Thursday 16 February 2017

"Benjy's Towers" Refused Planning Permission.

An architect's impression of the "Benjy's Towers" scheme as seen from Burdett Road.

Tonight at Tower Hamlets Council's Strategic Planning Committee, the application to build a 15-storey tower block on the site of the former Benjy's nightclub was REFUSED unanimously (6-0) going against the recommendation of the council officers to grant permission.

The committee had many concerns including: the height being inappropriate for the area; the loss of the Backstreet Club that has existed for 30-odd years on the site (why hadn't the developer incorporated the club into the design was mentioned more than once); TfL had concerns that the tube lines running beneath would be endangered; the density of accommodation being over double that usual for a neighbourhood centre; worries that the retail space would not be let; the inappropriateness of having housing near an area with such high pollution levels; the average quality of the design.

Three members of the public spoke in opposition to the application (a Backstreet regular, an Antill Road resident and an Aberavon Road resident) as well as Cllrs David Edgar (Mile End) and Peter Golds (Island Gardens).

Many thanks to everyone for writing letters of objection. They really did make a difference.

The MEOTRA campaign has made page two of this week's East End Advertiser too.

Wednesday 15 February 2017

Roman Road Bow Neighbourhood Area Gains Designation

A map of Tower Hamlets detailing the area designated as the "Roman Road Bow Neighbourhood"

It's official: The application to designate the Roman Road Bow Neighbourhood Planning Area was approved on the 6th February 2017 by the Mayor in a Mayoral Executive Decision.

Roman Road Bow now joins the five existing areas in the borough designated as Neighbourhood Areas.

(For a short 2 minute video reminder on what this neighbourhood plan thingey is all about see this You Tube video)

A 44-page document details the application, consultation feedback received and the council's response. If you have time to read it then go ahead, but below I have selected some of the paragraphs that relate particularly to MEOTRA. In summary:

Paragraph 1.5: It is now going to be called Roman Road Bow following feedback from MEOTRA residents.
Paragraph 6.18: The council's core strategy calls the area Bow!
Paragraph 6.38: I will contact the council about this - they've got the border wrong (it should include Guardian Angels etc).
Paragraph 6.43: Good the railway line is mentioned. We can now try to include certain issues with the railway in the Plan.
Paragraphs 6.51-6.52: The Council Officers have noted the poor engagement with residents and indicate this must be put straight before proceeding to the next stages (having the Forum designated and then developing the Plan).

During the consultation a number of residents responded with concerns regarding the proposed Area's name (the Roman Road Neighbourhood Area). The concern expressed was that the name was too restrictive and did not represent the full Area proposed. They considered a more appropriate name to be the Bow Neighbourhood Area (a more detailed summary of the consultation responses is provided in Appendix 2). Following the end of the consultation period the Council informed the prospective forum of the consultation responses. The prospective forum considered it appropriate to address these representations and formally
requested that the Council rename the area, the "Roman Road Bow Neighbourhood Area", through the designation process. Officers consider this to be a suitable response to the consultation and considers it appropriate for the Council to rename the Area, as requested, through the designation process.
The specified Area aligns with the place of "Bow" in the Core Strategy, 2010
The Area as applied for only includes part of the Mile End Neighbourhood Centre and excludes the element of the Neighbourhood Centre stretching west beyond the
"green bridge" and on the southern side of Mile End Road. Whilst this does create some incoherence for businesses, the benefits of retaining the hard boundary of Mile End Road and Regent's Canal to provide distinct and clear boundaries, are considered to outweigh concerns about only including some of the Neighbourhood Centre.
An alternative southern natural boundary could have been the railway line which traverses the Area. The application identifies that whilst this was considered as an alternative boundary, there was strong local support for a more southerly boundary, to enable any future Neighbourhood Plan to help overcome any existing barrier to movement created by the railway. It is considered that this is an appropriate rational for not using the railway line as the southern boundary.
Paragraph 6.51 It is considered these objections and concerns, in particular those regarding consultation and engagement, including with local groups raise important concerns and provide useful feedback for the prospective Forum.
Paragraph 6.52 It is the officers' view that the Prospective Forum should engage with residents and these groups further to address these concerns before proceeding with their application to be designated as a Neighbourhood Forum and proceeding with developing a Neighbourhood Plan. This will be critical to ensure successful neighbourhood planning in the Area.

The number and classification of responses to the consultation make for quite pitiful reading. Only 18 responses were received (from a population of around 25,000): there were no letters of support; six neutral responses from statutory bodies such as the National Grid; seven responses defined as "concerned" and five objections.

Support Objection Neutral Concerned No comment Petition Total
0 5 6 7 0 0 18

It is clear that, moving forward, The Forum needs to massively improve communication with all those living and working in the Bow area. 

The next MEOTRA post will outline how, when and where you can get more involved, and yes the emphasis will be on what MEOTRA residents can get out of The Forum.

Monday 13 February 2017

Neighbourhood Forum Steering Committee Open Meeting - Tuesday 14th Feb - 7.30PM

Tuesday 14th February: Roman Road Neighbourhood Forum Steering Committee meeting

Tomorrow night there is a meeting of the Roman Road Neighbourhood Forum Steering Committee at the Art Pavilion behind the Grove Road Texaco Garage. It is an OPEN meeting. Here's the info:
"Come and meet the Neighbourhood Forum’s Steering Committee members and see one of the committee’s monthly meetings in action on Tuesday 14th February. On the agenda will be planned communication activity for 2017, as well as updates on the organisation of next Forum General Meeting being organised on Saturday 25th March. Feel free to pitch in at any time. At the end of the meeting the Steering Committee will open up to a general Q&A about the Neighbourhood Plan process."
At the last MEOTRA committee meeting, a few weeks ago, a couple of the Roman Road steering committee members came along. We had detailed discussions about the pros and cons of the neighbourhood plan from a MEOTRA point of view. Tomorrow is an opportunity for MEOTRA residents to meet all the steering committee and hear firsthand about the neighbourhood plan.

"Benjy's Towers": LBTH Strategic Planning Meeting Thursday 16th Feb., 7PM Town Hall

An artist's impression of the proposed "Benjy's Towers" development
The above mock-up of the proposed "Benjy's Towers" development gives, to my mind, the best representation of how the development will, if it goes ahead, dominate the area.

This Thursday 16th Feb, at 7PM, a meeting of the council's strategic planning authority will consider the application. Council officers have recommended the scheme BE APPROVED.

The meeting will take place in the Council Chamber at the Town Hall, Mulberry Place, 5 Clove Crescent, E14 2BG. The meeting will be open to the public, and has space for 50 people.

I hope to see some of you there.

MEOTRA has grave concerns about the height of the building - it is twice as high as anything nearby. In particular we are concerned it will set a precedent for the area and we will end up with a series of tower blocks around Mile End station.

Sunday 12 February 2017

Traditions Exhibition @ Art Pavilion (Final Week - ends Sunday 18th February)

Traditions art Exhibition at the Art Pavilion, Mile End Park

This exhibition by Art Catcher, a London curator of exhibitions about cultural and emotional identity, in collaboration with Incloodu Festivals and supported by Tower Hamlets Council, looks on the effects our cultural rituals have on how we feel about ourselves and the world, how it can help us to think big and walk towards each other while at other times it stops us from spreading our wings. 

40 artists have responded to the theme in painting, print, interactive installation and video work in sometimes humorous, sometimes questioning ways and it is a particular strong point of this show that it speaks to all ages and makes for an interesting visit for the whole family. 

The exhibition runs at the Mile End Park Art Pavilion until Sunday the 19th February and is open 12-6PM daily with further events as detailed on the Art Catcher website