TfL have made a number of commitments to address the “Wapping Lock-In” phenomenon, after local Liberal Democrats raised concerns alongside residents.
Wapping has suffered three consecutive lock-ins this Summer due to sporting events. All sides agree that these events are great for London, but Wapping residents have felt increasingly angry at being cut off from the city and “locked in” for large chunks of time.
Liberal Democrat Assembly Member and Deputy Chair of the Transport Committee, Caroline Pidgeon, facilitated the meeting. The team secured commitments from TfL to:
Examine whether a sporting event can be moved away from the Highway if it would otherwise be closed on consecutive weekends
Modelling what the impact would be if certain events were moved away from The Highway
Reviewing what happened with the IAAF communications that led to huge confusion amongst residents and businesses about whether the Highway was open or not
Ensuring communications are clear about what event is causing the closure on what date
Review whether the Local Access Points put along the route so that emergency services vehicles can gain access, could be opened up to allow residents to use their vehicles
Caroline Pidgeon will also submit a question to London Mayor Sadiq Khan about whether the impact on areas such as Wapping and the Isle of Dogs that end up “locked in” with these events, is taken into consideration when deciding which events to host and bid for.
Local Liberal Democrat campaigner Stephen O’Shea, said: “After a great deal of frustration by local residents, it’s great that we now have commitments to action. The key test will be whether this turns into a joined-up approach from next year. We will be watching this very closely and holding TfL to account.”
Elaine Bagshaw, Parliamentary Spokesperson for Poplar & Limehouse, said: “It’s great that we’ve been able to make progress on this with TfL, and that local residents had the opportunity to raise their issues directly with the people responsible for these events. This meeting only took an hour to hold and a few emails to arrange. How is it I can do this around a full-time job, yet our local Assembly member, Unmesh Desai, can’t? This is another example of local Labour representatives letting us down.”
Candidate Elaine Bagshaw and Tower Hamlets Lib Dems are cheering their result in Poplar & Limehouse; an area Labour has held since the 1920’s and one which incumbent Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick has represented for 20 years. Bagshaw was the only challenger from another party that saw her vote share increase since the last General Election--capturing a total of 3959 votes--close to double the Lib Dem constituency result just two years ago and leapfrogging locally over the Greens and UKIP, while also beating controversial independent Oliur Rahman. Bagshaw says the result is a signal that more people are looking to the Lib Dems as a credible alternative in borough politics.
“We heard from a lot of people who feel let down by Labour, who take this constituency for granted as a ‘safe seat’, and ignore a lot of problems. Tower Hamlets has a 49% child poverty rate; the highest in the country, despite Labour having had a very free hand for years to do something about it. Our showing today sends a simple message, more and more voters in Poplar & Limehouse want and expect results--and they’re slowly turning to us.”
Bagshaw is a seasoned campaigner who also ran as the Lib Dem candidate for the area in the 2015 General Election, where she came fifth. Since then, local membership has increased by around 600 people to 730, which Bagshaw says was instrumental in her performance and leaves the local party well-placed to fight a likely by-election in St. Katharine’s and Wapping, following Conservative Councillor Julia Dockerill’s win in the Hornchurch and Upminster constituency, andon to local elections next year.
“We built this local party from the ground up and the growth has been simply amazing in the last two years,” Bagshaw says. “Our prospective by-election candidate, Stephen O’Shea, is already a dedicated campaigner for St. Katharine’s and Wapping.We’re energized by this result and are going to keep working hard to get great local results for people living in Tower Hamlets, while continuing to stand up for a Britain that is open, tolerant, and united.”
Lib Dem parliamentary candidates are calling for a more coordinated response to crime and antisocial behaviour between police, housing managers, and Tower Hamlets Borough Council.
“This borough has some of the worst antisocial behaviour in London,” says Poplar & Limehouse candidate Elaine Bagshaw. “We’re hearing about incidents happening almost daily and the problem is largely being ignored. It’s so bad that many residents are thinking of moving away from their homes.”
Lib Dem canvassers say they’ve been hearing about how severe the problem is all over the borough and have launched a petition to Eastend Homes in Island Gardens to provide adequate security to residents. Stephen O’Shea, who was recently selected to stand as the prospective Lib Dem candidate in a possible council by-election in St. Katharine’s & Wapping, met with Wapping police and local residents last week. They spoke of drivers racing their cars around the area, putting local people at risk.
“The problem of overstretched police resources in Tower Hamlets has left the car racing problem in Wapping to grow,” O’Shea says. “We have residents who are afraid to go out at night to walk their dogs.”
“This is a top local priority--and it’s something I will continue to work on whether or not I’m elected as a Member of Parliament,” says Bagshaw. “We cannot wait to act until out of control car racing leaves someone seriously injured or killed. That’s why we need a properly coordinated plan to tackle antisocial behaviour here and fulfill the job of seeing to resident safety.”
The Island Gardens petition referred to in this article can be found here: http://www.towerhamletslibdems.org.uk/asb_island_gardens
Poplar & Limehouse Liberal Democrat candidate, Elaine Bagshaw, says Labour politicians representing Tower Hamlets aren’t planning for the potential impact of Brexit, pointing to the loss of two European Union agencies based at Canary Wharf as just the start of a wider exit from the borough of Tower Hamlets.
Bagshaw met with staffers at both the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority last week. Together, the EMA and EBA employ around 1,000 people and spend around 90 percent of their budgets within Britain. Scientific, and other visits to the EMA, account for around 30,000 hotel nights a year, boosting local business and jobs. Post-Brexit, these agencies and jobs will leave Canary Wharf for new bases in EU countries.
“We have an incumbent Labour MP who has said that Brexit is ‘done and dusted’ at a time when negotiations haven’t started; Britain hasn’t felt the full consequences of leaving the Single Market, and EU agencies that help support our local economy haven’t left yet,” Bagshaw says. “Liberal Democrats fought to have a Brexit impact committee set up on Tower Hamlets Council to help address this lack of due attention.
“With their twin stances on leaving the Single Market, Labour cannot any longer call themselves the party of jobs any more than the Tories can call themselves the party of business,” she says. “The agencies’ departure gives us but a preview of the damage that Hard Brexit is doing to both businesses and jobs. That’s why the Liberal Democrats will continue to support remaining in the Single Market.”
Local Liberal Democrats say they’re encouraged by a letter from over 50 business leaders to the Times newspaper last week backing the party’s candidates over their stance on keeping Britain in the Single Market and Customs Union. Poplar & Limehouse’s Lib Dem candidate, Elaine Bagshaw, says it’s particularly critical for a constituency that hosts everything from successful start-ups to large multinationals in Canary Wharf.
“The letter is both a welcome endorsement, but a dire warning, too,” says Bagshaw. “We’re happy to have the leaders of so many successful British businesses behind our campaign, but they’ve also reminded us how the consequences of leaving the Single Market are very real. Once again, we have another Tory policy - supported by our incumbent Labour MP in his Article 50 vote - that will hit Poplar & Limehouse even harder than the rest of the country, despite more than two-thirds of Tower Hamlets having voted Remain.”
The letter endorses the Liberal Democrats as “the only party speaking for business and the majority of Britons on the key issue at this election.” The business leaders go on to warn that it is not possible to have a ‘Hard Brexit’ and a strong economy at the same time.