Tuesday 6th August 2013
An open letter to the residents of Wapping.
I would like to propose that the people of Wapping formally establish a community group. Wapping is under threat and we need to organise.
And we need to act fast.
Several months ago I very reluctantly went to a Network Wapping meeting because I had been told that odd things were going on. And how odd they were.
OK, so the jokes were rubbish
Since then I have done my best to keep everyone informed about Network Wapping’s plans but had no idea of the twists and turns the story would take or how much time would be needed to record and publish a reasonably accurate (and occasionally amusing) narrative of events.
I should say it is not just myself who has spent a lot of time keeping track of Network Wapping. Well established community groups such as the Friends of St. Katharine Docks, Save KEMP and the Limehouse Community Forum have also put in the hours. Wapping owes them all a debt and to many others for their help and advice.
A pain in the you know what
To be blunt Network Wapping has been a pain in the arse for all involved. I am sure many members of Network Wapping have good intentions and I know through talking to them that we share many of the same concerns beliefs.
Unfortunately the inept leadership and the way in which Network Wapping has gone about it’s business has stained that organisation’s name permanently.
What part of 111-0 do they not understand?
Last week, at the end of their specially extended consultation period, Network Wapping withdrew their application to become a Neighbourhood Planning Forum (NPF). Why? Well I am not much good at arithmetic but 111 objections to the application and 0 in support is a good enough reason.
And you have to wonder about the zero representations in support of the application. Because that means that Network Wapping did not even have the common sense to support its own proposal. Which sums them up really.
But I think Network Wapping will be back. On or around 1st of October to be precise. So a small battle has been won but a war remains to be fought. (Well, maybe just one more battle but war sounds more dramatic…)
The only good thing to come out of the Network Wapping nonsense is people rallying round to protect Wapping. You always find out who your friends are in a crisis.
Here is the plan. And it’s not very cunning.
The Network Wapping nonsense has thrown into sharp focus the fact that Wapping, unlike St. Katharine Docks, King Edward Memorial Park or Limehouse does not have an all encompassing community group. And that has left Wapping vulnerable.
So here is the plan I want to share with you. And I emphasise it is just my ideas, I speak for no one and represent no one apart from myself. All I am doing is trying to get things started. If no one follows me then so be it.
- I propose that we, the people of Wapping establish a community group for our neighbourhood immediately.
- That our first action is to draft an application for a Wapping Neighbourhood Planning Forum (NPF), this plan to be submitted to Tower Hamlets Council on or before 1st October 2013.
For the sake of expediency I suggest using the name ‘Love Wapping Action Group’ for the simple reason that I don’t have time to create yet another website. And people know where this one is. And Love Wapping Action Group should do what it says on the tin.
As from the date of publication of this post this website is no longer a personal blog but a formal means for those interested to communicate and organise.
What’s the difference?
Let me be clear on this. The ‘Love Wapping Action Group’ or whatever it is eventually called and any Wapping Neighbourhood Planning forum are two separate and distinct entities.
In this country any group of people can establish a community group if they have a common cause they wish to tackle together. So for ours you don’t have to live or work in Wapping, you just have to love Wapping. Simples.
To establish a Neighbourhood Planning Forum (NPF) is another matter. In essence a NPF gives the people who run it some level of power and influence over planning matters in their area. Not a huge amount but enough to make a difference if they should so wish. There is a formal process for a NPF to be created and all members have unlimited liability for its actions.
Does Wapping want a NPF? Probably not. Does it need one? Yes.
This is the really silly thing. I have had to look into the issues surrounding a NPF because of You Know Who that are a pain in the You Know What and I can’t really see there is a significant benefit to Wapping having a NPF if it had a community group. But it does not.
Look at Limehouse. For over seven years the Limehouse Community Forum (LCF) run by Mark Slankard and his team have done a great job of looking after the area. They have good relationships with the Council and everyone who matters and can reach over 4,000 people in Limehouse when needed.
But then along comes Network Wapping and decides – without any consultation whatsoever – that its proposed area of operations will extend into Limehouse.
And the only way that the Limehouse Community Forum can be 100% sure of preventing Network Wapping, or any other random group of people, from creating a NPF covering Limehouse is to establish their own. Madness. (See previous post on this issue).
In my view the Localism Act 2011 that made NPFs law should have included a clause protecting established groups like Limehouse (or Save KEMP or Friends of St. Katharine Docks or anywhere else) from opportunists. But it didn’t.
So in turn the only way that the residents of Wapping can be 100% sure of stopping Network Wapping from establishing a NPF in Wapping is to establish our own.
And we have until 1st October to get it done.
NPF’s are dull, Love Wapping Action Group sounds fun! What is it?
Here is what I suggest Love Wapping Action Group should be about.
Primary Objective of Love Wapping Action Group
The primary objective of Love Wapping Action Group is to protect and promote Wapping London E1W as a place to live, work and visit.
How will Love Wapping Action Group achieve its objectives?
- By being an open, inclusive and democratic group that works in a proper manner for the good of Wapping
- Submit an application to Tower Hamlets Council for a Wapping Neighbourhood Planning Forum.
- Protect our unique urban landscape (cobbles and all!)
- Promote Wapping as a great place to visit, especially for a Sunday walk along the Thames or a pub lunch
- Organise a properly signposted Wapping history trail
- Encourage tourism
- Support local businesses
- Monitor local planning applications
- Get the broken pavements fixed
- Work with St. George, the developers of London Dock, to ensure minimal disruption during building work and that the final development is faithful to the nature of Wapping
- Consider way to enhance areas such as Wapping Woods and Shadwell Basin to minimise Anti Social Behaviour and make them safe places for people to enjoy
- Source funding for orientation boards at key points on the river and the old docks
- Monitor and protect our amazing variety of wildlife, especially our Egyptian geese
- Inform residents of local developments that might affect them
- Support the Save King Edward Memorial Park (Save KEMP) campaign to stop Thames Water destroying our local park
- Campaign for a new Wapping Pier
- Ensure free access for all to the River Thames
- Encourage use of the river for transport
- Establish a Wapping community centre
- Research and identify any funding for which the Love Wapping Action Group may be eligible
- Establish links with existing community groups such as Save KEMP, Friends of St. Katharine Docks, Wapping Bangladeshi Association and the Limehouse Community Forum
- Any other activities in pursuit of our Primary Objective as stated above
That will do for a start don’t you think? None of these ideas are rocket science and few are new. Have a dig around and you will find most of these ideas are already in existence, it’s just that no one has joined them all up. That is where you come in.
Some questions and answers
Who can join Love Wapping Action Group?
Anyone. Literally. As long as they love Wapping.
Who can be a member of a future Love Wapping Neighbourhood Planning Forum?
Anyone of good character who lives in the E1W post code area. Obviously anyone who has already put their name to any other NPF application is not eligible. Unless they take their name off the other one.
Why haven’t you floated the idea of a Love Wapping Neighbourhood Planning Forum before?
As stated previously there was no point in going through all the hard work of submitting a NPF application while the Network Wapping NPF application had been submitted as only one NPF can cover any one geographical area. Network Wapping had a head start and that was it.
Isn’t this just a ‘Stop Network Wapping’ group?
No. I don’t believe in doing things for negative reasons. The only reasons to establish something like a community group or NPF must be positive ones that will help the community. If it stops Network Wapping in it’s tracks then that is a side benefit.
What is the proposed boundary of operations of the Love Wapping Neighbourhood Planning Forum?
- Northern boundary The Highway.
- Eastern boundary with Limehouse Community Forum at Butcher Row to include King Edward Memorial Park.
- Southern boundary middle of the River Thames (Tower Hamlets boundary).
- Western boundary with Friends of St Katharine Docks the Highway, St Katharine’s Way and Thomas More Street
I suppose you want to be in charge?
Not particularly. I got into this by accident because I thought there were things going on that people should know about. I’m quite happy photographing birds but will do my bit. I will of course apply for the position of Wildlife Ranger (Canal End).
Will there be a public meeting about this and when?
Yes and soon, towards the end of August so word has time to get around.
Will there be tea and biscuits at the meeting?
How can I help?
You can help by supporting the group and its aims and by working as a volunteer doing whatever needs to be done. Just get in touch by filling out this simple form.
Do Wapping squirrels like nuts?
Yes of course they do!
So that’s it. This will either work or it won’t. It is now up to the community to work together to protect and promote this wonderful part of our capital city.