Monday, 14 October 2013

Will encouraging personal and corporate responsibility change lower Tower Bridge Road?

Tower Bridge Road: still a no-go area?
As bridges go, Tower Bridge has to be one of the finest in the world!  Built in 1894 by Sir Horace Jones  and viewed by some at the time as controversial, it provides an impressive and truly awesome gateway into the wealth of wonders that Bermondsey SE1 and SE16 has to offer.  Well maintained and efficiently managed, Tower Bridge stands proudly as Bermondsey's flagship piece of British history: hardworking and reliable, open to all with enduring and classic design and loved by the people.  Tower Bridge Road on the other hand is quite a different story - for decades it has not deserved to bask in the reflected glory of its namesake. 
Tower Bridge viewed from The Queen's Walk, More London SE1
Tower Bridge Road stretches across Tooley Street to the junction with Abbey Street, past Grange Road and Bermondsey Street, and comes to an abrupt end at the Bricklayers Arms roundabout.

Until very recently,  journeying southwards along Tower Bridge Road, was a truly harrowing experience, involving a gradual  descent  into a  frighteningly downmarket and squalid quarter of Bermondsey, similar to much of the Old Kent Road: a fried chicken magnate's dream and a planning department's nightmare.

Do we really need another? Why has Southwark Council taken so long to ban them?

A proliferation of fast-food outletssecond-hand clothing stores, supermarkets and fruit and veg vendors;  classically beautiful Victorian and Edwardian shop fronts bastardised by the knowingly reckless addition of garish and ghastly fascias and signs;  the construction of newer buildings that juxtapose disastrously with the architecture of the past; and groups of menacing youths and twenty-somethings 'hanging-out' on street corners, as well as from their sagging jeans.  Yes, the lower section of Tower Bridge Road has become a no-go area not only for locals, but also for the Euro-wielding tourists crossing happily Tower Bridge, only to turn right into the safety of Tooley Street and London Bridge. The challenge has always been how to share their spending-power with Bermondsey's less affluent parts like lower Tower Bridge Road.
Classy? Only a moron would grant planning permission for this!
After decades of needless neglect by Southwark Council, who have historically taken the politically-correct and incorrect view that best we can offer the poorest in society is a life of grit, grime and fly-tipping, Tower Bridge Road is changing - in fact, a miraculous transformation is taking place. 
Over the last few months, a burgeoning movement of residents and small businesses has joined together to fight for a better Tower Bridge Road.  Unlike Southwark Council, it has honestly and openly admitted that there are real problems that need local solutions, and is working to improve the area to make it attractive and inviting once more.  The Tower Bridge Road Alliance is a Community Interest Company, which aims to promote and improve Tower Bridge Road and make it a better place for businesses, residents and visitors.  And under the leadership of Tower Tandoori's Suhel Ahmed, it is beginning to do just that.
What a delight!
Shop fronts are being repainted and in some cases, completely redesigned, using traditional colours and avoiding unnecessarily bright plastic fascias.
This restaurant would not look out of place on Bermondsey Street,  Notting Hill or Fulham
Fast-food-freak-shows are being upstaged by the advent of smarter restaurants offering healthier menus and increased choice. 
Gift and lighting shops offering 'shabby-chic ware' and crystal chandeliers are replacing second-hand charity shops that offer at best tatty clothes and unwanted video tapes.  
This must go!
In fact, the recently opened pawnbrokers that even the Sheriff of Nottingham would be proud of, is beginning to look rather out of place.  Quite how this high-interest charging 'business' ever received planning permission from a council that claims to protect the poor is anyone's guess.  The new TBRA could do us all a favour and prioritise a campaign for its removal. 
Shutters are decorated to improve the image and 'feel' of the road
So, while the London Borough of Southwark had over many years the lowest expectations of local businesses and residents, while instead putting its energies into creating a 'republic' obsessed with political correctness, ideological warfare and pointless party politics, the TBRA is doing what is worryingly unfashionable in the halls of Southwark's City Hall: encouraging businesses and local people to accept personal responsibility for their shops, streets, homes, front doorsteps and actions.  In doing so, they are mirroring the house-proud  working-class folk of long ago who fought for a better Bermondsey.  Good luck TBRA! 
Hoardings are decorated with images of local interest
Twitter: @TowerBridgeRd
Tower Bridge Road Alliance
Suhel Ahmed
74 Tower Bridge Road
Mobile: 07960 001 925