Petition launched to open up the Thames for a walk on the river side
- Credit: Dan McCurry
A petition to open up the Thames waterfront so people can follow the river from Tower Bridge along Wapping and right around the Isle of Dogs has been launched this week.
The campaign is even calling for walkways on stilts on the river itself in places which are blocked by wharves and housing development - an idea which is already being carried out in other cities around the world, such as Philadelphia.
The online petition drawn up by lawyer Dan McCurry on the 38 Degrees platform calls on the waterfront to be declared an official regeneration scheme to get powers of compulsory purchase on properties standing in the way if needed.
Dan was fed up of not being able to walk along the foreshore because of gates and barriers to private property preventing access to what he feels should be an open public amenity.
"Both sides of the river should have access, right down to the estuary,” he told the East London Advertiser. "But there are private developments and industrial buildings that block the path."
The 55-year-old solicitor from Bow has identified developments that bring the unsuspecting pedestrian or cyclist to a halt.
"One stretch of property on the Isle of Dogs takes up only 15ft of land," he points out. "But you have to walk half a mile to get around it."
The opportunity to open a Thames path around the Isle of Dogs and along Limehouse and Wapping towards the Tower of London was lost when much of the waterfront was redeveloped by the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) in the 1980s.
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Campaigner Steve Stride, chief executive of housing and regeneration community association Poplar Harca, said: "The LDDC which was in charge of planning back then didn't realise how important the river was to the wellbeing of the people of east London.
"It's important now to open up the river. We need to get these barriers removed to get access all along the Thames."
Planning decisions were outside Tower Hamlets Council's control at the time, when the Docklands enterprise zone was created.
Tower Hamlets councillor Ehtasham Haque acknowledged the authorities of the day missed a once-in-a-generation window of opportunity.
"We should have been more considerate," he said. "We could have saved the river path. Everyone should be allowed to walk here, not just the privileged few who have managed to buy a house by the river. The view belongs to everyone."
He often takes a stroll down to the foreshore at the few spots where you can get access.
"It's like being in another world," he said. "There are little bits of the past along the foreshore. Everyone should be allowed to walk here."
The campaigners have a steering committee which is planning a series of events to gather public support.
The London Assembly's Unmesh Desai, who represents east London at City Hall, backed them with a publicity walk in Shadwell where you can just about reach the river.
He said: "I say, let's reclaim our river."
Community groups have come on board and are calling for east London's heritage to be protected with public access.
Amanda Day from the Turk's Head Charity in Wapping said: "We need the Thames path to see the river that made London. None of us would be here without the Thames."