Town over the hill’

PUBLISHED: 15:11 13 November 2008 | UPDATED: 15:40 25 August 2010

THE first resident to move into a new-build town has celebrated his home s 40th birthday.

THE first resident to move into a new-build town has celebrated his home's 40th birthday.

Terry Gooch, 75, was the first resident to move into Harrow Manor Way, Thamesmead on July 3, 1968, and has lived in the same house ever since.

Last Wednesday he attended Gallions housing association's celebration of the anniversary at the Thames Innovation Centre, off Yarnton Way, Erith.

Mr Gooch said: "When we arrived, we thought the architecture looked fantastic, new and innovative.

"But life was different then. Unfortunately, now we associate things like the walkways with gangs and people who want get away from the police."

Thamesmead was built as a town for 60,000 people, around the size of Maidstone, but suffered underinvestment and failed to include all of its designers' aspirations.

The town's architects worked from a large set of plans including innovative pre-Thames Barrier flood defences.

But features like overhead walkways ended up blighting the town by creating lonely ground-level areas susceptible to anti-social behaviour.

Mr Gooch added: "My biggest disappointment was that we never got all the shops and infrastructure we needed. It was run by two councils and there always seemed to be an argument."

Peter Brooks, deputy leader of Greenwich council, said Bexley and Greenwich councils have now hammered out a joint vision for the area to smooth out planning differences.

He said: "We're working on a kind of shopping basket of what we want for the area, like an urban farm for example. It should be finished by the end of the year."

John McCarthy, a senior engineer with the Thamesmead project, said the thing that could best help residents would be a river crossing.

Last Thursday, London Mayor Boris Johnson cancelled the plans for a Thames Gateway Bridge.

Mr McCarthy, who worked on the project for over 10 years, added: "I think that people in Thamesmead deserve that access to the other side of the river.

"We wanted the residents to have a really good, super-duper town centre. I know it never really got off the ground and that is really sad for residents."

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Bexley Times. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Bexley Times