Wapping traders speak out against high street closures as further measures are flagged

Traders in Wapping are worried about their businesses. Pic: Vimeo

Businesses in Wapping say they have seen a drop in trade after restrictions stopping all traffic apart from buses on the High Street during morning and afternoon peak hours were introduced last year as part of a council scheme.

Traders last week spoke out about the Liveable Streets programme after the council announced the area was receiving a further £1.1 million investment to make walking, cycling and public transport access easier and safer.

The bus gateway, which has been installed on an 18-month basis, restricts traffic on weekdays from 5:30am to 10:30am and from 4pm to 7pm on Wapping High Street between Sampson Street and Knighten Street, allowing only buses and bicycles to pass through. There are also no exemptions for residents or taxis.

Local businesses are worried about their survival, as they say they have lost many customers since the bus gate was installed in November 2019. It was introduced to improve safety and reduce noise, air pollution, and the number of people who drive through Wapping at busy times of the day in order to avoid traffic on the main roads.

The bus gate on Wapping High Street is in operation during peak hours on weekdays. Pic: Rebecca Huber

Kieran Patel, the owner of Wapping Post Office, told EastLondonLines: “Business-wise we have lost quite a few customers, we’ve seen a drop in trade as well. There are not as many people coming into the post office as they used to.

“Before the bus gate we had people passing through here, and they used to stop and come into the shops. 

“I’m sure everyone around here feels the same and have seen a decrease in their trade as well.”

When it comes to improving the area in general, he says: “I’m all for it, everyone wants to live in a good environment, but as long as it doesn’t affect the local communities. Because when one of these shops goes, you lose a little community, and people will start disappearing, and eventually it will become dead.

“Maybe the residents were the ones who wanted the bus gate, but if a couple of shops disappear from here, they will be the first ones to grumble and complain.”

Holly Spencer, who works at The Parlour, a beauty salon on Wapping High Street, told EastLondonLines: “If they’re going to do something silly like that, it’s going to affect a lot of businesses, and Wapping hasn’t got a lot of businesses. We’re lucky that we’re the only beautician in the area, but for bakers and other little shops, it’s hard.

“I’m not a fan of the bus gate, I don’t think anyone in here is really. Locals that I know, I haven’t heard them say a good word about it.”

Labour councilor Abdal Ullah told EastLondonLines: “It’s the mayor’s decision, and we’ll have to wait and see what the outcome is when the trial comes to an end.

“I look forward to seeing the final result from the offices and consultants about the bus gate, but it’s been a mixed reaction. I think generally a lot of people were unhappy, but some people have come back and said the High Street is much safer in the morning for children.

“You can never make everybody happy, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”

The bus gate restricts traffic on Wapping High Street between Sampson Street and Knighten Street. Pic: Tower Hamlets Press Release

It has also been criticised that the bus gate isn’t actually a physical ‘gate’, and the only indications that there is a restriction are signs, which drivers often don’t see. 

Automatic plate recognition cameras have been installed, and drivers that go through the bus gate have to pay fines of £130. 

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “This is the latest area to benefit from our Liveable Streets investment which aims to make it easier, safer, and more convenient to get around by foot, bike and public transport. We also want to reduce the number of people making rat runs and shortcuts through Wapping.”

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