Thursday, 18 February 2010

Brick Lane Arches

This week has seen much media coverage and general outrage on the proposed plans for the Brick Lane arches. There is still time to send in letters to Tower Hamlets council - the deadline is Monday 22 February. There is also an open committee meeting scheduled to take place on Wednesday 3 March at Tower Hamlets offices. 

Here are the references  and weblinks for each of the arches:

PA/09/02067 - Location between 120 - 118 Bethnal Green Road (northern end of Brick Lane)

PA/09/02082 - Location between 74 Whitechapel High Street and 1 Whitechapel Road (Osborne Street proposal)  (southern end of Brick Lane)

The Media Coverage:
Evening Standard



This is the letter that Open Shoreditch has already sent to Tower Hamlets: 
Dear Sirs


We write in respect of the above applications for steel arches to be erected at both ends of Brick Lane.

We reiterate our objections to these applications which show a complete failure of understanding of the complexity of the cultures in the Brick Lane area, as well as being a complete waste of public money which could and should be spent locally in better ways.

Brick Lane is a narrow street which currently suffers from a considerable amount of clutter and inadequately-organised problems like rubbish bins, while having little or no functional way-finding signage or other information to help visitors navigate their way around, let alone good quality public realm treatment to the streets and footpaths north of the Bethnal Green Rd intersection.

The proposed arches will not help any of these problems but rather contribute to the existing clutter problems, adding yet another obstacle to be negotiated around. The simplistic notion that a ‘gateway’ location needs a literal expression of ‘gatewayness’ shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how cities work, what makes an attractive sense of place and how to best support local communities.

The Brick Lane area (including Spitalfields Market, Columbia Road Market, the Redchurch Street gallery areas and the pedestrian routes between these centres of activity) is currently a mess of different street treatments, poor footpaths, inappropriate barriers, inadequate signage and a total lack of joined-up thinking, as well as empty sites around and including the Bishopsgate Goodsyard which could be temporarily used to accommodate compatible activities.

We agree that there is a need and opportunity for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to spend some money on the broader Brick Lane area but it should be spent on initiatives that look at strategic design issues as well as support connections and integrate movement routes. For instance, a consistently paved and well-signed footpath between Brick Lane and Columbia Road, with the physical barriers removed and simple signage so visitors can easily find their way between these two centres, would be a huge improvement to the area and benefit to visitors. A ‘canopy/gateway’ will not help this problem but will create an additional barrier.

The use of a ‘hijab’ style image for arches is ill conceived and patronising to the Bangladeshi community while failing to recognise other groups who live and work in the area. The area has a large number of artists and other creative communities who should be involved and consulted in any local artistic expression.

Most importantly, however, the Brick Lane area has major strategic issues which should be urgently addressed by the ‘canopy’ budget money rather than the council throwing the money away on such unwanted objects. OPEN Shoreditch has been lobbying for sometime for a community master planning exercise to be carried out for the area in order to create a coherent vision which would include not only what could be built on the Bishopsgate Goodsyard and other development sites in the area, but also discuss the kind of street structures (if any) and public realm treatments that could support the positive and inclusive development of our local area. London Borough of Tower Hamlets should be putting money into this process, not wasting funds on pointless arches.

We again object to the applications in the strongest possible terms.

Yours sincerely,

for and on behalf of
OPEN Shoreditch

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