Phoenix Wharf – another example of how Tower Hamlets council is failing residents

Wapping residents are currently suffering from several failures by Tower Hamlets Council and our elected members to do their jobs properly. A problem with skip removal at the Phoenix Wharf developments illustrates how.

In no particular order we have the problem with the Wapping sporting events lock-ins which year on year is never properly addressed, the issue with Shadwell Basin being taken over by swimmers and the Council leaving it to the Shadwell Outdoor Activity Centre to deal with (of which more soon) and the numerous issues with the building development at Phoenix Wharf / Brewhouse Lane which this story concerns.

Below is the text of an email from Wapping resident Chris Jackson who has been helping our community and especially LW by keeping an eye on the waste ground opposite Phoenix Wharf near where he lives. Many thanks Chris, your work is invaluable.

Rubbish service

Skip being removed at 5am.

Last week LW reported on the clearance of rubbish from Phoenix Wharf. Chris and other residents were woken at 5am by one of these skips being removed from by the developers and Chris tried to raise this issue with the Cllr Jones and Cllr Ullah on 21st July.

The email is the most recent in the long exchange of emails between Chris, Cllr. Denise Jones (Wapping, Labour) and Cllr. Abdal Ullah (Wapping, Labour) and numerous council officers that followed. LW was copied in on the emails and we have been tracking this issue.

To his credit Mayor John Biggs (also a Wapping resident) personally intervened to try and help Chris – but the question is why should he feel the need to? Doesn’t he have councillors to sort these issues out?

Read the (almost final maybe but probably not) email and make your own mind up. We have added surnames and roles to make it a bit clearer.

Email from Chris Jackson

Dear John [Biggs],

Thanks for your reply and yes indeed finally Christopher [Ali-Hempstead] in Planning did call the Developer and point out the 5am start, and the Developer has apparently committed he will not do so again. [LW emphasis] Since the Developer has refused to provide contact details for residents I cannot call him, which is a shame and indeed as I suggested to Adbul [Ullah, Wapping councillor] on Tuesday one that should be mentioned to him directly.

I note however no apology but perhaps that was expecting too much. Indeed the Developer told Christopher he would need to “investigate” what happened.

However let me give you some feed back on this process as a resident, voter and council taxpayer.

It has been frankly painful in that I feel I have been intimidated for daring to complain, the process is confused , too many people are involved and no one sole person owned the process. Certainly not the ones I correctly took the issue to.

I raised the issue with my two councillors not you.

Skip lorry squeezing down Brewhouse Lane – photo from Chimney Court resident

Denise [Jones] as she was out on leave, copied you in, Abdal [Ullah] and then about seven council officials who in turn clearly starting to pass the issue onto several more officials in Noise. I did not do so.

I then get inundated with emails from those individuals which in the case of Mr Tony Gowen [Enforcement Manager at London Borough of Tower Hamlets] claims I have cried wolf.

I find that frustrating, annoying and indeed intimidating. I have said as much to all three of you.

That is not good. The message I have taken is do not complain since if you do you will be put through the bureaucratic treadmill and spam emailed by TH officials each time saying I need to outline my issue from scratch.

On the one point of ownership. You repeatedly asked (no addressed person) why other councillors could not run with the issue and copied me in.

I find this confusing since it indicates even the Mayor does not know who should run with an issue.

You did this even after Denise [Jones] wrote to you saying it was “crucial” that you owned the issue. Indeed I wrote to Abdal [Ullah] who I thought you were trying to passively (indirectly) imply should run with the issue because of what you wrote.

Perhaps you should not have copied me in if you wished to have this internal debate.

So my final feed back for you is this.

I was told by some of my neighbours “Chris don’t bother complaining to TH since it will just frustrate you”, which is why they don’t bother.

And that is exactly what happened.

I feel frustrated, exhausted and annoyed about how the issue was dealt with. It seems TH try to reduce complaints by making the complaints process painful as opposed to actually addressing the issue the complainer is attacked.

Note Mr Gowen’s email and the letter [from Owen Whalley, Divisional Director, Planning & Building Control] to address the issue as starting construction and a six week review process.

As a council tax payer I don’t know how to navigate the TH bureaucracy that is why we have now “paid” professional Councillors and Mayor as opposed to unpaid elected volunteers. I know you said this is why you increased their allowances after the election.

If you feel how this issue has been processed is an example of a success, well that really does indicate the problem.

Again this is feed back and if you wish to ignore it or deny it, that is fine since let’s face it that is the problem with Tower Hamlets Council – it does not listen. Incidentally starting the Council process on the weekend would not have made any of the above better, it is a poorly designed process problem not a weekend working one.

Thank you however for at least replying.

Unfortunately I now fully expect you will reply with a further denial as opposed to looking at what went wrong and trying to look at ways to improve the process. Hopefully I am wrong but that is in your hands.

With regards,

Chris Jackson

Part of the email from Tony Gowen, the Enforcement Manager at London Borough of Tower Hamlets is given below in another part of Chris Jackson’s email trail.

Some Bexley background

For background information Tony Gowen worked with the current Tower Hamlets CEO Will Tuckley when Mr Gowen was a Chief Inspector with Bexley MPS and Mr Tuckley Bexley Council CEO and a certain Dave Stringer was Bexley MPS Superintendent before he moved to Tower Hamlets.

Mr Stringer was officer in charge of MPS Tower Hamlets while Lutfur Rahman was running the council and, as Mr Rahman ain’t the Mayor no more Mr Stringer ain’t in charge of the police no more.

You can read more on what happened at Bexley here on the ‘Bexley is Bonkers’ blog.

Oh and Bexley council and police were so irritated by the wonderful work of Bexley is Bonkers they actually issued it with it’s very own Harassment Notice. How cool is that? Want!

Email to Tony Gowen

Dear Denise [Jones], Abdal [Ullah] & John [Biggs],

Tony Gowen just wrote to me the email below regarding the skips being removed from the site on Saturday at 5am.

He has said:

Tony Gowen, Enforcement Manager at London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Tony Gowen, Enforcement Manager at London Borough of Tower Hamlets

“As the noise team manager and our pollution manager we have reviewed our records to ascertain if any complaints have been made in respect of noise or air pollution nuisance but are not able to find any such reports from any residents, it may be that noise/dust etc is not an issue.”

Apparently therefore my weekend emails and all the tweets to the Mayor’s office and councillors to you did not merit a problem with noise taking away the skips. Nor did the blog news report on Love Wapping.

I am now even more annoyed and frustrated. Please can one of you deal with the TH bureaucracy directly. I contacted you to do so.

I can see why these issues do not get addressed and why developers take advantage of the impossible bureaucratic way to report a problem.

Frankly it is easier to move house out of Tower Hamlets (after 23 years of being a Wapping resident).

Thank you,

Chris Jackson

LW Comment

Many thanks to Chris for allowing us to publish this.

And the issue in question? Well we have a feeling you know what LW thinks on all this.

The worst aspect of this story is that residents like Chris are seriously considering moving out of the borough. This week another dear friend of LW told us they were considering doing the same because of the rise in crime in Wapping.

If Tower Hamlets loses people like this who are the life blood of our communities we will all suffer and down the slippery slope we will all slide.

But who can blame them? They have just had enough. Admit it – would you move out of Tower Hamlets if you could?

The Phoenix Wharf issue is one tiny example that amply demonstrates our belief that Tower Hamlets council does not function properly. It is not fit for purpose. LW’s view is that the least that should happen is that the council is completely reorganised so it can serve the people of the borough properly.

This will not happen. Radical no longer happens in the East End.

Wipe Tower Hamlets from the map

A better option is that Tower Hamlets council should just be abolished. Literally wiped from the map of London. It would not be missed. The London Borough of Tower Hamlets is an artificial construct created in 1965 from the merger of the former Metropolitan Boroughs of Stepney, Poplar and Bethnal Green. It’s just lines drawn on a map with no more meaning than a post code.

The wards along the Thames and the Isle of Dogs would then become a new borough, the other wards would be tacked on to their adjoining boroughs.

Goodbye Tower Hamlets. You will not be missed.

The termination of Tower Hamlets will also, in our humble but informed opinion, provide other huge benefits to the people of the East End.

Firstly it is the only way that the corruption which is still rampant in the borough will ever be eliminated. Political corruption did not start with Lutfur Rahman and it did not end with his removal from office.

Secondly, but equally as importantly, destroying Tower Hamlets will also destroy the existing local political party structures. Tower Hamlets Labour Party, the Conservative Party, Liberal Democrats, People’s Alliance of Tower Hamlets (PATH), Green, all of them will be forced to change.

Our local authority does not function so what is there to lose? Nothing.


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