The Columbia Tenants and Residents Association will soon be welcoming a new group of members as the new build ‘infill project’ on the former Baroness Road car park opens its doors to residents.
The block has been named ‘Orwell House’ after former Tower Hamlets Mayor John Orwell. Mayor Orwell was first councillor for the Borough of Bethnal Green before becoming Alderman for Tower Hamlets Council when it was formed in 1965. A charismatic figure, John was known as the ‘Singing Mayor’ and ran regular fundraising events at the Town Hall for the Labour Party in Bethnal Green as well as senior citizens’ clubs at Oxford House and at Mayfield House. He was also one of the first local politicians who stood up for the growing Bangladeshi community – lobbying and campaigning for their rights. He is survived by his centenarian wife and former councillor Beattie Orwell, famously a veteran of the Battle of Cable Street.
The new block will accommodate 20 new households in five one-bed, eight two-bed and seven three-bed flats including two adapted flats for wheelchair/disability use. Residents are due to move in from 19 October 2020 onwards.
The CTRA was invited to visit the new block during a socially distanced site visit last week. There we learned more about the block’s design and features:
The block has been designed to echo the colour scheme as the rest of the Dorset Estate
A roof terrace is available for all residents to use and all flats come with floor to ceiling windows to let in natural light and large balconies
It has been designed with security in mind – access fobs only allow residents up to their own floor
Smart-meters have been fitted to all flats and the block has high-speed internet connection capability
The block has a secure bike store
The CTRA will be working with Tower Hamlets Homes to welcome new residents to the area.
The CTRA and Gascoigne Neighbourhood Association have been working hard to develop plans for the Gascoigne Greening Project. These are the latest plans for the project, which will transform the area around Dunmore Point and Wingfield House.
Please take a look. The works are planned for early 2021. If you want to find out more, there will be a Zoom meeting about the plans on 20th October at 7pm. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for an invite.
CTRA members spent Sunday morning buying herb and edible flowers from Columbia Road and planting out the new community herb gardens on the Dorset Estate.
The planters were a donation by Bouygues, the contractor
building the new block – Orwell House on the old Baroness Road car park. Bouygues
kindly donated the materials and built the accessible raised beds last week.
The idea, conceived and driven through by CTRA treasurer Ed Furey with support of the Committee, was to create a space for residents to share herbs for cooking but also to brighten up the space in front of the DCA. On seeing them Ed commented, “I am thrilled with what a beautiful job Bouygues made of building the beds, a lot of thought went into it”.
Once the plants are a little more established residents will be able to help themselves to a sprig or two to add to their food.
The beds will be maintained by the CTRA Community Gardening Group with plants provided by the CTRA and other donations. Anyone wishing to join the gardening group is welcome to. Just email email@example.com or speak to a member of the Committee.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Bouygues for their kind donation.
On Friday 14 August 2020 Gareth Furby of BBC’s film on ‘Car
Bars’ on the Boundary Estate was aired. It shone a spotlight on a growing problem
that has plagued residents of the Boundary Estate and surrounding area for the
last two years. Where increasingly visitors to the Shoreditch Night Time
Economy (NTE) drive to the area, park on residential streets and use their cars
as a base to socialise, before and after they visit the bars in Shoreditch. Sleepless
local residents call them ‘car bars’.
Heralded by their loud music, car bars tend to arrive in the
early evening. Their owners and guests ‘pre-load’ with cheaper shop-bought alcohol,
nitrous oxide or other party drugs before moving on to the bars and clubs that
serve much more expensive drinks. Some even set up mobile drug and alcohol shops
selling on to the inhabitants of other cars.
In the small hours, when the official bars shut the ‘car bar’
customers return and the ‘after parties’ start. This is when things get really
disruptive for residents. Party-goers continue to drink and/or use drugs. The noise
gets louder. With no public toilets around, attendees start to use resident’s
front doors as urinals. Often fights break out and occasionally cars race each
other around the streets, and on more than one occasion, crash.
But why is this only a recent phenomenon? We believe this is
down to the growing and shifting nature of the Shoreditch NTE. Something about
which residents have been warning local councillors and officers for years. Ten
years ago, bars tended to be confined to the more commercial area around Hoxton
Square and Old Street (from Old Street Roundabout down to Curtain Road). But in
recent years, mass redevelopment and a takeover of buildings for office-use has
shifted the bars down to Shoreditch High Street and increasingly Hackney Road. New
developments in the City have similarly shifted bars frequented by City workers
down towards Shoreditch High Street and the opening of Box Park has seen more
activity moving down Bethnal Green Road. All this has led to a century old quiet
residential area being enveloped by the NTE.
Shoreditch has also increased in popularity with more and
more visitors coming in from outside the area at the weekends supported by a
huge increase in the number of hotels that have opened in the area (we’ve counted
27 in ten years!). We’ve even heard told of party-goers referring to Arnold Circus
as its own ‘scene’!
Of course, the NTE has been very welcome to some in that it brings much needed revenue to the area in the form of local business rates and the much talked of ‘Night Time Levy’.
This is where things are complicated by Borough boundaries. The majority of the NTE’s bars are based in the London Borough of Hackney, but the nearest residential area (in some places just one street away) is across the border in Tower Hamlets. Therefore, the proceeds of these bars go to one Council, but the majority of the problems fall on another.
Residents have been calling on Tower Hamlets and Hackney Councils
to work together to manage the NTE for a while now and, although this is
starting to happen, much more needs to be done. Hackney and Tower Hamlets
police forces merged two years ago and that should have helped but in reality
the police commissioned by Hackney council to manage the NTE have only really
been present in recent months and have been mandated to stay by the bars and
not venture into residential areas, even if they are just meters away.
Shoreditch has become for 2020 what Soho was in the 1980s
and 90s and it needs to be managed as such. Planning and licencing policy needs
to define its boundary to stop further sprawl into residential areas and resources
need to be available to both sides of the Borough borders and well after the
bars close. Car bars are not subject to licencing hours!
Whilst residents appreciate the lengths Tower Hamlets
officers and councillors have gone to in bringing in new parking measures to tackle
car bars. These need constant enforcement. Similarly, whilst some measures to be
brought in with the ‘Liveable Streets’ programme this year may have a positive effect;
we fear that others may exacerbate the problem.
Of course we very much welcome and appreciate the instant reaction
of Tower Hamlets in bringing enforcement officers out in number last night.
However, this isn’t the only issue the Night Time Economy brings and we believe
it warrants a holistic and ongoing management approach across the Boundary.
Something we have been calling for some time.
This is a joint statement provided by Weavers Community Action
Group, Columbia Tenants and Residents Association and Boundary Residents.
A situation has arisen on one of our estates that is causing great concern among residents. It is not unique; it has happened in other blocks across Tower Hamlets and more widely across London. The Columbia TRA Committee has written to Mayor John Biggs and other senior managers at London Borough of Tower Hamlets to try and understand the Council’s policy and future intentions.
Companies, describing themselves as ‘developers’, have been
targeting the leaseholders, where they are the majority in a block* and
offering to manage the process of buying their freehold from the Council. In exchange for organising this buy-out
process these companies are tying leaseholders to certain obligations, such as
insisting that a building management organisation is set up under their control
and/or giving them the right to build additional properties on the land and/or
building e.g. additional storeys, extensions etc. Leaseholders coming together
to exercise their right to buy their freehold (known as ‘collective
enfranchisement’), if all in agreement would not necessarily cause a problem
but as it has turned out, third-party agreements can create huge issues for
leaseholders and tenants living in a block, particularly when pressurised sales
techniques have led to some leaseholders signing away their rights before
speaking to their neighbours or getting legal advice.
Given that for most leaseholders their home is their
biggest life asset all residents should take extra care if approached by a
third-party advocating for them to buy their freehold on their behalf. The
pitfalls can be huge, including:
Hard sales tactics that put pressure of
leaseholders to sign agreements quickly without a chance to seek expert advice
and speak to their neighbours
Divide and conquer – some residents will be for
it and some against, fault lines can split a community and turn neighbour
Verbal promises that any future major works
costs will be offset by these companies, but then the contract offered stating
that leaseholders will be fully liable for them
Contractual promises can be broken if sold on to
another company. The company you enter into the agreement with can sell it on
and your terms could change
Companies without a strong financial standing
can easily go bust, leaving residents with an uncertain future
any contract or agreement without speaking to a legal professional – Free legal
advice, if you need it, is available locally through St Hilda’s and
nationally via the Citizen’s
your time – This is a huge decision, do not allow offers or hard sales
techniques to rush you
talk to your TRA – we can help you arrange meetings with other residents and
signpost you to expert advice
to your neighbours – do not allow yourself to be divided as a community
council tenants – discuss this with them. Any change of ownership essentially means
they have a new landlord which will have a huge effect on their lives
your research – find out about the company approaching you, look at their
Company’s House filings and find out about their other projects and how they
have gone; understand your rights within
the law; speak to an estate agent about
how this might change the value of your property.
us is you are approached by a third party suggesting you buy your freehold.
* Where at
least two thirds of the property are leaseholders, then as long as a 50% of those
leaseholders agree, it is their right to buy this freehold.
Sivill House has been Grade II listed today following an application by residents wanting to ensure the building’s original design is preserved. The block, on Columbia Road, was designed by leading modernist architects Douglas Bailey, Francis Skinner and Berthold Lubetkin and completed in 1966. Currently undergoing a major works programme, residents have had to fight against Tower Hamlets Homes plans to replace the windows with a new designs that would “destroy the integrity of the composition” of the building as well as other unsympathetic design plans put forward by the management organisation.
The listing application was supported by John Allan (Lubetkin biographer) and the Twentieth Century Society who cited Lubetkin’s “reputation and legacy as one of Britain’s most prominent architects of the C20”, the building’s material palette, its form and plan that “enables light to reach all flats” and its central spiral staircase. They also paid tribute to the success of Sivill House as “gauged by how current residents have sought listing for the block, as well as their ongoing efforts to retain original design features in the face of proposed alterations.”
In their Advice Report, Historic England noted that “As the social housing programme of the post-war years recedes further into the past, the scale and ambition of what was achieved appears increasingly remarkable. Clearly not all of what was built served its cause well, so it is important that those that best did, and which have survived high rates of attrition, are recognised as exemplars in what has proved to be an exceptional period in the history of public housing.”
Kevin McKenna, a Sivill House Resident and Chair of the Columbia Tenants and Residents Association, said, “The listing of Sivill House will protect a building that is incredibly important to all its residents and which is of undoubted architectural merit. Sivill House anchors Lubetkin’s Dorset Estate to Columbia Road and has an important place in the long history of the fight to provide decent homes for ordinary Londoners.”
Mark Sullivan, who made the application on behalf of the Sivill House residents group, said “I have been staggered at the support that this application has generated. Sivill House is clearly valued as much by the general public as it is by those who live in it. I hope that the listing of Sivill House will remind the council that, going forward, it should involve residents in the decisions that it makes, rather than forcing through unnecessary, costly and divisive changes regardless.”
In summarising their decision Historic England went on to say “We have carefully considered the architectural and historic interest of Sivill House, and conclude that the overall composition of this important post-war public building type, its meticulous planning and detailing, and its importance as a late work by Lubetkin, confers special architectural and historic interest.” The full Historic England listing report can be read here.
Columbia Road Flower Market sits at the centre of our community.
It is a colourful, vibrant London market and we are lucky to have it on our doorstep.
The fact that the Covid-19 lockdown, quite rightly, closed the market for so
long jeopardising the livelihoods of the traders, some of whom have owned pitches
for generations, has been a great cause for concern locally.
The Government’s announcement on Sunday 25 May 2020 that outdoor
markets can start to re-open from 1 June 2020 means that Columbia Road Flower
Market may re-open from Sunday 7 June 2020. Given how busy and tightly packed
the market can be on a usual Sunday, we urge the Council and traders to work
together to find a safe solution that allows and enforces social distancing to
safeguard local residents, visitors and traders alike. If no safe solution can
be found then, sadly, we would prefer to see the market stay closed for now.
We await to hear plans for this reopening from representatives of London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
With the announcement that, in light of Covid-19, planning decision meetings will move online a group of interested stakeholder organisations, namely Just Space, CPRE London, Friends of the Earth and London Forum of Amenity and Civic Societies have made a joint statement to highlight the potential risks virtual meetings and closed committees could have on the community’s role in the planning process.
Their review found that Councils are interpreting the new rules in very different ways and that while some are moving their meetings online others are making major planning decisions behind closed doors. They have gone on to call on the Secretary of State and Local Planning Authorities to safeguard the role of local communities in the planning process by asking them to respect six key principles. You can read their entire statement and these six key principals here.
Following this statement and given that we have some important decisions coming up locally, the hotel on Hackney Road for example, Columbia TRA has put it’s name to an email sent by local representative of the Just Space network Lucy Rogers to the Tower Hamlets Planning Committee asking that they respect nine key principles for virtual committees. The full email can be found below. We await a response to this email.
Virtual planning meetings for Tower Hamlets will start on 21 May 2020. Columbia TRA urges residents to attend these virtual meetings from the comfort of their own homes to strengthen local democracy in local planning issues.
Details of this first meeting can be found here the meeting can be accessed here.
You may have noticed that some lovely new notice boards have appeared on our estates. They have been installed at our request and, while we are in lock down and not posting information on meetings, we want to use them to brighten up our estates and thank our key workers. So, and for the time being, we would like to fill the notice boards with rainbows and messages of support.
All kids (under 16s) living on our estates are welcome to enter. All they must do is draw, colour, stick, craft a poster (no bigger than A3) that includes a rainbow and a message to residents and/or key workers. Parents/guardians can then take a photo of the poster and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org by no later than Sunday 3 May 2020 – ***DEADLINE EXTENDED UNTIL THURSDAY 7 MAY 2020*** . The email should include the artist’s name and age and an address of where the poster could be collected from.
The best posters will be collected and placed in our notice
boards and the best three, as judged by the CTRA Committee will receive a small
Advice on Covid-19 in other languages can be found here.
Tower Hamlets Homes has the following advice for residents on their dedicated information page: “If you are self-isolating because of suspected Coronavirus please send us a DM on Twitter or call us on 020 7364 5015 so that we can take appropriate measures in the event that we need to visit your home.”
It is important that, as a community we support neighbours who need to self-isolate. Please consider checking on and offering to shop for older neighbours or those who have underlying health conditions who can’t get out. Don’t forget to avoid close contact if interacting with those who are vulnerable to the virus.
The group has also compiled a list of resources for people to reference during the pandemic. This includes a list of government support lines, emergency support for vulnerable residents, online children’s activities and a list of local businesses providing delivery services – https://weaverswardcovid.org/resources
A local community group has set up a Facebook Group for Tower Hamlets residents looking to help each other out during the Covid-19/corona virus pandemic. It is not a medical advice group. They will be looking to help people access food, complete errands etc – particularly those who are elderly, disabled and/or immunocompromised