces available within 100 yards of the park entrance.

Bad parking Bad parking Bad parkingHowever some people are not prepared to walk anywhere and do not care about the dangerous situations they create.

The driver of this car has committed four offences. Parking too close to a junction, parking over a dropped kerb, parking on a double yellow line and parking on the footpath.

It was there when I went out shopping this morning. It was there when I returned. It was still there after getting home and returning to the scene of the crime with my camera.

Drivers like this must have serious intellectual deficiencies and really shouldn’t be in charge of a potentially lethal weapon.

If Bexley Council still had a phone number to report illegally parked cars I would have used it but the rigmarole of uploading photos to their website is just too much.

In any case when I did do it they took three days to show up. For the record, no PCNs were issued in Carrill Way last year despite poor parking obstructing it nearly every day, occasionally more than 50 centimetres from the kerb.

If anyone recognises this car perhaps they could give the driver some friendly words of advice.

Note: Before someone picks me up on my spelling of Carrill Way (see sign); it varies depending on which street name sign you look at.


2 March (Part 2) - Another fiftieth anniversary

I may not have gone to Peabody’s Thamesmead Regeneration exhibition if my arm had not been twisted by Bonkers’ readers but I am very glad that I did. It was the biggest Peabody exhibition I have been to and it covered everything they are doing in South Thamesmead.

The Hub PeabodyWe have just passed the 50th anniversary of the houses on Thamesmead first being occupied but it apparently acquired a dubious reputation very quickly.

In 1979 I was a Hampshire resident working in London and knew nothing of Thamesmead. A newly married young lady in the office announced she had found accommodation in Thamesmead and met with a chorus of groans from her friends. Ten years later when I moved to Belvedere I began to realise why.

The Peabody Housing Association is undertaking the massive job of bringing Thamesmead up to standard which means some refurbishment and a great deal of demolition. Progress has been painfully slow but things are rapidly picking up now.

Today’s event was a serious attempt to update residents on what Peabody has in mind. They had loads of staff at The Hub in Yarnton Way and lots of explanatory posters.

Whilst I am affected only in the sense that the skyline will change for the better I am aware that regeneration can badly inconvenience those who are compelled to live adjacent to a building site. Many have lost access to car parking, the disabled have been effectively imprisoned in their own homes and some have lost them altogether.

The terms offered to owner occupiers whose houses are to be demolished is the standard valuation plus 10% which bearing in mind the value of concrete houses might not be very much, certainly not enough to buy a decent replacement house locally.

To bridge the gap Peabody is helping displaced home owners with a joint equity deal with no interest payable on their investment or rent on the portion of the house not owned outright. It sounds like a decent deal to me but maybe it is easy for unaffected me to say that. It feels good to own one’s own home, maybe it doesn’t feel so good to have Peabody taking a share of it even though they will never be able to get the occupants out of it. If I have not misunderstood it is like a free mortgage with fewer strings attached.

In time inflation may reduce Peabody’s interest in the property.

Residents that might be affected are sure to have been contacted by Peabody already but a trip to the Hub in Yarnton Way is highly recommended. The exhibition will be repeated next Thursday (14:00 to 20:00) and Saturday (10:00 - 15:00).

The explanatory posters were photographed and may be seen here. Probably best to look on a decent size computer monitor.

Can anyone answer a question about Thamesmead that has intrigued me for some while? If you tour around within a few miles of Oxford you will stumble upon the villages of Yarnton, Eynsham, Wolvercote, Binsey, Hinksey and Godstow. There may be more. All of them have lent their names to roads in Thamesmead.



2 March (Part 1) - 50 years ago today

Bonkers is wandering right off topic today much like it did on 9th February, indeed it might be considered a follow up to that blog, for today marks the 50th anniversary of Concorde’s first flight. From my late teenage years Concorde development dominated family life.

May I state at the outset that all the following is from memory and not from Google or Wikipedia?

TVI watched the prototype Concorde take off on its first flight on the TV shown here.

As stated three weeks ago Concorde’s roots were in the Mach 3 bomber (three times the speed of sound) which never came to fruition, probably cancelled by Defence Minister (and later Minister of Aviation) Duncan Sandys who did for the TSR2 project. Sandys thought that manned flight had no future and cancelled everything in sight.

The yet unnamed Concorde was so much like a bomber that when the initial plans were put to British Overseas Airways Corporation it had no windows. With the De Havilland Comet disasters still in recent memory windows were a known point of weakness. Not unnaturally BOAC said they would have nothing to do with a windowless aeroplane.

The Concorde prototypes were being built in both Filton (Bristol) and Toulouse at the same time and through the middle 1960s my father would spend alternate weeks in Toulouse. He’d take an evening flight to Paris and then take the overnight TGV to the South.

He would return loaded with duty free goods ordered by friends. Drink definitely and tobacco probably. Dad was not a drinker and neither am I which is why several bottles of the stuff still lurk unopened in one of my cabinets. Not a drop is sold until it is 62 years old!

These bottles were photographed this morning. There’s some brandy and Malibu too but I am not so sure of its provenance.

Dad did not have a very high opinion of French engineering in the 1960s and probably regretted their involvement, however it should not be forgotten that without the French, Concorde would have been cancelled by Harold Wilson’s government. Tony Benn?

The complicated bits were all British, Dowty’s undercarriage, Bristol-Siddeley’s engines and the drooping nose from Cambridge. Similar wings had been seen on the British Fairy Delta 2 which had achieved 1,132 m.p.h as early as 1956 (I saw it over Farnborough several times) but Concorde’s wings were built in France.

I remember exactly what my father said when he came home after taking delivery of the first galley equipment. “You’d think the French could build a kitchen but it is marked made in USA”. Whether part or all of it I do not know.

Another French problem was that they insisted on speaking French and when they delivered the kit it came with French language documentation. My recollection is that Dad claimed that highly skilled translators took months to do their job and often caused projects to run late.

My only recollection of his flight testing work was when a Pan American pilot was taken out over the Atlantic as part of the sales pitch. Loop it the engineers told him. No way it will break he replied. No it won’t and they looped it.

I began to doubt my recollections on that one until I heard it repeated in a radio documentary when Concorde was taken out of service.

I think 20 Concordes were built including the slightly smaller prototypes. One of the production aircraft was put in a specially built facility alongside the Ively Road on the edge of Farnborough and shaken, frozen and roasted continuously to simulate flight ensuring that if Concorde ever failed it would do so on the ground and not in the air.

When Concorde eventually went into service and a Director of Production was appointed I again remember exactly what my father said about him and where I was at the time - we were driving back from London to Farnborough. “Couldn’t manage a match box factory.”

And so it proved. Before long his friend Eric Lewis took on the job. Eric was a Welsh scientist who had been a driving force behind the Rolls Royce RB211 engine that was the first of the big quiet jets that are now the norm. He died a couple of years ago and the tributes from people who had worked with him brought tears to my eyes.

I still visit his widow a couple of times a year. Her house is full of Rolls Royce memorabilia which must be worth a fortune to a collector.

Concorde Concorde Eric Lewis Eric Lewis

Concorde over my back garden. Eric Lewis visits home, and at work in the National Gas Turbine Establishment, Pyestock, Hampshire


1 March (Part 2) - Councillor Peter Craske does a hand brake turn. Who yanked his string?

The Cabinet meeting earlier this week was more interesting than budget setting meetings usually are because the decision taken at the start directly affected the decision taken later. More precisely the changes to recycling (a big one or a piddling little one) would in effect set the Council Tax rate.

As such 100% of the Labour Councillors showed up to see the drama played out, plus 16 Conservative Councillors and five members of the public. Most buzzed off home before it finished.

It was good to see the Steward’s Wall absent again. It signified the divide between Bexley Council and its residents and after four consecutive barrier absences one must assume that we are seeing a kinder gentler form of politics in Bexley. © Jeremy Corbyn.

Cabinet Member for Bins Peter Craske had been furiously Tweeting in the days before the meeting that he needed to be bold as the Conservatives were in 2007 when they rearranged recycling in a way that was seen as unpopular at the time but drove the recycling rate to unprecedented levels.
Tweet Tweet
Be bold again he said, it paid off last time and being bold again meant saving £1·3 million a year by collecting residual waste every three weeks.

What else did he say to justify the change? Rubbish collection is something that affects everyone and the Council Leader reminded everyone of that. Cabinet
Bryce-SmithDirector David Bryce-Smith the Chief Binman was asked to give some details of the collection schemes that could be implemented. Overall he wanted to improve the recycling rate and tackle the problem of wind blown litter.

Both options include “retaining weekly food collection but moving from the current weekly dry recycling in three boxes to two weekly dry recycling with two wheelie bins. One for paper and cardboard and one for plastics cans and glass. Glass would no longer be collected separately”.

“Two options were considered for collecting residual waste [the green bin], one was moving from two weekly collection to three weekly and where that has been done elsewhere experience shows that it leads to a significant improvement in recycling levels and we expect that would move us closer to 60%. It delivers the highest financial savings, nearly £1·3 million. However there were a lot of objections from residents.”

“The other option retains two weekly residual waste collection but we hope there might be some modest improvement in recycling but a reduced level of saving. Those are the two options for Members to make a decision on.”

“In either case the contract with Serco will need to be extended for eighteen months.”

CraskeThe choice was between the bold decision advocated by Cabinet Member Craske on Twitter or a minor adjustment of the status quo to stop bin box lids being blown down the street.

Cabinet Member Craske set about confirming that he favoured the three weekly deal for residuals.

First he thanked the Council officers for their “forward thinking”. (Ah, he is going for the bold option isn’t he?)

However he admitted that the consultation labelled the new arrangement as “barmy, will lead to fly tipping everywhere, our bins will be overflowing and it will attract flies and maggots and 75% of respondents opposed the plan in a News Shopper poll”.

“But they are not the consultation responses from just now they are the responses we got in 2007 but we put forward the changes from what we had then to what we have now. The reason was to increase recycling rates and reduce the amount going to landfill and here we are eleven years later with a simple scheme that residents got right behind.”

“If we hadn’t taken that decision then we would be paying £3·6 million a year more for the cost of running the service and £11 million in landfill charges. It was a bold decision.” (That’s it then; a clear indication that Councillor Craske is going to be bold again and look after the taxpayers’ hard earned pounds.)

The percentage of residents objecting to the changes now is much the same as in 2007 “but it is part of our job to be bold”. (There, he has said it again.)

About the renewed comments about flies and maggots he said “they made no sense because there is no proposal to change the food waste collections at all and never have been. 50% of the residual waste could be recycled and most of it is food waste.”

(So all the criticisms are answered, Craske is going for three weekly collections isn’t he? It’s the only thing that makes sense.)

“Turning to the options, food waste will remain exactly as it is now. No change at all.”

“Turning to recycling collection, moving to wheelie bins makes perfect sense The boxes are too small. We will make that change. Paper will be collected one week; glass, plastic and tins will be collected in the other week.” (Three cheers for that!)

“Turning to the residual waste collection the recommendation is to leave it as it is or move to a three weekly collection. 75% of people opposed three weekly collection but as I said earlier, in 2007 there was a similar response then and no one can say our decision in 2007 was the wrong one. It is our job to look at things for four or five years ahead. (Here we go. Wait for it.)

“Taking all those factors into account, I can confirm that the residual waste collection that the change we will be making is none. We are going to leave the system as it is.”

(What happened there? Bexley Council’s act of cowardice will cost all of us 1% on or Council Tax bills.)

For the record the decision was backed by the Labour Group.

It reminds me very much of the final police report following their refusal to properly investigate the obscenities posted on line from Councillor Craske’s IP address in 2011.

It went on for page after page listing all the things that Bexley police did wrong. Delays, failure to look at the evidence, deliberate misinformation to the victims etc. but the final paragraph switched tack and said no police officer had done anything wrong.

The investigating officer had quite clearly been got at for political reasons. History has repeated itself. I was under the impression that it was the Labour Party that was inclined to turn its back on financial rectitude. It would appear that Bexley Tories have caught the same disease as their national counterparts. Is there any point to them any more?


1 March (Part 1) - There! At last

Not much more than 16 months after Abbey Wood’s Crossrail station opened, Bexley Council has pretty much finished the road that services it. Once again there is a bus stop and what passes for a shelter reasonably close to the station.

Harrow ManorwayAlready the complaints have landed in my Inbox, the bus shelters are totally inadequate and not only because there are no electronic destination indicators. Perhaps there will be later, there are some suspicious looking metal boxes close to each one.

The complaint is that when the wind is blowing the rain about as it was yesterday evening the shelters are “woefully inadequate”. The old bus shelter is now a cycle rack and is no good as an overflow bus shelter.

It’s penny pinching and not what was promised at the outset two years ago.

Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway Harrow Manorway

An operational pedestrian crossing does not seem to have stopped cars parking on the zig-zags and dropping off train passengers.

There are more pictures here.


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