Sunday 27 November 2016

Roman Road Neighbourhood Plan - Closing Date 23rd December 2016

A map of the Roman Road Neighbourhood area
Just to recap: A group known as "The Roman Roman Road Neighbourhood Forum" have submitted an application to Tower Hamlets that seeks to define the area over which they will be able to influence development. The area includes the whole of MEOTRA as shown above.

This short (2 minute) video explains the whole neighbourhood plan concept and is well worth watching.

Having read the 19-page application my main thoughts are:
  1. The name of the area is wrong. It should be called "Bow Neighbourhood"
  2. The forum is far too Roman Road orientated in membership, emphasis and focus.
  3. There has not been "extensive consultation" as stated in the application.

The name of the area is wrong. It should be called "Bow Neighbourhood"
Why does the name matter? Well if you want those of us who live or work in the area to feel it is "our plan" then it makes sense to name it after the geographical area it covers. Calling it "Roman Road Neighbourhood" will leave large numbers of residents feeling it has nothing to do with them. That is until they submit a planning application or want to oppose one, only to find "their neighbourhood" has a different view. Even the application states "The proposed plan area broadly coincides with the ward boundaries for Bow West and Bow East". So just call it "Bow Neighbourhood" then?

The forum is far too Roman Road orientated in membership, emphasis and focus.
This neighbourhood plan initiative was born out of the Roman Road Trust and several key members are on the Forum's Steering Committee. Indeed it seems all the steering committee closely identify with Roman Road. When it comes to drawing up the Neighbourhood Plan itself then it seems highly likely their focus will be on the Roman Road area. Indeed in their application they state:

"For the Roman Road to continue to function as a local high street in years to come, it is important that the needs and views of the surrounding residents inform the plan, and not just taking into account  the needs and views of the businesses on the Roman Road itself".
So they want to hear our views, but only about Roman Road?

For many of us in MEOTRA, although we like the Roman Road we also want to see the high street where we live develop. It is easy to think we don't have a high street but when you list some of the shops on our doorstep whether that be the chains (Co-op, Tesco, Sainsbury's, Costa, Starbucks, KFC, Subway), or the ever-growing number of quality independents (The Coffee Room, The Pizza Room, The Greedy Cow, Italian Kitchen, Rusty Bike, Ye Olde Corner Shop to name but a few) you realise that given a nudge in the right direction (ie a decent Neighbourhood Plan) we could have our own High Street to rival the Roman. Think about the almost guaranteed redevelopment of the Benjy's site, Onyz House, the TA building and the Gateway Housing site; not to mention the potential for developing the area immediately around Mile End Station (the Forensic Labs that closed last year, the area above (sic!) Mile End station). Most of these developments are likely to have shops at ground floor level (yes some of us pray for an M&S Simply Foods or dare I say a Waitrose).

There has not been "extensive consultation" as stated in the application.
The combined population of Bow West and Bow East Wards is just over 27,000 and yet the key stats of the forum are: Facebook (19 members, 5 administrators, 4 posts), Twitter (11 tweets, 19 followers), Website (only 5 posts, 3 of which were written on the same day [16th November 2016]). Those figures don't look very "extensive"!

The application states:
"In June 2016 at Caxton Hall the consultation focused on key community organisations representing diverse groups and age ranges to make sure the voices of those communities are heard in the boundary allocation and future content of the neighbourhood plan". 
But the MEOTRA committee has never been contacted or met with those running the Forum. MEOTRA only found out about the meeting by a member keeping his ear to the ground and seeing a tweet two days before the meeting. Another local community group "The Friends of Mile End Park" (FOMEP) has also not been contacted, although a representative from the Forum arrived uninvited and unannounced at the FOMEP Community Fair in July and proceeded to "consult". Together these two groups amount to around 20% of the proposed area. The application also states British Waterways has been consulted with and yet this organisation hasn't existed since 2012?

Something else I have noted is the lack of any minutes from the meetings that have taken place so far. The inaugural meeting, elections, consultations have all taken place without any minutes.

Don't get me wrong I want a Neighbourhood Plan, but it has to be for Bow and have people from all over the proposed area help shape it; not just a few people focusing on one small part of the area however well-intentioned they are.

Please email with your views.

Residents have until Friday 23rd December to put their views in writing to the council by emailing them to or:

Neighbourhood Planning Consultation
D&R Strategic Planning
London Borough of Tower Hamlets
PO BOX 55739
E14 1BY

Monday 21 November 2016

Tower Hamlets Parks and Open Spaces Consultation Event - Wednesday 23rd November (Ecology Pavilion)

Poor gardening - shrubs pruned days before the St John's Wort would have bloomed

Tower Hamlets Council is developing a five-year plan for its parks and open spaces and it is crucial that the plan takes on board the views of the community. With that in mind, this Wednesday sees a couple of consultation events at the Ecology Pavilion in Mile End Park.

The first session runs from 14.30 to 17.00, and for those unable to make that one, there is an evening session from 17.30-20.00. Both sessions will begin with a short presentation from the Council about our parks and open spaces and then users will have an opportunity to express their views on how they would like to see the borough's open spaces develop (for want of a better word).

One thing I'd like to see is for the guys on the ground to know more about plants. Late summer I was in Tredegar Square and noticed the St John's Wort above was just about to flower. Two days later I returned hoping to see it in all its glory, but was disappointed to see it had had all the buds chopped off.

What would you like to see? Pop along and have your say if you can spare the time - the Ecology Pavilion is only 'round the corner just passed the Britannia Fish Bar in Grove Road.

Mile End Park's Eco Pond in a state of disrepair
The Ecology Pavilion Pond, 22nd September 2016

Sunday 20 November 2016

Tredegar Square - Big Dig Saturday 26th November - 9.30am-1pm

Tredegar Square Gardens circular flower bed needs some TLC

Can you help next Saturday, the 26th November, to plant the above flower bed with plants and shrubs provided by the council?

This will be the first of two Meotra community gardening events this year. Over the past few months Meotra has met Tower Hamlets Council with the aim of giving the Tredegar Square Gardens their first major replantings since approximately 1988 when the above bed was "installed".

Last Wednesday the bed was rotovated by the council's Green and Clean Team and some 300 litres of well-rotted manure mixed in (thanks to Margaret Winniak for fetching and carrying it all!).  The ground is now really friable and ready for us to plant the many dozens of plants and shrubs that the council is providing.

Can you help provide some manpower for the planting? Anyone over 16 is welcome and if you have spades and forks you can bring even better - although we will have some tools. It would be great to see some of you come along. There will be hot drinks on offer, and afterwards we'll go for a coffee or maybe even something stronger.

A big thank you to all those from the Council who have helped, but especially to Keith Woodard who has put lots of time and effort into arranging everything from the council's side of things.

The week after, on Saturday 3rd November (10-12 noon) we are having a Family Planting Day to plant a thousand daffodil, grape hyacinth and narcissi bulbs around Tredegar Gardens. Again we will have some trowels, but if you have your own please bring them along. 

I hope some of you can help out at one or other of these events which promise to be a wonderful pre-Christmas event bringing neighbours together.

Sunday 13 November 2016

Roman Road Neighbourhood Plan - Area Application submitted

A map showing the Roman Road Neighbourhood Plan area

In Tower Hamlets it seems you can tell when Christmas is 'round the corner as it is when important planning applications get submitted. Last year it was to build flats on the Grove Road Texaco site, the tower block on the site of Benjy's, and the house in a MEOT back garden. 

This year's present comes from a group known as "The Roman Road Neighbourhood Forum". I have written about them before, and although their aims (currently largely unknown) are I'm sure well intentioned, it remains to be seen if the whole "neighbourhood plan thing" is right for us in MEOTRA and if this incarnation of it, in particular, best serves us. 

So as well as getting the kids and relatives presents, staggering through work parties, all that food shopping and getting the house ready for Chrimbo you've also got to see if you can find time to absorb and comment on this.

I received the following email from the council which links to the 19-page application form and details how you can obtain further info and also comment on the application. So if you have a spare half hour can I suggest you click on the links below and see what you think. I'll write soon with further info soon, but please try and take a look.

Neighbourhood Planning Area Consultation
 A consultation period has begun on an application by the community group ‘The Roman Road Neighbourhood Forum’ to establish a Neighbourhood Area in the borough, in the Roman Road area (Core Strategy ‘Place’: Bow, Wards: Bow East and Bow West).

Neighbourhood Planning was introduced by the Localism Act (2011) and enables community groups to submit applications to the Council to establish ‘Neighbourhood Planning Forums’ and ‘Neighbourhood Planning Areas’.

The Plan Making Team has assessed that the application includes the necessary information required by legislation to determine the application. If the Council designates the Area, no other applications are able to be ‘made’ for the area until the designation is withdrawn.

Before the Council is able to determine the applications, a 6-week consultation period is required by legislation to be carried out within the proposed Neighbourhood Planning Area. Your views are sought on the application.

The application materials may be inspected free of charge from Friday 11th November 2016 to Friday 23rd December 2016 at the following locations:

•             on the Council’s website•             at the Tower Hamlets Town Hall reception
•             at Idea Store Bow, 1 Gladstone Place, Roman Road, E3 5ES

The focus of the consultation is on people who live, work or carry out business in the proposed Neighbourhood Planning Area. Responses from individuals or groups in other locations are also welcome. Written responses should be made by 5pm on Friday 23rd December 2016.

Responses should be sent to  or to:

Neighbourhood Planning Consultation
D&R Strategic Planning
London Borough of Tower Hamlets
PO BOX 55739
London E14 1BY