A FORMER gangster has defended an estate featured in a television documentary.

The Pepys Estate in Deptford is the focus of BBC One programme The Tower, which started on June 25.

Episodes seven and eight of the series feature the Deptford Action Group for the Elderly charity and its trustee, retired gangster Harry Hayward.

Mr Hayward, 74, of Owens Way, Forest Hill, runs the group from a furniture shop in Deptford High Street.

He says many people are unhappy with the way they have been portrayed.

Mr Hayward said: "What's been going on in this programme is not really good enough.

"To show people putting needles into their arms and then laying on the floor drinking and cursing has upset a lot of old people around here.

"Some of them are too frightened to go out since they've seen the programme.

"They have turned some of these drug addicts into film stars but they should have been looking at the pensioners round here instead."

The action group, which has around 3,000 members, gives help and advice to pensioners in the area and also arranges free parties and activities for them.

Taking three years to make, the eight-episode series examines the impact made by the redevelopment of a former council high-rise building into luxury riverside apartments and flats for public sector workers.

It features residents including a heroin addict, an alcoholic and a heavily pregnant mother-of-six.

Mr Hayward says the estate had been misrepresented and the programme did not reflect the area.

He said: "We're not the best in the world around here but we're not as bad as all that."

Lewisham Central councillor David Edgerton, who has lived on the estate for 26 years, says a lot of people have been saying the programme was unfair.

He said: "It's just not portraying the residents on the estate in a true manner.

"A lot of leaseholders here are now worried they are not going to be able to sell their properties.

"I said I would take part in the programme, but it seems they are just interested in filming people with problems."

He added: "I understand they do need to highlight the problems but it's not all problems on the estate. Generally, it's a good place."

However Doug Elsley, publican of the John Evelyn pub in Evelyn Street, Deptford, who also appears in the series, thinks the series offers an accurate portrayal.

The 62-year-old said: "The things it shows aren't good but the Pepys Estate is not good.

"There are more storylines coming up which are reflective of the area and generally what they are showing is exactly right."

Mr Elsley says the footage of him struggling with his business has even led to anonymous donations and calls of support from abroad.

He said: "If that's fame, then bring it on."

A BBC spokesman said: "There are a wide range of people living in the Pepys Estate and Aragon Tower featured in the programme.

"Some of these people are new to the area, some are long-time residents.

"The series gives an insight into a wide range of lives and lifestyles."