making sound considerate



What happened to Westcombe Park Police Station?

Occupants moved out, boards moved in.

Been meaning to post this for a while, but only just found time now.  I posted earlier this year about the state of the old Westcombe Park Police Station, and from that learned that it was still being used as a neighbourhood watch outpost, among other things.

Sometime in the autumn this year (I think) some boards went up in the windows and all police-related paraphernalia has been removed or obscured.  By night we see some lights left on, but that’s about it – no other sign of life.  Still, this state is an improvement on the ongoing water leaks that were patched up earlier this summer!

Anyone know what happened?

London Riots: Greenwich Photojournal

I took a walk through East Greenwich into Greenwich proper earlier this morning, to see for myself what (little) impact the threat of last nights’ riots had made on the local community.

There were lots of tourists doing their usual thing, though there seemed to be less than usual. Many locals were walking to work or otherwise going about their business as normal, as if nothing had ever happened. There were a lot less young people about than I’d have expected – the late-teens and early-20’s age-groups simply didn’t seem to be about. Perhaps they’re all sleeping. Maybe Greenwich just isn’t a hip and happening enough place for young people on a nice summer day. It might be that they’re keeping a low profile for, erm… whatever reason.

Here’s some pictures and comments as I found them:

Trafalgar Road

I’d heard from many Twitter posts last night that pretty much every shop along Trafalgar Road was boarded or shuttered from yesterday afternoon onwards.  I was expecting a veritable ghost-town.  What I saw this morning was pretty much business as normal.

Business as normal on Trafalgar Road
All okay here…
Not sure if the Home Guide Estate shop is normally open for business, but the boards showed it very much wasn’t today!
Mr Chung’s Restaurant – guess I won’t be eating here anytime soon.
Not riot-related, but: Really? We’re having to temporarily tarmac stretches of pavement to prevent theft of slabs? And does this signwriter have a basic grasp on spelling or grammar?
Uh-oh. Sirens. Another ambulance (out of shot) followed the convoy.
Getting closer to the high street. Looks pretty normal to me, if a little quiet.

Greenwich Market

I grabbed a coffee in Greenwich Market – best Flat White I’ve had in quite a while, I might add!

On first glance, everything looked pretty normal – tourists and traders doing their usual things.  Nobody seemed to be selling much, though.
Then I walked to the other end of the market place, and it was near-deserted. I don’t remember seeing it this quiet before even on a weekday morning. Maybe readers can let me know if this is normal or not?
These guys were nervously taking boards down from their store. Quite what horrors they were expecting to find behind them, I don’t know.
Serious military-looking helicopters. Not at all an unusual sight here, but their presence did seem more menacing than normal.

Greenwich High Street

I honestly don’t know what I expected to find here, but I was surprised by seeing so many shops open for business. Life goes on, I guess.

Some shops were still taking their boards down.
Fewer people about as expected, but looking quite unaffected, except for that one last board on the Turkish cafe. (Thanks Edith for the correction!)
Amazing to see the patchwork-quilt effect on some store fronts. Clearly much of this work was done in a hurry. It’s not like shopkeepers usually keep a few boards around in case of emergencies!
A pharmacy lurks in the boarded shadows – a sign taped just by the doorway advertised business as usual.
More boarded up windows. Clearly the worry was mainly about the high street area itself rather than the surroundings.

Journey home – and reflections

I’m glad that the riots haven’t arrived yet. Conversations with fellow locals suggested a mood of incredulousness and defiance. Some are concerned for their families and livelihoods, others despair at the loss of a generation.  Tourists perhaps seemed more cautious than I’d normally experience, but were otherwise mostly unaware of anything having been wrong.

As I walked over to the train/DLR station, I noted the Junk Shop taking its boards down, apparently the last store to do so on its rank.
The station was quieter than I’d expected given the number of people generally going about their lives nearby. A tourist with her young son happily asked for directions, and was glad I took the time to help her work out which platform she needed. She told me the signs were too confusing and there were no staff around to ask! No change here on that front at least…

As I took my train home, I saw that David Cameron had announced that the events of this last few days apparently show “that there are things badly wrong in our society”. Well thank you Sherlock, I think a good number of us had already deduced that. Still, his speeches yesterday and today have come across to me as some of the first clear-talking I’ve heard in quite a while on any political issue in recent times. And I hope it continues, supported by  appropriate action to match.

Another lady stopped me for directions after I got off my train. We got talking. She was new to the area, having apparently moved here from Nigeria, via some other London suburbs along the way. She felt that the excuses given by those involved that they were bored were simply irrelevant – that they really were just excuses to kick off. She suggested that engaging young people in society, enabling them do something useful, and to contribute to the world around them would be good starts.

As for I’m not sure what I think. But I am encouraged by what I’ve seen today. This is not a suburb living in fear. It seems to me the boarding-up of yesterday and the keeping-calm-and-carrying-on of today stand in clear defiance to whatever might come our way.

Oh and one last gambit: Apart from the car I photographed going by earlier, I didn’t see a single policeman the whole time I was out, until a vanload of officers disembarked outside Westcombe Park police station.

Westcombe Park: Abandoned Police station = more local crime?


Image by kenjonbro, Flickr
Image by kenjonbro, flickr

Spending as much time as I do in the local area, I’ve been wondering for a while what purpose this former police station building in Westcombe Parck actually serves, and a couple of recent (unrelated) events have made me more than a little anxious about this:

First off, I found an iPod Nano and a CD on the street, and as I was passing I wanted to hand them in to the nearest station so they can be claimed as lost property.  With finds like these, one never knows if something was just dropped accidentally while running to catch a train or bus, or whether something more sinister had taken place.  Walking up to the front door (shown far right, in the picture above) it was clear that there is no public-facing service, so it seemed pointless to knock on the door.  The phone thoughtfully provided outside doesn’t have any instructions and looks in a dire state of repair – there didn’t seem any point in using it.  I just left the goods in a plastic bag on the doorstep.  Four days later it was still there in the same place.  At least the yokels apparently didn’t think it fair game to pinch something off that particular doorstep!

Then there was the incident a couple of nights ago at the local train station, with trains diverted while a knife was apparently recovered from the tracks.  It’s not terribly encouraging to know that quite a nasty fight apparently took place in what is otherwise quite a nice suburb, only a block or two away from a now “closed” police station.  It makes me wonder whether having the station back in use for the public and serving as a base for regular visible foot patrols would help prevent this kind of thing becoming a more regular feature.

Looks can matter…

We humans are shallow creatures and the presence of a police station in an area, even when disused or non-public-facing, seems to make at least some of us think twice about our actions and how they’re coming across.  In this case, the fact that the building is overgrown (more so now than in the above pic, taken in 2009 apparently) and has had a leaky overflow pipe with moss growing all over the wall underneath it for two or more years, the building doesn’t come across as one that actually performs any function whatever story the office lights and car movements around it might try to tell. Perhaps if someone fixed the leak, cleaned up the wall, tidied the phone booth and cut back the overgrowth around the front door, passers-by might actually think there’s a real presence there and modify their behaviour accordingly?  Sure, it won’t stop the worst offenders, but it might at least make them think twice about the fact that someone might catch them.  And perhaps it might make the locals feel more like a police presence is nearby.

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