Category Archives: WCAG

Joint Statement following the BBC London News Piece on ‘Car Bars’ on the Boundary Estate

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’.

BBC London Special Report on illegal parties in East London – 14 August 2020

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.

/Ends.

This is a joint statement provided by Weavers Community Action Group, Columbia Tenants and Residents Association and Boundary Residents.

Contact vicechair@columbiatra.org.uk for press inquiries.

The Bishopsgate Planning Application – Have Your Say

Whatever the future of the Bishopsgate Goodsyard site, it will have a profound affect on our estates. A revised planning application is in with London Assembly and we urge you to respond.

The Weavers Community Action Group has summarized the application in the document below and included ways to respond. Further information can be found on our campaigns and consultations page.

Mayor John Biggs highlights role Weavers community has played as police drug raids lead to 15 arrests

The Mayor has highlighted the role residents have played in providing information that led to officers storming 19 addresses in Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Havering and 15 arrests on suspicion of supplying class A drugs. The raids specifically targeted dealers who target the Weavers Ward.

Major John Biggs said: “Residents have worked with us to identify where people are peddling drugs, and their insight has delivered dividends.

“We will continue to use our collective powers to enforce against people dealing drugs and to keep our streets safe. This was another excellent result for the borough.”

DCI Mike Hamer, Tower Hamlets Crime, Gangs and Drugs lead, said: “The public can continue to play a very effective role in helping the police”.

Weavers Community Action Group representative Jonathan Moberly said: “This is a really positive step towards tackling a problem that adversely affects Weavers’ residents daily. It is great to see the police and community’s hard work is bearing fruit and we urge local residents affected by drug dealing on the streets to get in touch to find out how they can get involved”.

This story was reported in the East London Advertiser on 14 February 2019 and can be read in full here.  

CTRA residents feature in BBC Inside Out film on drug-related ASB

Gareth Furby, BBC reporter and documentarian has spent time with CTRA residents and members of the Weavers Community Action Group (WCAG) to understand the impact of open drug dealing on our streets for a film piece on BBC’s Inside Out London (aired 14/01/19).

Filmed in late 2018, the piece shows footage of drug deals in progress and highlights work the WCAG has done to draw attention to the problem and organise crowd-sourced evidence gathering for police and other agencies. The film also shows what other Tower Hamlets residents in Wapping are doing to combat ASB in their area.

The film is available here to view in full.

BT InLinks to bar free calls in fight to curb drug dealing on our streets

In recent years, British Telecom and its affiliates have been replacing the traditional red phone boxes on our streets with InLink kiosks. These phone kiosks give users free short phone calls and several have been installed on Bethnal Green Road alone.  Sadly, however it has been obvious to local residents that drug users and dealers have been using these free calls to coordinate deals and drug drops. This has been backed up by police investigative work.

For some time, the Weavers Community Action Group (WCAG), local police and council have been campaigning for British Telecom to stop these free calls and this week we had some good news. InLink has confirmed that, following suggestions from the council and police, from December 6th 2018 it will no longer be possible to make free phone calls to mobile phones from all of the InLinks in Tower Hamlets.

Further information, including a quote from Cllr John Pierce and WCAG’s Jonathan Moberly about this can be found in an article by Engineering and Technology Magazine.

We see this as a positive step towards tackling the issue however, it should be noted that this is only a trial by BT and WCAG’s recent campaign to halt the plan to move the phone box from Hackney Road to Ravenscroft Street has so far been rejected.  There is still much to do.