More than 1,200 residents in the Bethnal Green area have signed an open letter criticising their local councillors for failing to support them in a consultation over the controversial Liveable Streets consultation.
Councillors Kevin Brady, Tarik Khan, John Pierce, Abdul Mukit and Gabriela Salva-Macallan who represent St. Peters and Weavers Ward are said to have failed to support the residents in their claims in discrimination against Tower Hamlets council.
The residents say the councillors should resign the Labour whip over Liveable Streets.
Liveable Streets is a multi-million-pound public space improvement programme in Tower Hamlets. The council say the proposals will help improve road safety, public spaces, air quality and give the streets back to the residents. However, to achieve this some local residents who want to drive say they may have to travel longer distances.
One local resident who signed the letter, Paula Redmond, 31, a nurse, told ELL: “The letter emphasises important things we need to fix as a community and so we must stand against the Liveable Streets scheme. I think the letter touched upon great points but should have also spoken more about violence within the area and that’s something the local council has yet to fix….my area has turned into a nightmare; my children are not allowed to leave the house in the evening due to the amount of rising crime.”
Numerous residents in the area have also criticised the scheme due to the increase of crime rates within their community, closing roads for the ‘residents’ to have more walk space, will lead to road segregation, becoming ideal places for drug dealing.
One local corner shop owner, who asked not to use his name, told ELL: “I don’t agree with the scheme as I don’t think closing roads will better the community. I think it will be more chaotic and it’ll only bring youngsters to chill on streets…. I on the daily have issues of bad kids hanging outside my shop doing bad things. I am constantly calling police to get them away from my shop but an hour later they will be back around the corner again, some people are afraid to come into my shop and this has hugely impacted my business.”
The letter claims that the residents of Bethnal Green were misled by their local councillors. In particular, they say Councillor Tarik Khan, should publicly apologise for misleading/ congregations in local mosques, encouraging them to object -only to find those objections put aside and Khan actually supporting the scheme.
The letter also asks the council to take account of the working-class history and heritage in the area. The letter adds that residents wanted to publicly challenge the narrative- that BAME people do not care about climate change or are bad parents who do not care about their children’s health. They claim this narrative has been supported by Councillor Pierce and Brady on social media in various public statements.
Finally, if current road changes are to proceed, a new consultation must be run by a qualified group fully independent of Tower Hamlets Council and any design company appointed by them, argues the letter. The group must also have experience of working with diverse and disadvantaged communities and before any new consultation, an Equality Impact Assessment to be carried out.
Kerry Sweetman 41, local resident who commented on a Facebook discussion about the letter, told ELL: “We are very worried that the traffic will not be reduced with these measures, just pushed elsewhere in the surrounding area. It’s impossible to get rid of the traffic that comes through here, being so close to the motorway, Blackwall and Rotherhithe tunnels.”
Tower Hamlets council have been approached for comment but did not respond. Eastlondonlines has also been unable to establish the originator of the letter.
Councillor Kevin Brady however, said the letter was very misleading. He told ELL: “The letter contains a number of false statements and inaccuracies about the Liveable Streets scheme. The letter does not verify the identify or home address of any respondents. It should also be pointed out that Equality Impact Assessments have been completed for all approved schemes and when changes are made to them following feedback.”
He added, “I can also tell you that anecdotally I have been contacted by far more residents who are supportive than against. We will continue to listen to all the feedback we’ve received, including from those opposed, and make changes as and when there needs to be.”
“My colleagues and I are very proud to have taken these measures to improve air quality and return our streets to the residents rather than those cars using them to rat-run.”
All the other councillors did not respond to requests for comment on the letter.