A rail of a tale- LBTH, data and evidence based decision making

A reminder of the frustrations that communities face in planning decisions

Caveat: I’ve been putting off publishing this post for a while as I currently have a query outstanding with LBTH on the basis of their assessment of certain matters, but as I’ve been waiting for just under 4 weeks and I’ve just had an email saying it’ll be another two weeks, I’ve got bored. As such, my views are supposition based on a reasoned assessment of the publicly available evidence. However, I limit my discussion here to anti-social behaviour and will expand upon this once I get a response from LBTH on issues like assessing impact on having an unobstructed view.


The recent planning decision on the installation of railings at Capital Wharf has led to ripples of consternation in E1W. Wapping’s history has been defined by its proximity to the river but its sense of place is increasingly defined by its location between The City and Canary Wharf, and I think that its desirability as a place to live for many of its residents is an interplay of these two geographic factors.
So when access to the river is perceived to be being impinged upon, locals rightly become concerned and the recently granted planning permission for some proposed railings at Capital Wharf is a clear example of this.
British planning law doesn’t readily allow planning decisions to be challenged by anyone other than the applicant. One resident, Mark Baynes has accepted the legal position but has started a petition addressed to KFH the managing agents of Capital Wharf to try to get them to reconsider their plans for the sake of the community. Mark’s zeal also extends to a new online campaign called ‘Love Wapping’ (website, facebook, twitter) which is intended to go beyond being a single issue campaign to address a number of other issues in the area (follow the links for more detail, it’s well worth supporting any such endeavour).
My baseline view is that I respect our elected representatives’ decisions. I can do this because I didn’t elect them (none of my ward councillors were at the planning meeting, and by extension no one that I voted for at the last local elections can be held directly responsible) and thus I can’t be blamed and I can only assume that the people who did vote for them believe them to make the correct decisions.  I do not say in the case of the railings that the wrong decision was made, merely that it is not clear how the correct decision could be reached.

The decision

The approval of the railings occurred at a meeting of the Development Committee of LBTH on 10 October.

In the update report that was presented to the Committee it was noted that  John Biggs, London Assembly Member for City and East queried on behalf of a constituent how the proposed railings  would deter antisocial behaviour.

The update report states:

1.4 On 5th October, the Council’s Crime Prevention & Secured by Design Officer
submitted information at the request of the case officer regarding Anti-Social
Behaviour reports to the Met Police around Capital Wharf and the nearby vicinity
between August 2011 and August 2012. The report confirmed that for that year
reports relating to “rowdy and inconsiderate behaviour” accounted for 75% (45
incidences) of all reports, with the highest incidences occurring on Monday between
the hours 1945 to 0530Hrs followed by Saturday between the hours of 1500 to

1.5 This gives officers assurance that there are ASB issues at and around the application
site and reassures officers that the proposed handrail may assist in addressing such

I’m not clear what is meant by “the council’s” in reference to CP&SDO – I’ve googled that particularly ugly job title and I think the individual is a police officer who works for the Met covering the Tower Hamlets area, rather than them being a council employee, suggesting they may have access to the Police National Computer. I don’t have access to the PNC. I do however stay in contact with Vickie who runs What’s in Wapping  and  who maintains good relations with the local Safer Neighbourhood Team and who told Vickie:

The SNT have not had any reports sent through to ASB o/s Capital Wharf. We have regular contact with the concierges at both Capital and Cinnabar Wharfs and I’m sure they would have notified me. During the summer we had a couple of noise nuisance calls to the Memorial park area. 

So, that doesn’t sound like the local police are aware of any significant issues. So on the one hand we are given the impression that there were 60 instances of ASB that require the installation of the railings and on the other we have the local police suggesting that there isn’t a significant issue. Well, my confusion lasted until my A* GCSE in English Language kicked in (this is a vintage GCSE, when they were worth something!) and something clicked. Re-reading the update report, the exact wording is:

around Capital Wharf and the nearby vicinity

This led me to think about what this actually means. My initial thoughts were that perhaps instances of ASB outside the convenience store on Wapping High Street opposite Capital Wharf and the memorial park might be being included. So, I dug a little deeper and using online crime maps I noticed that publicly available crime data is available at street level but not individual property level, and Capital Wharf is on Wapping High Street, a road which is according to Google Maps is 0.8 miles long, so any data available will be for a quite large number of properties.

Looking at the maps required me to go through month by month and after looking at six months worth of data I couldn’t see any great indication of ASB, so I downloaded the raw data – around 100,000 lines of data for every month of the year, covering all of the crimes recorded by the Metropolitan Police. From the 1.2 million lines of data, I filtered for Wapping High Street. Being generous I allowed for a month either side of the August period presented in the update report. What did my analysis find?

Quite simply, I don’t think that there is sufficient evidence to support the proposition that there is a significant level of ASB given that the entirety of Wapping High Street recorded 31 crimes in a 15 month period and of this only 24 were for anti-social behaviour. The numbers presented at the Development Committee may well include other addresses such as Pier Head and Vaughan Way etc but, these are not Capital Wharf and should not be used in an evidence base used by busy councillors to make decisions

Anti-social behaviour Burglary Other theft Violent crime Grand Total
Jul-11 3 3
Aug-11 5 1 6
Sep-11 6 6
Oct-11 5 3 8
Nov-11 4 4
Jan-12 1 1
Mar-12 1 1
Jun-12 1 1
Sep-12 1 1
24 5 1 1 31

Given these figures, I am concerned that the planning team have misinterpreted the data. Of course, it may be that my data is incorrect, but I look forward to LBTH’s response to my full list of concerns.

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