Residents were left furious after emergency services carried out exercises in the boarded-up Morris Walk Estate on Tuesday evening – but both Greenwich Council and the developer who will rebuild the estate have denied responsibility for the incident.
People who live close to the estate, on the Charlton/Woolwich border, were disturbed by two loud explosions and other noise during the afternoon and evening, with one blast happening at 10.50pm.
Some reported seeing the army on the estate, which is to be knocked down as part of a £269m deal with the developer Lovell, which is also rebuilding the Connaught Estate in Woolwich. The estate was emptied last year and hoardings have been erected ahead of demolition.
Both the council and Lovell have insisted they were not responsible for allowing the exercise to take place on the estate. Neither party can even agree on which emergency services were on the estate, with Lovell insisting the army were not involved but the police and fire brigade were.
The incident came three days after an attack in Reading in which three people died, after which a man was arrested under the Terrorism Act.
Helen Jakeways, who lives next to the estate, told this website: “The disturbances started yesterday mid-afternoon with a huge bang that sounded like a bomb going off which shook the walls of my house. This was followed by a series of smaller bangs and what sounded like an intermittent stream of fireworks or firecrackers. It took me over an hour to stop my terrified dogs from shaking.
“I was then woken up at 10.50pm to the sound of another huge explosion which shook the house again and resulted in yet more terrified and shaking dogs.
“On all fronts this exercise was absolutely unforgivable, especially given the anxiety and stress many people are experiencing right now. My inboxes have been full of comments from really concerned neighbours today – this shook everyone up round here, especially those who are feeling vulnerable at the moment, and I’m not surprised.”
Another resident, Ed Simmons, said on Twitter: “So the MoD are blowing stuff up on the estate behind our house whilst engaging in urban combat training at 11pm in a derelict estate, 100 metres from my open window. The house shook, the machine gun isn’t so bad in comparison!”
Greenwich Council said it had not been informed of the exercises on the estate. A spokesperson said: “The council understands that was some activity by the MoD and police which caused some disruption and concern to local residents. The council was unaware this was taking place and had not been notified by Lovell, the council’s developer partner for the redevelopment of this estate.
“The council has made clear to all parties this is unacceptable and is sorry that this has happened causing concern for local residents. The council will carefully review any further requests and in the event permission is given that there is clear communication with residents in advance of any activity being undertaken.”
However, a spokesperson for Lovell said that the police and fire brigade were on site, and it had not allowed the exercises on site either.
A spokesperson for Lovell said: “Following the activities reported on the evening of Tuesday 23 June on the Morris South Estate, Lovell can confirm that no such similar activity will take place after the company takes ownership and control of the land from Monday 29 June.
“Going forward, if Lovell has to conduct any activity which may cause a disturbance outside the agreed construction hours, the company will consult first with local residents to make sure local residents are fully aware.”
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