DEC 97 - CIVILIANS REMEMBERED CAMPAIGN MEETING
On Wednesday 10th. December 97. a Public Meeting of TH 'Planning
& Environment' was held to decide on this issue, the Council appeared
surprised by many strong feelings expressed by the local Community and
Campaigners alike during the heated Meeting, they had hoped for a compromise
between the Developers and Campaigners, but when faced with the Campaigners
staunch refusal to accept nothing less than the whole site for a Memorial
Garden, they dithered and hesitated, to many onlookers, it seemed like
a futile attempt to extracate themselves from any previous commitment they
appeared to have made to 'Berkeley Homes'.
The Councillors showed a marked inability to take a positive decision
one way or another, and pleased neither Campaigners nor Developers.
Local people attending the meeting criticised the Labour administration
for not showing more support for the 'Hermitage Campaign', and, as Chair
of Planning & Environment, Councillor John Biggs reluctantly passed
this dispute over to the Rt Hon. John Prescott, Minister of State for the
Environment, for his early consideration in 1998. .
It appeared to those present, that Tower Hamlet's Council were looking
'to get the best possible compromise'. as Cllr. John Biggs, Chair
of Tower Hamlets 'Planning & Environment' had earlier argued, 'the
site must be made up of predominantly green open space, and up to 80% of
the site should be alotted to environmentally friendly open Parkland, allowing
local people, and visitors alike, to enjoy 24hour access to this stretch
of Wapping's last bit of open Riverside giving excellent views of Tower
Bridge. he hoped that the remaining part of this site would then become
a living Memorial to the Civilians who lost their lives in World WarTwo.
But Marianne Fredericks leading the Civilians remembered Campaigners said
that the Government Inquiry set up under the previous Govt. had already
conceded their argument for the whole site to be turned over to Campaigners
for a Memorial Garden to those brave Civilians.
On Friday February 20th 1998 the Council Body decided to defer any
decisions on the site while coming under some pressure from Civilians remembered
Campaigners to do so, there will shortly be a second Govt. Inquiry over
this matter, and Campaigners will have an opportunity to voice their strong
objections to Berkeley Homes Development plan.
On Tuesday March 3rd 1998 the Government Inquiry into the Hermitage
dispute opened promptly at 10am at the Council's building 255 Cambridge
Heath Road, after all sides had made their contributions, a decision was
agreed to defer the Inquiry until 10am April 21st at the Tower Hamlet's
Town Hall, Mulberry Place, E14, but the second Inquiry was later quashed
UDP DECISION POSTPONED BY COUNCIL
At 6.30pm on Monday March 9th 1998 a Meeting convened by the Planning & Environment Committee of TH Council to discuss the Unitary Development Plan broke down into farce after deliberations of over two hours.
Chair of the Council John Biggs was sprayed with shaving soap after suddenly calling a halt to the Meeting. Once again the Council was unable to take a decision on the Unitary Development Plan, despite pleas by Councillor Maxwell to have it ammended on the night, and its deferral serves the interests of no party to the dispute.
This Civilians Remembered Campaign revealed strong emotions among local people attending, some have lost members of their own families during the last War, nevertheless this Campaign should be careful not to allow emotional displays to take over from, what to-date has been a dignified and just Campaign.
Despite many pleas to our local Councillors, their support was lacking when the people needed it most, on the contrary, they appeared to ignore strong Public feeling and support for a Wapping memorial, and also the conclusions of the previous Government Inquiry that had ruled in favour of Campaigners, sadly our Councillors had embarked on an unpopular course of action regarding the Hermitage Site.
Councillor John Biggs the Chair of Planning & Environment, seemed unable or unwilling to extracate himself from previous commitments that appear to have been made, we therefore conclude that unless their is a dramatic reversal of policy by the Council, an appalling decision would have been taken by a Labour Administration, in a Labour Borough where Clement Atlee's statue still proudly stands.
"We must not deny Generations to come their right to an historic landmark of the War in order that they can be vigilant in the future, they must know why this Nation went to War, and why so many people were prepared to sacrifice their lives in defence of Democracy, Freedom and Justice, that is what makes the Civilians Remembered Campaign really special" said an elderly Gentleman.
He continued, "The great Labour leader Clement Attlee would turn in his grave if he knew that a Labour Council was about to turn its back on its local heroes, many had died in defence of principals that Councillors themselves would claim to uphold, so we shall see if they do shortly"...........
LOCALS MEET OONA KING MP
Oona King MP and local Labour Councillors were exposed to a barrage of Public heckling at the Hermitage School on Thursday April 23rd 1998 at 7.30pm where they met to defend a decision regarding the 'Hermitage site'.
The medium sized hall was filled to the brim with seething East Enders who felt they had been badly let down by their Labour Councillors, and many threatened not to vote for them in the May Elections unless they reversed their decision in favour of Berkeley Homes Developers.
Oona King MP came to defend her position regarding the CR Campaign which she 'had supported from the start', She had personally contacted the Prime Minister and Deputy leader, John Prescott, what more could she have done? Oona received a sympathetic hearing, but, as far as the Leader of the Council and the Chair of Planning and Environment were concerned, they had a much harder task to convince the Public that they were acting in the best interests of the people.
The Meeting was heated and showed how ordinary people feel so strongly about this Memorial for fallen civilians, it continued well into the night, but most people stayed until the very end, although they were unable to resolve much other than put forward very positive suggestions to the Councillors.
The following Day, Friday April 24th at 6.30, Councillors met to resolve this Hermitage debacle having drawn conclusions from the previous evening's Meeting, with Elections only a short time away, the full Planning and Environment Committee chaired by Councillor John Biggs gathered once more at the Town Hall, to review previous decisions taken regarding the disputed site, they were under no illusions having experienced the strong Public anger expressed the evening before in a crowded hall.
Almost immediately, Councillor Robert Maxwell, who will not be standing in May's election, moved that a vote should be taken to re-designate this important Site, and this was carried by Seven votes to Five, a cheer went up from the Public attending the Meeting, Hermitage Campaigners have won an important victory and people power is alive and well in Tower Hamlets.
COUNCIL OFFER NEW COMPROMISE
On August 24th 1998. Councillors voted nine to six to grant planning approval for the Hermitage Riverside Development in Wapping.
A joint proposal was tabled by the Council and Berkeley Developers, to increase the amount of open space available to 2.2 acres and extend the jetty, and an offer of £1 million towards the memorial to the Nation's fallen, but this was met with heckling from the Public.
Councillor Stephen Wright said, he expects another £1 million to be added to this from the lottery fund. 'Civilians Remembered Campaigners' were lukewarm towards this proposal, but it did seem there was little more the Council were able or willing to do in order to win back the many friends and supporters they had lost due to their bad handling of this affair and a surprising failure to recognise early on, the strong Public feeling and support for the civilians Memorial on Wapping's Hermitage site.
On Wednesday January 20th 1999 after a number of unproductive Meetings with the Council and developers, the Civilians Remembered Campaign Members convened at 'St Peter's' Church Hall, Wapping, to dicuss a deal agreed with the Council and developers 'Berkeley Homes', being that 'C R C' would be given the opportunity to try and raise around £12 Million through a Lottery Commission application, and also apply to selected Trusts for funds towards buying the entire site at 'Hermitage' so as to create a Civilians Civilians War Memorial and rememberance garden befitting those resolute people of London who lost their lives during World War Two.
LATEST NEWS MARCH 99
The piece of Land known as Hermitage has failed to win a Lottery award grant to create a 'Civilians Remembered' War Memorial and Garden there in Wapping. The East London Campaigners applied to raise £13 Million to buy the site from the developers but were sadly turned down by the Lottery Commission, so where can this project go from here?
INTO A NEW MILLENNIUM
We are now into a new Millennium, and during 1999, Berkeley went ahead with a Plan agreed by the Council, and reluctantly, by 'Civilians remembered' campaigners, the new Berkeley Development is now reaching completion and their Sale office is open for business, in the meantime another London Civilians War Memorial was unveiled by HM the Queen Mother at St Pauls and is attracting the attention of many visitors, so something good has come from the campaign for a Civilians Remembered Memorial, be it at St Paul's Cathedral more than half a Century later, so far the Campaign has not been in vain. Latest Update continued
THE HOUSE OF COMMONS DEBATE on The Memorial
(reproduced from 'Hansard' 1998)