The CTRA 2022 AGM will take place on Monday 12 September at 7.15pm in the Dunmore Hut

At the meeting, the outgoing committee will deliver their report on activity in the last year. They will then formally step down and the 2022/23 committee will be voted in.

If you are interested in joining the CTRA committee and would like to find out my more, please email info@columbiatra.org.uk or speak with a member of the current Committee.

Committee members are ordinary tenants and residents living in the CTRA area and are asked to attend around 5 committee meetings a year. If you want to get involved in improving where we live and/or representing residents’ interests to local authorities, including THH this is your opportunity. Further information on the CTRA can be found on http://www.columbiatra.org.uk/event/agm-2022/

Major Works Programmes: Presenting Our Concerns to Mayor John Biggs

Scaffolding at 21-35 Old Market Square since May 2018.

Earlier this week representatives of the CTRA met with Mayor John Biggs and Cllr Danny Hassell to present our concerns about the ability of Tower Hamlets Homes Asset Management Team to deliver multi-million-pound major works programmes.

Following our evidence and case-study based presentation we reiterated our call of last year for an independent inquiry into the organisational management of major works. We also requested an independent review of spending across our block major works programmes to check for waste and inaccuracies and made a series of service improvement suggestions.

We now await a response from Mayor John Biggs.

A copy of the presentation can be found here.

AGM 2021 – The Outgoing Committee’s Report

Two years after our last AGM, the Columbia TRA was able to hold their AGM in person on Tuesday 19 October 2021. Despite unexpected disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the outgoing committee was able to deliver a report covering a great deal of activity from the last two years.

Community gardening has blossomed during the pandemic as a great many residents have taken the opportunity to get outside during lock downs and improve our communal spaces whilst getting some exercise. Members of the TRA were also able to arrange a community picnic and a beano to Margate in the summer months.

The report covered efforts to improve services to our estates in areas like waste management, anti-social behaviour and major works.

Chair of the CTRA, Kevin McKenna thanked outgoing committee members for their efforts over the past years and called for residents to volunteer this year. He said “As ever, the CTRA is led by volunteers, doing what they can to help the community in their spare time. The only way that more can be done, is if more people get actively involved, in whatever capacity they can. That is why the AGM is so important as it gives the opportunity for more people to join the committee and help. Hopefully several more of you will volunteer this year and if you have a special project, or something you’d like to see happen more urgently, then this is your opportunity to take part.”

Read the full report here

Gascoigne Greening – Meet the Contractor Virtual Event

A revised date for Meet the Contractor event with Blakedown is now on Tuesday 25 May at 6.00 pm via Zoom.

We do not yet have a final confirmed start date for the project but we are hopeful it will be 7 June if all the supply lead in times are confirmed to be okay by Blakedown.
Here is the zoom link – https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88276056053

A letter will be going out to residents shortly. Further information on the project can be found here – http://www.columbiatra.org.uk/2020/10/07/gascoigne-greening-project-update/

Help Green Our Neighbourhood

Get involved with the Columbia Tenants and Residents Association Gardening Group

Columbia TRA has been getting green fingered over the last few years.

We are working to provide ways for more residents to grow on our estates; to improve environmental awareness and sustainability; and to get outdoors and make new friends in the local community.

Lockdown has made getting outside, growing things and getting in touch with nature more precious than ever, especially since so many of us do not have a garden of our own. We want to make Columbia Road bloom seven days a week, not just on Sundays.

If you want to be part of this, then ask for an invite to the online meeting below, and if you can’t make the meeting email anyway and one of the CTRA Gardening Group will chat and introduce you to what is going on.

What Have We Been Doing? In 2020 we:

  • Established a community plant nursery, began raising seedlings and installed hot composters
  • Continued to improve planting in public borders on Chambord Street and in front of Sivill House
  • Added a circular bed with flowers and vegetables behind James Hammett House
  • Secured and planted two new shared herb beds and a bird bath on the Dorset Estate
  • Cleared and replanted neglected flower beds in front of Cuff Point

In 2021 we want to widen our activities. This will include:

  • Planting, weeding and watering flower and vegetable beds
  • Planting and managing trees (including fruit trees for an urban orchard)
  • Woodwork, DIY and design
  • Raising seedlings at home
  • Running virtual and live events for residents
  • Making food and craft products from things we grow

Join our online meeting: Bring a cup of tea and join us online to meet some of our active members, hear what we have planned for the start of 2021 and let us know what you’d like to see growing in your neighbourhood! Get in touch here for an invite link – gardening@columbiatra.org.uk

Community gardening leaflet: http://www.columbiatra.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Jan-2021-housedrop-A5.pdf

Opinion: Community on the Fringe – Why Sadiq Khan Should Reject THIS Proposed Bishopsgate Goodsyard Development

by Penny Creed, Vice Chair, Columbia Tenants and Residents Association

Developer’s own representation: The proposed building on the corner of Commercial Street and Shoreditch High Street

For many in our community, the question is not whether the Bishopsgate Goodsyard should be developed, it is whether THIS current proposed development should be allowed.  Here’s why.

In recent years, City Developers have had their beady eyes on our back yard as space to move into. Not because they desperately need the space for more offices, but because they have a constant need to create new product to rent and sell on. Money makes the world go round and while interest rates remain low, property has been where institutional and private equity investors can make profits.  

A steady stream of sky-high new developments have sprung up on the north east side of the City casting shadows across our community, and now, with the Bishopsgate Goodsyard back in play, the greedy neighbours want to breach our back fence.

The planners like to call our area “The City Fringe” like it is a bit of trimming belonging to the City with no substance of real worth. But you know what, they are wrong. It is Brick Lane Market, it’s Petticoat Lane, Hoxton Square, Bangla Town and Columbia Road Flower Market. It’s Lubetkin’s Dorset Estate and London’s first and iconic social housing development – The Boundary. This is Bethnal Green and Shoreditch, communities founded long before the glass, steel and pinstripe.

An area where small creative businesses have incubated themselves in small low-rent commercial units before, launching into the wider world. Where many London artists and artisans have based themselves. Where clubbers of the nineties and noughties climbed the first rung of the housing ladder and stayed to raise families. Welcomed by East Enders as the latest in a long line of displaced groups such as Huguenots, Jews, Bengalis, Vietnamese, and students that have formed this wonderful, diverse, and thriving community. This is the East End, rich in culture, history and community and it needs protecting.

The Bishopsgate Goodsyard is so called because it surrounds a railway line. That railway line for decades has provided a natural boundary, protection from the City’s grey monolithic sprawl. In the 80s and 90s as the City outgrew the square mile, so an outpost in the Docklands was launched as the second financial district displacing what was there before. Now the financial district wants even more space, and its eyes are firmly on the other side of the tracks.

The Bishopsgate Goodsyard developers have an option to buy the land that is currently owned by Network Rail – a publicly owned entity. It does not reside within the City of London. The ten-acre site straddles two London Boroughs – Hackney and Tower Hamlets. Boroughs that have a combined housing list thirty thousand strong whose populations lack green space and meeting places and affordable retail and workspace.

27 hotels have been built and/or are currently proposed in the Shoreditch area in the last ten years, yet another is planned for the Goodsyard. A large proportion of the development is for offices – all to serve the city. Just 10% of affordable workspace has been provided. The remaining market rent spaces are bound to inflate the rents on surrounding units on Brick Lane and Bethnal Green Road populated by the every-day shops we local people need. The proposed green space is highline and looks like it will be managed much like the maligned and eventually scrapped ‘Garden Bridge’.  

The accommodation proposed is for a maximum of 500 units where a local plan by Tower Hamlets a few years ago estimated 1500 would be possible on the site. 70% of the proposed homes are one or two bedrooms.  Pied-à-terres favoured over family homes. Developers have upped the percentage of ‘affordable’ bedrooms but reduced the number homes in total. A win, they claim with only 45 truly affordable homes (maximum) planned but that pales into insignificance when you compare it to the 20 units recently shoe-horned onto a small estate carpark on the Dorset Estate.

The scale, height, massing and overshadow though, this needs to be addressed. The site sits south of Bethnal Green, between our community and the sun and the shadows cast onto residents of the Avant Guard Tower and the conservation areas of Redchurch Street and the Boundary Estate, will plunge them into darkness for most of the winter. The recently adopted Hackney Local Plan states that new developments “should respect the prevailing building heights of Shoreditch High Street” such as the Tea Building. This proposed development will dwarf them and set context for future high-rise development in the immediate area. 

We believe this still publicly owned space should be better used to serve the community it resides in. We need our local businesses, new businesses and workspaces protected. We want the GLA to safeguard our heritage from the march of the overbearing light-taking soulless skyscrapers. We need the City to respect our community boundary. We need to keep Bethnal Green.