Who systematically destroy the remants of East London’s old streets? Tower Hamlets Council
Who do heritage but can’t really manage history? Again, it’s Tower Hamlets Council
Who can’t even manage to do the simplest of jobs properly? Its fucking Tower Hamlets Council.
There’s some tunnels at Bethnal Green. Beneath the overground railway line that goes North of here, or moves on to Hackney. These are dark tunnels: car-lined, unkempt and cold. You better watch you don’t slip in the oily pools around the pavements, the run-off from the boys who fix taxis outside. There’s a whole cottage industry, grown up around the garages underneath these tunnels.
Check it… This, the context or the background
The Tapp Street and Collingwood Road tunnels, that’s what I’m talking about. Both roads go underneath the railway line. Some of the few places it’s ok for the ghosts to reside. Jewish Cemetary on nearby Brady Street. Echoes of the Conscientous Objectors, underneath the rails further down at Vallance Road.
Everything in these tunnels had been left untouched for decades. Every surface genuine. Pristine I tell you. And I walk through twice a day. Tapp Street, that’s my approach.
So what’s going on then? What’s been happ’nin’? I hear you wonder. It’s Change I tell you. Development. The the only reason I’m writing this now.
“Tapp Street is one of the routes regularly used by commuters and school children. It was felt that the dirt, pigeon mess, poor lighting, abandoned vehicles, engine oil, spray cans, half worked on vehicles, drug users and night time prostitution weren’t very pleasant or safe for these users, especially parents and children on their way to school,” said Tower Hamlets Council representative, yesterday.
The council has issued the Tapp Street Consultation Plan (click it) which sets out the works to the street scene of the Tapp Street tunnel: costing the public purse £800,000. And what does this entail? I hear you ask… Well, I’ll show you.
Initially, lines marked out on the old street surfaces.
Road Closed for months.
The cement pavement along either side of the tunnel was torn up so they can lay their ubiquitous concrete pavers…
…safe and clean for every mother and child but frightening and unpleasant for anyone considering prostituting themselves, here.
To narrow the roadway, a wide trench had to be gouged through century-old cobbles, (formerly under cartwheels) on either side of the existing road…
… this is to lay a much wider pavement over. Thus creating a slimmed-down, one lane traffic system.
To do this, they brought a Machine in. Its job is to slice through road surface, regardless. Potential deadly, but in the hands of representatives from Tower Hamlets Council, just how dangerous can it be??!!??!?!?!?
Then they finished the job off by hand.
Now not for one minute am I blaming or criticising these workmen. They worked fucking hard on this job, I know because I was watching them. And we got chatting on a number of mornings. Irish guys. Quite often, they had to work late into the night. And the nights got cold in Whitechapel, in the Winter of ’09.
No, I blame the people at the top. The team of urban designers, working from the urban design office at Tower Hamlets Council Headquarters. It was them who employed the arsenal of hammers, picks and a huge slicing machine to brutalise the dirty scary cobblessstones, which so alarm the parents and children on their way to school. I ask them, WHAT’S WRONG WITH A BIT OF FOREBODING IN THE MORNING??
Yes, it’s the guys at the top who should bear the real guilt. The shame of the filthy squalid mess that was left out for all to see during the re-development. It’s them who are guilty of the needless, aimless guise of the Tapp Street Scheme. The full horror of which should be unfurled unto the public.
Back to work. The pavement-widening scheme obviously have to look new and exciting. So. Old kerbs, many decades older than my presence on this planet, in this material realm, got ripped out to be replaced with the new…
Once they had smashed up and dug out all of the old cobblestones, only then did they bring in so much new granite and begin to lay the base for new paving.
All the time, a lazy and blase approach to the matter in hand. The impetus of this whole scheme: trying to make a bad idea look ok.
Why should a modern child be denied of something dark and mysterious? So, in one of the forgotten corners of my room here, a jar of the mashed up Tapp Street cobble dust. Ready for obeah or someother spellcraft…
All the time, ghosts were passing through. The nature of this labour raises grand questions of permanence and change:
I don’t understand, it this redevelopment anything other than a wound inflicted on this street? Here, very real violence done to these cobblestones.
‘Cause all Tower Hamlets Council want for is to leave a nice shiny clean pavement. The muck of the ages, pressure-hosed away…
It snowed during the project; Tapp Street and the boys working there endured a daily barrage for a number of days:
The whole thing an exercise in subcontracting. Get someone else in to do it cheaper. This in no way, a heartfelt bit of thanks to Riney, who, rather than making them better, are simply leaving a deleterious and negative legacy for the streets they claim to be improving…
Incidentally, a lot of things broke during the course of the works. Here, a water main was burst and the length of the tunnel was flooded for a couple of days. Amid the pain and destruction, the temporary water fountain – photograph below – provided some element of respite and dynamism to a project which was sluggish from the offset.
Well, for a start, there’s sheer quantities of raw materials. Here, for example, we see hundreds of new concrete pavers, tons of sand needed to lay them, shiny new bollards and a large amount of granite kerbing. It’s almost funny, that there is no planning precedent for this choice of raw building trade material. No reason why a new concrete pavement should have anything to do with a brick railway tunnel of this standing. Every single new aspect of the Tapp Street Redevelopment comes straight out of the warehouse, direct from the catalogue.
So. What is the moral of this story? The conclusion to the Tapp Street Scheme??
Well, pedestrians do now have a wider walkway along either side of the tunnel. We now walk on concrete paving slabs, rather than cement. A disabled parking space is now defined and available for passengers looking to travel from Bethnal Green Station. And the route is is now lined with 39 new bollards which prevent any cars from being parked on the pavement.
But make no mistake about it. This is a scheme designed for the car, not the person. The bollards which pock our route aren’t for us – AND YET, WE ARE STILL FORCED TO WALK AROUND THEM!
A one way system. Parking space. All they have left us with is more street clutter. Untidy cement, slathered over century old kerbstones. Black boxes daubed over tags.
So lets get it straight. Tower Hamlets Council waste money. Tower Hamlets Council make it uncomfortable for ghosts. And lastly, Tower Hamlets Council simply don’t care for the streets over which they preside. So, I challenge you, walk through the Tapp Street tunnel and see for yourself, a testimony to the failures of a post-modern, top-down borough in London…
A mother walks through the tunnel on Tapp Street with her young daughter, one morning. The girl drops a toy on the new pavement, laid only two weeks previously. She stops to pick it up as her mother walks on.