Community news and investigative journalism for Wapping E1W and Tower Hamlets London

Network Wapping meeting – lots of questions, few answers.

By on May 9, 2013 in Network Wapping

There’s only one thing worse than attending a Network Wapping meeting. Having to write it up later <sigh>

This is not a transcript

Anyway. I should emphasise that this is not a transcript of the meeting, it is not comprehensive and there are lots of omissions. Please check the Network Wapping site for the full minutes or email them for a copy.

The small room at Polyanna’s was packed, standing room only, probably 35 – 40 people. (Sorry, I usually count.)

The meeting was chaired by Christine Trumper who did an excellent job.

One of the first things we discovered was what the Network Wapping Social Enterprise Company is. We weren’t told, a NW person mentioned it in passing and I asked.

Apparently the Network Wapping Social Enterprise Company is a ‘Bencom’.

Huh?

A Bencom is a Charitable IPS community benefit society.

Huh?

Apparently a Charitable IPS community benefit society is some sort of Industrial and Provident Society. Look, I don’t know about these things, if you do tell the rest of us in the Comments section below.

Possible school in London Dock

The agenda for the meeting was about education, specifically about the possible school in or near the London Dock development.

Network Wapping made much of the community facilities that a school could bring and the two headmasters in the audience (sorry, didn’t catch your names) gave some useful insight into the realities of this.

Selling the sizzle, not the sausage

I and at least one other person was a little worried that Network Wapping were talking more about the extra value in terms of facilities a school could bring to the neighbourhood than the school itself.

For full details of the education discussion please check out the Network Wapping site for the full minutes.

A healthy exchange of views

Quite a few people who attended were, like me, more interested in the way that Network Wapping operates than the specifics of a possible school so the ‘Any other business’ agenda item at the end led to a ‘healthy exchange of views’.

One of the most useful ideas was proposed by Network Wapping member and architect John Inglis (@johnsketches) who has, much to his credit, been the only Network Wapping member to answer questions about Network Wapping on Twitter.  Well done John.

John suggested that a good use of any Section 106 monies arising from a school development would be to sort out the lowered kerbs in Wapping for wheelchair users. They are badly sited and not aligned which means that wheelchair users are often forced to use the roads. This idea met with unanimous approval.

For the sake of brevity and my sanity I will cover some of the comments and issues raised by people in the audience:

  • I asked why Network Wapping was still refusing to publish their membership. I did not get a coherent reply.
  • Representatives of the Friends of St Katherine’s Dock who speak for 200 people were present and pointed out that they had not been consulted about the Network Wapping application although the area it proposes to represent covers the St Kath’s area.
  • The lack of transparency in the way Network Wapping operates was repeatedly commented upon.
  • John Bell suggested that the Wapping History Trust could use school facilities but was unaware that the Tower Hamlets Local History Archive is reopening next month.
  • The point was made that if someone attended a Network Wapping meeting that did not mean that they supported Network Wapping.
  • Someone mentioned that there seemed to be a lot of architects present
  • John Bell stated that anyone could join Network Wapping. I asked that if that was the case then could a property developer move into Wapping then become a member? Answer – yes. Now that is very worrying indeed.
  • The uses of any Section 106 monies from any possible developments were discussed.
  • When I was asked why I was not a member of Network Wapping I replied that I had no faith in the leadership of John Bell or the manner in which Network Wapping operates
  • Lots of people said lots of things, not just me! Honest!
  • It was asked why there was so much rush to go ahead with the Network Wapping application?
  • It was suggested that maybe it might be an idea for Network Wapping to put their application on hold for six months so they could consult properly?

Summary

It was good to see so many people turn out to make their views known. For my part I did not feel that Network Wapping managed to answer the questions that were asked of them and my formal objection with Tower Hamlets Council still stands.

At the end of the meeting John Bell told us that Network Wapping meet on the second Wednesday of every month and encouraged us to come along to the next one.

Someone pointed out that the deadline for responses to their application is midnight 4 June so they would have to bring the date of the next meeting forward. Check the Network Wapping site for details.

An amusing end note

During the meeting Michael Ainsworth, Rector of St George In The East Church, Network Wapping member was none too impressed by my opposition to Network Wapping.

After the meeting finished the Rector apparently had words with a gentleman who he thought was me. Oops.  It wasn’t! That sums up Network Wapping for me to be honest.

And some thoughts….

The wording of this PDF on the Tower Hamlets site has been brought to my attention. Have a read. You can also download a copy here: 

“Delivering the elements of Neighbourhood Planning is a long-term commitment that will require significant levels of time and financial resources alongside the potential legal liability of the Neighbourhood Planning Forum and its members.

Forums are in place for up to 5 years with initial estimates for the completion of a Neighbourhood Plan or Development Order taking up to two of those years.

Any interested existing or prospective group should obtain independ­ent professional advice before and during the process of establishing and developing the different elements of Neighbourhood Plan­ning.

Forums should consider whether a Neighbourhood Plan, Development Order or an alternative plan­ning tool would be best suited to achieving their aspirations.” [My emphasis]

So what exactly is a ‘forum’ in this context? Could it be argued that any public debate, in the street, in a meeting, online, wherever, is a forum?

If so then maybe it is just up to the residents of Wapping to consider if we want a Neighbourhood Plan? If we don’t then the Network Wapping application becomes irrelevant.

If not then do we need a forum to be established before we can consider these issues? Essentially we need a forum to consider a forum. Although we might need a forum to… you get the idea.

Maybe the problem at the moment is just this. Network Wapping has established a forum whose prime objective is the Network Wapping application not an open discussion.

Turn up but don’t dissent

It was made plain on numerous occasions last night that while anyone can turn up to their meetings they do not like it when you don’t agree with them.

And trying to talk people down is not a good tactic Network Wapping.

Confused? You will be

What we need is an unbiased forum to consider the broader issue. Or maybe we don’t because we all have better things to do.

Confused? I know am.

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There Are 3 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Mummy Penguin says:

    Mark

    Thank for taking the time to write this summary. It is very useful for those of us who were not able to attend to have information about the discussions ahead of formal minutes from Network Wapping. I share your sense of confusion about the need for a single forum to represent the views of such a wide and diverse area. I think a better approach is for specific consultation on each development or proposed improvement. That way individuals can express their views without being tied by what I believe is called “collective responsibility” when one is part of a legally constituted body.

    May I also say thank you to John Inglis for making the suggestion about using Section 106 money to improve the lowered kerb provision. If implemented, it will make a big difference to those whose mobility is limited. Thanks again John.

    • Mark Baynes says:

      Glad you found the report useful and we all look forward to reading the formal minutes from Network Wapping.
      I agree with you that the kerb lowering idea by John Inglis is very good, but shouldn’t this be done anyway? Why do we have to rely on Section 106 money? But as Tower Hamlets Council still haven’t done anything to fix the pavement in Wapping Lane outside the Post Office this may take some work. By us.

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