It seems appropriate that I should be writing this post about Network Wapping with the music and laughter of the Wapping Shindig still ringing in my ears.
The Wapping Shindig, organised by the Turks Head Company, is a shining example of what a community is about. A huge amount of work by many unpaid volunteers goes into organising the Shindig so that the people of Wapping can have fun.
That’s it. They do it, we enjoy it. And very grateful we are too.
Compare and contrast this ethos with that of Network Wapping which is – what exactly?
From all my dealings with Network Wapping I can only conclude that I don’t really know what they are up to. But whatever it is it is not in the best interests of the community of Wapping. And it doesn’t have much, if anything, to do with planning issues.
A tireless community campaigner
The one shining contrast to this is Christine Trumper who knows education issues inside out, has deeply held beliefs about education in Tower Hamlets and the way a new school on the London Dock site should be designed and managed. A tireless community campaigner who has my full support and who i would urge Wapping residents to listen to.
To be honest I think Christine might be better off leaving Network Wapping to whatever it is they are doing and forming her own single issue action group. I am sure it would do very well.
Unfortunately Christine is not Network Wapping. More’s the pity.
But before you lose the will to live let alone read more about Network Wapping here are the key points I took away with me from their meeting on 10th July.
- Network Wapping does not have a genuine interest in planning issues (see below).
- It’s sudden enthusiasm for meetings, consultation exercises and poster posting is being undertaken only because they have been told to do so by Tower Hamlets and at the same time Network Wapping has applied for funding.
- Network Wapping remains unrepresentative of the people of Wapping.
- Network Wapping still considers itself to be ‘a club’.
- The manner in which Network Wapping operates is at best opaque and at worst secretive.
- Going against normal practise the content of the Network Wapping website changes so it does not present a historical record.
- Network Wapping does not understand the difference between ‘public’ and ‘private’.
- Anyone with views that differ from those held by the core members of Network Wapping are either ignored, shouted down or both.
- The meeting minutes belatedly published on their website are inaccurate.
- Network Wapping is still insisting that it’s application to become a Neighbourhood Planning Forum (NPF) will extend from Tower Bridge right through to Limehouse, ignoring the objections of long standing community groups who have represented areas such as St. Katharine Docks, King Edward Memorial Park and Limehouse for years.
- Network Wapping is now considering changing its name to ‘The Highway’ instead of listening to other community groups who object to their claimed area of operations.
- If the Network Wapping application to become a NPF is accepted by Tower Hamlets Council it will be to the detriment of the people of Wapping.
And that’s just from what I know. If I knew the full story and motivation behind Network Wapping I think it would be an even longer list.
You might think that my first point ‘Network Wapping does not have a genuine interest in planning issues’ is a little strong. Well it is based on the facts below so make your own mind up.
Proof that Network Wapping is not interested in planning: Fact A
I and many other ordinary residents take more than a passing interest in planning applications for Wapping. Most of them are inconsequential but others are very interesting indeed. A few weeks ago fellow blogger Pootlingaround flagged up an issue with the access statement for the proposed development in Wapping High Street near the Captain Kidd of Phoenix Wharf, the waste ground opposite and King Henry’s Wharves.
Thanks to Paul I followed this up and realised that if the access statement goes ahead as planned it is likely Wapping will be chopped in half for two years. I wrote this up and published it for everyone to read. Because i think it matters.
Proof that Network Wapping is not interested in planning: Fact B
At the Network Wapping meeting last week I asked what the views were of the members of Network Wapping on the Wapping High Street development.
They don’t have a view. I repeatedly asked them what they thought but no answer was forthcoming. Eventually they said that they have – and I quote from my notes – “No views” on the Wapping High Street planning application.
Which is a quite extraordinary statement from a group who wish to establish a Neighbourhood Planning Forum. But it gets better.
I pressed those present at the meeting for answer or any opinion of any sort on the Wapping High Street planning application and finally I got this response from John Bell:
“We are a voluntary organisation and we have limited resource and time”
So Network Wapping say it is too busy applying to become a Neighbourhood Planning Forum that they do not have the time to monitor planning applications.
But if you read their website you might gain a different impression. I quote from comments about the 10th July meeting. I think I know who ‘some attendees’ refers to:
“Some attendees at the meetin [sic] pointed out the need to widen the focus of interest to include active involvement with all the development projects in the area. This point simply emphasises the need to get a Neighbourhood Planning Forum up and running covering our area, because action on planning matters is the primary concern of that body, when it is created by the Mayor and his Cabinet.”
This Orwellian statement by Network Wapping (copied from their website despite the childish copyright statements) damns them with their own words.
I have difficulty understanding the logic of Network Wapping at the best of times but this statement seems to be saying that the best reason for Network Wapping’s application being approved is so they can concentrate on planning issues which they have so far ignored.
Using normal logic it could be argued that if “action on planning matters is the primary concern of that body [Network Planning Forum]” then Network Wapping have shown that they have no genuine interest in planning matters.
So make your own mind up as to their motives.
Somewhere between public and private
Remember point 6 from my list above? The way the Network Wapping website’s content changes? Well I had just hit the ‘Publish’ button on this post when I discovered this on the Network Wapping website:
“Within the constraints of available space, time, and very occasionally the consideration for sensitivity of topics under discussion (an example would be people), our meetings are generally open to all people who are interested, behave democratically, with respect for others, and do not disturb the normal meeting process.”
As I said, Network Wapping have problems with the difference between ‘public’ and ‘private’. It would now seem that they have tried to define something in between which basically means ‘our meetings are open unless we don’t want you to attend’.
I wonder if this means I will be barred from the next Network Wapping meeting? I do hope so.
But at least they are stating this in public. And yes I have a screen grab of the page in its state today for the records.
Network Let’s Not Use the W Word?
If you look at the home page of the Network Wapping site (well, as it is today) you will find something very odd. They seem to be changing the area they wish to represent. I spotted this after I wrote point 11 (above). What do you make of it?
Quote from first paragraph of Network Wapping homepage 15th July 2013. My underlining.
“Network Wapping is a grass-roots, democratic, community action organisation that takes its constituency from the area around The Highway, Smithfield East, and down to The Thames. “
Quote from second paragraph of Network Wapping homepage 15th July 2013.
“We are focussing on meeting the requirements set out by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (LBTH) so they will to create a Neighbourhood Planning Forum covering an area around The Highway, Smithfield East, and down to The Thames (also known in this context as the “neighbourhood planning area.”.
Notice anything missing? Like the W word? The Wapping word? And where did Smithfield East come from? (Metaphorical question folks…)
An area around The Highway, Smithfield East and down to The Thames? What’s there I wonder? I checked my map of London and had a look out of my window and yes – it’s Wapping.
So why aren’t Network Wapping saying they want to be the Neighbourhood Planning Forum for “The Highway, Smithfield East, St Katharine Docks, Wapping, King Edward Memorial Park, over the Limehouse border and down to The Thames?”
Odd, isn’t it?
Below is an annotated version of the proposed Network Wapping NPF area which was circulated at the 10th July meeting. Looks like Wapping to me. What about you?
To express your opinion about the application by Network Wapping to become a Neighbourhood Planning Forum to Tower Hamlets Council please use the contact details below.
Responses should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or to:
FREEPOST RRBK – TZER – UTAU
Neighbourhood Planning Consultation
Strategic Planning – Plan Making
London Borough of Tower Hamlets
PO BOX 55739
Telephone: 020 7364 5367