Pocket parks and danger in the dark

NB in response to comments from readers below I have amended the post by inserting the text in bold.

In a recent post I compared Mark of LoveWapping to Cicero, the orator and statesman of the Roman Republic.

Cicero is attributed as saying that silence is one of the great arts of conversation. With the cessation of the LoveWapping website and twitter feed, there is silence, but has this put an end to the conversation on the possibility for a pocket park by the canal by 21 Wapping Lane?

Clearly, the proposal upset at least two people on twitter, which [combined with a disagreement on Wapping Woods and the siting of CCTV cameras] ultimately led to Mark deciding to call it a day [temporarily]. I know first hand how passionate locals are about the issues that matter to them: I’ve left two community meetings because I felt uncomfortable with the level of courtesy that residents chose not to extend to public servants. One of those instances was the public reassurance meeting in January 2013 where the audience nearly came to blows with each other (you can read about it on my friend Cait’s blog, though technically we were only mutual twitter followers at that point).

When I was reading through my twitter feed one lunch, and saw the fallout of the twitter interaction, I thought about the plot of land between the car park and the canal and thought it was a bit of a mess, but didn’t see any merit of involving myself in something that would ultimately be strongly opposed by parts of the community.

I am a far more passive person than Mark- I’ll sit, I’ll read, I’ll think and I’ll have a say but I rarely get off my arse and display his campaigning zeal. However, it was whilst sat on my arse watching Law and Order: UK that led to me to write this post. In the background of a scene in a car park, I recognised the tower of St George in the East, and realised that they had filmed in the multi-storey car park on Wapping Lane.

The proposed pocket park.
The rubbish is largely bottles of white cider.

So, I wandered up to the car park to see what the view was like up top. I am pleased to note, it was rather impressive but also an unnerving experience.

I entered by the stairwell on the south-west corner, going past what once was a booth for an attendant and now seems abandoned. I started to ascend the stairs and on every landing on the stairs was a new assortment of rubbish. Much like an archaeologist can read the history of a site by seeing the build up of layers, I was reading the history of people trying to get by in their lives without being spotted. One one landing packets of shisha tobacco, on another a stash of chocolate wrappers, on several others, empty vodka and energy drink bottles. Finally towards the top, the landings were covered in a veneer of pigeon shit.

Reader, I did not use the hand rail.

The views are pretty darned impressive and on reaching the top deck I instantly regretted not going up before 21 Wapping Lane was built as it now blocks the view to the South. However, you still get a good view of Shadwell Basin, Tobacco Dock and the skyline of the City.

Dancing in the dark

However, my experience with the detritus on the stairwell suggests to me that there is a non-trivial level of ‘antisocial behaviour’ going on that means that for me any worries about the park creating ASB problems are misplaced: the problem exists already. Indeed as I was walking back down the stairs I observed through a window a courting couple sneaking into the area, with the young sir cajoling the lady to accompany him into the pen where no one could see them. Once I was back on the ground, walking along the canal I couldn’t spot them, until I saw some ‘suggestive’ shadows hinting at their al fresco courtship – using the space between the brick walls and the fence of the car park area as pleasure grounds.

In addition, I have seen reports of rough sleepers using the area. I’ve reported rough sleepers in Wapping Woods to Streetlink recently in the hope of them getting appropriate support but I don’t know if these are the same group.

Clearly, there are problems here that haven’t been visible until people started moving into 21 Wapping Lane. What it does mean is that something needs to be done and we shouldn’t pretend that because something isn’t visible that it isn’t going on. I cannot see why removing a fence would make matters worse, other than to make it ‘out of sight out of mind’. Wapping’s green spaces are full of the signs of the excluded and the disengaged. What the solution is though, I cannot say. What I can say is that we shouldn’t shout down those who work to better the community.

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