The LBTH ‘Liveable Streets’ scheme has been the cause of controversy across the borough the last few days, the common thread of discussions being the slightly negative attitude towards the current Labour administration.
By ‘slightly’ we mean ‘unbridled anger’ and by attitude we mean ‘let’s start the revolution right now’. Brings a whole new meaning to blocking roads, innit?
Whatever the merits of the scheme it has become clear that ‘Liveable Streets’ has little to do with pedestrianising roads, lowering kerbs and turning the borough into a cyclists paradise. Bow residents are genuinely concerned that the scheme will be forced through irrespective of consultation results to keep a particular demographic, white middle class professionals to be precise, happy.
Combined with this is the view expressed by many ordinary working class people on Facebook that ‘Liveable Streets’ is gentrification (aka social cleansing) which is the hidden agenda of the Labour administration.
Yeah it as weird reading that as writing it, but Tower Hamlets Labour Party has little to do with any national political party.
Here are a few Facebook comments.
“Lets look at maybe putting some people up for councillors next election or mayor and give tower hamlets what they need a good kick up the arse . Give the councillors some thing to worry about make them work”
“How can you talk about hearsay when you live less than 100metres from skew bridge. No wonder she wants the council to keep it closed. How much will her house Jump up in value £££££££££’s”
“Just now on Skew Bridge- more works being done for permanent closure pre full consultation TH have no intention to reopen – what a shower”
Those were some of the more considered observations.
This anger may or may not be linked to the very odd situation where five Tower Hamlets Labour councillors seemed rather shy of admitting they lived in Bow. Not good when four of them are Bow councillors who are supposed to represent the views of Bow residents.
Mo. Rakib lights a match
Mohammad Rakib lit the blue touch paper with the guest post on East End Enquirer – A breakdown of ethics and duty in Tower Hamlets council.
These words summed up Mohammad’s view. “Local Government in Tower Hamlets is an absolute travesty of democracy. If there was any sense of duty and service in Downing Street today, this entire sham in Tower Hamlets would be shut down, cleansed, detoxified and put right.”
EEE had not the slightest idea that this post would generate such a tremendous amount of comments here, on Twitter and on Facebook. Incredible. And many thanks to all who took the time to comment. This has been by far the most popular and hotly debated story in the seven years that Love Wapping and EEE have been published, with the exception of some stories about Lutfur Rahman.
The reasons for this are quite simple. Mo. Rakib is well known in the community, has served his community for many years, his views were express very eloquently (we edited almost nothing) and he said what many people thought.
If you have not read it please do. His questioning of the need for local party parties to reflect national political parties is very perceptive.
As a result of this Moley was sent north to Bow to do some digging around and he has found quite a few interesting things, some are below, one deserves a story of its own.
Many people have been sending Moley links to things which they think may be of interest to our whiskered friend, one in particular was to this Liveable Streets – Council listens to cycling lobby not residents on the rather lovely Our Bow site courtesy of The Geezers. Here’s a flavour of the article by Alan T.
“Involve Everyone – not just the select few
The first time that most people realised something was happening in Bow was when Old Ford Road at Skew Bridge was closed, ostensibly for coronavirus reasons. It caused gridlock in other streets.
This coinciding with the Liveable Streets consultation to block Old Ford Road and St Stephen’s Road gave the impression of special pre-consultation input for people in just one part of Bow.
This was not helped by residents and local councillors in Old Ford Road setting up photo opportunities where they gloated as their children played hop-scotch in the street (beside a park).
The closure of Old Ford Road is due to end on 25th August but there are concerns that the Council will continue the restriction without waiting for the consultation which ends on Weds 29th July. If this happens it will be clear that the consultation is a sham.”
Many opponents to ‘Liveable Streets’ are of the opinion that consultation survey results have been skewed in favour of cyclists by our two-wheeled Lycra clad friends in Tower Hamlets distributing the links to cycling groups across the country. Which is very naughty if true – and would validate the consultation survey if proved.
Collate the evidence
Moley has seen one or two of these odd links but those campaigning against ‘Liveable Streets’ should systematically track these links, log them, screen grab them (just in case they disappear for some odd reason) and then present them to the Council as evidence of their views.
The Roman Road LDN site, which promotes itself as ‘Roman Road’s neighbourhood magazine’ published The grassroots campaigns that have sprung up for and against Liveable Streets on 16th July which gave a balanced overview of both sides arguments despite the Roman Road Trust being a supporter of ‘Liveable Streets’. Definitely worth a read.
Roman Road LDN also published this open letter back in June 2020 by ’citizen journalist’ Ben Priestley Why Skew Bridge on Old Ford should be permanently closed to motor traffic.
EEE could not find anything on Google for ‘citizen journalist Ben Priestley’ but we did find a photo he took for Tower Hamlets Wheelers. If this Ben Priestley is the same person as the author of the open letter then, in the interests of transparency, it might have been a good idea to make this clear.
Ben also seems to be following the LBTH Skew Bridge closed because of pandemic line when he says that ‘Put simply, Covid–19 had turned Skew Bridge into a public health hazard’. We don’t know Bow, is this a valid observation? Does it mean Skew Bridge is like that dodgy fried chicken shop on the corner?
Either way when the pandemic is over LBTH will no doubt be reopening Skew Bridge.
You should check out https://www.twaku.com/THWheelers to see the sheer effort the cycling lobby are putting into their campaign. Impressive stuff. Good work.
Other ‘Liveable Streets’ antics concerned the report by Mike Brooke in the East London Advertiser of the Mile End Old Town Tenants Residents Association Zoom meeting on 17th July. Cllr. Asma Begum (Labour, Bow West) attended as did two representatives of ‘Liveable Streets’.
How’s the school run, Asma?
The ELA story headlined Yes, I want to stop Roman Road rat runs, even if I drive all the time myself’ Tower Hamlets councillor admits seemed to upset Cllr. Asma Begum and some other people, presumably supporters of ‘Liveable Streets’.
The Mile End Old Town Tenants Residents Association (MEOTRA) also seemed upset by the headline and decided to attack Mike Brooke.
This led to tweets like this.
When keen cyclists like @Kevin_J_Brady advocate quieter streets they're told they don't have a right to speak because it won't affect them. When those who drive like @cllrasmabegum do the same they're attacked for driving. Maybe this goes beyond cars 🤔 https://t.co/gr1mzMa7gN
— Better Streets for Tower Hamlets (@BetterStreetsTH) July 17, 2020
(PS Cllr. Begum, can you clarify where your partner Cllr. Tarik Khan really works please? Just thought we would mention it, ta!)
Cllr. Val ‘I don’t really live where I said I live – or do I?’ Whitehead also jumped in. Stones – glass houses Councillor!
The article still suggests @cllrasmabegum drives her children to school in Mile End. This is a totally made up story nothing like that was said and it’s also not true.
— Cllr Val Whitehead (@Valjwhitehead) July 18, 2020
Mike Brooke IS the East End
Now Mike Brooke has been a journalist for 50 years and so when he reports on something it is accurate. That’s why the ELA is a trusted news source.
John White who runs the MEOTRA blog rang EEE in response to an email from us and spent 30 minutes putting across his view that Mike’s reporting was inaccurate. We know it was 30 minutes because we were there and checked our watch.
EEE’s response to his allegations was to ask John White to publish the archive of the Zoom meeting which he has in his possession.
John refused to do so citing privacy grounds and various other things. EEE made it clear to him that as the discussion was about a matter of public interest and elected representatives were present, the public right to know took priority over the privacy concerns of individuals and if we managed to get a copy of the Zoom archive it would be published on EEE. Then everyone could decide if what Mike Brooke said was accurate.
So if you were at the meeting and have an archive copy let us know! To be honest we aren’t interested in publishing it but it would be nice to hear what was said.
This all comes down to a simple principle that if elected representatives start to claim that journalists articles are fabricated but provide no justification or evidence for their claim the benefits of a free press will soon disappear. Look at Trump’s America.
Talking to John White I took the opportunity to question him about the header of the MEOTRA site which clearly states ‘We cover the area bounded by Mile End Road, Lichfield Road, the Regent’s Canal and Coborn Street. If you live in the MEOTRA area, then you are a member of the Association’
EEE suggested to John that this was a bit odd because this meant that everyone living in the MEOTRA catchment area would be member of an association of which they might have no knowledge. How does that work?
Also the catchment area of MEOTRA seems quite big. Our understanding of TRAs over the years is that they are for a block or an estate maybe – not a substantial area which covered all sorts of homes.
John White disagreed.
Moley went for an interwebs dig and found these descriptions of TRA size.
Although John White has no hesitation in attacking Mike Brooke, John neglects to tell people that he has at least two different social media profiles on the inter webs.
He tweets in his MEOTRA capacity
He also tweets on his own account.
And sometimes get confused because he tweets to himself!
Last but not least he also comments on EEE (and Love Wapping before that) as ManOnThe339 as you can see here recommending that we read the ‘Liveable Streets’ article on Roman Road LDN.
All of which highlights the need for an open and transparent debate. Just because Tower Hamlets council acts like a trainee secret agent does not mean the rest of us do.
They go low, we go high.
Update: 17.40 24 July 2020
For some time Moley has heard various people claiming that the Liveable Streets people only get paid if the proposed projects are actually implemented. This sounded more than a little odd even to the Mole’s ears so we asked the Liveable Street people and they have just sent Mole this.
“The purpose of the engagement work is to record how residents, business-owners and people who go to school or work in the area feel about the areas to best shape the proposals shared in the public consultation. The process is guided by community feedback from start to finish and, regardless of the outcome of any consultation process managed by Project Centre Limited; be it in favour of proposals or against, our contract with Tower Hamlets is honoured.”