Network Wapping September Meeting

Panorama from the roof of fortress Wapping
Panorama from the roof of fortress Wapping

Dear reader(s?), how could I leave you with such a cliff hanger?

How did the Network Wapping (NW) meeting go?

Did they take over the world as we know it, upturning Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights and Habeas Corpus?

The simple answer- it went quite well in my opinion with no evidence so far of a local illuminati being established.

Fast facts

Representation: 2 out of 5. A good mix of locals but the Asian community very under represented and relatively few men. Overall a good mix of ages. Some native Wapping people, though I don’t know what the actual split is within the area to make a judgement.

Quality of discussion: 4 out of 5. A good range of views, led well by John, the meeting ended before the conversation, as the premises had to be vacated.

Progress: 3 out of 5. Views were captured on flip charts to be written up. John and another lady (I think I know who she is but I shan’t name to save embarrassment should I get it wrong) were meeting with St George plc to introduce the group on Friday (yesterday) and hopefully share some high level ideas. What hasn’t been made clear yet to attendees or the general public is what NW’s purpose is. A discussion group is very different to a full neighbourhood planning forum (which I will discuss in a later post) and I think some fundamentals need to be set out, and I’ve emailed John in this respect.

The detail

I arrived early and with trepidation. The last community meeting I attended was with TfL discussing the Olympic Route Network and which I left early after tiring of the heated discussion/shouting. Wapping is keen to ask a question, and especially until they get the answer they want.

The meeting was reasonably well attended, maybe 20 people at a time with a little rotation through the night. Councillor Denise Jones attended the start (her ward of course extends to the ‘bad north’ and indeed I believe no longer captures her own home after the boundary crossed the road).

Coming from an accounting background I normally see a lot of very formal presentations, so John’s was quite refreshing, based around photos, maps and designs representing concepts of the built environment in Wapping and globally.

Bridge linking the print works to the listed rum warehouse
Bridge linking the print works to the listed rum warehouse

Most of the meeting was spent discussing the development of the News International site and what we saw as priorities. I didn’t express a view during the meeting. My philosophy in meetings is that I know what my views are and wait to get a feel for the meeting and only speak when I feel I can add value. Back during the discussions on the Town Council I was very vocal and I have a horrible feeling that (specifically at the meeting at St George’s town hall) I suggested a community group should be established instead of an additional tier of government.

What struck me was the diversity of views and the balance between increasing local amenities without changing the character of the area. What was clear was that people genuinely had great affection for Wapping, but as an example of the disparate views expressed when the possibility of space being left for a high school it felt like two women exclaimed ‘yes’ and ‘no’ almost at the same time.

Gate between News International and Tobacco Dock
Gate between News International and Tobacco Dock

Similarly when the possibility of Tobacco Dock being used permanently as an events/exhibition centre, the tattoo convention was mentioned in passing. I’ve always enjoyed seeing a sea of body art flowing down the canal, or queuing up on Wapping Lane at 9.30am on a Sunday morning munching on Mcmuffins as I’ve walked to church. What I’ve never really noticed is the rubbish, which made one lady wish it didn’t take place in Wapping. Talking it through, what it really needs is for extra stewarding and street cleaning. Perhaps making small changes in organisation could allow residents and visitors enjoy Wapping together. Ultimately, there is going to be a *massive* new development in Wapping. What NW has allowed though is for a lot of people to come together and be part of the discussion. If we want to influence this development we need to speak up, and whether it’s as individuals or as a group, you can only blame yourself if your view wasn’t expressed.

A quick summary of people’s desires for the site is (I didn’t take notes so I could be way off track):

  • Open access, not another gated community
  • Community facilities: GP surgery, community centre, schools (maybe a small vertical high school)
  • Routes through the site, both east-west (Vaughan Way to Pennington St and the canal) and north-south ( The Highway to the canal)
  • Not too dominant on the skyline
  • Some moderate support for truly sustainable building
  • Minimise air pollution during the demolition (cf Leman St)

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