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I saw an eyesore 1: the ugly side of Docklands

PRIVATELY OWNED parts of Tower Hamlets, which like to style themselves as “Docklands” for marketing purposes, present themselves as pristine areas – new and better looking than parts of East London run by public local authoirities.

However, in real life it doesn’t matter who owns an area – it will only look as good as the maintenance you put into it. In some areas, the boundaries between public and private areas are not immediately clear: each owner leaves it to the other one, and the area festers.

This seems to be what has happened in the case of the pedestrian path between 31 Millharbour and a building, just to its north, which houses various operations called “Lantern” – a nursery and a college at least. The area is on the Isle of Dogs, E14.

The western end of the path has been fairly reasonably swept, but the eastern end has collected leaves and empty bottles of alcohol: as if crowds of people were gathering there for frequent parties. There’s also an amount of other general rubbish and some community street art of a phallic nature.

At the eastern end is the “patch of bewildered earth” – the sight which developers would probably say only occurs in areas owned and managed by public bodies. It’s a patch of bare earth which is an unfulfilled planting opportunity: one weed has made a determined attempt to colonise the impacted earth, it’s too windswept to collect much rubbish (though some leaves have collected together to resist the wind) and it signals neglect.

The question is who owns this pathway and who should clear it. This sort of area is the sort of place that charitable trusts and boy scouts go to have a clean up, as they try to do good. For “doing good”, read “replace the public sector”. These occasional clean ups let local authorities, who should be clearing up their own sites and making private owners do so with theirs, off the hook.

Until we find out who is responsible for this area, we are left reminded that the concept of “Docklands” is a very thin veneer which is soon scratched off everyday reality.

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