Saturday, June 24, 2006

To gate or not to gate?

Currently work is going on at the entrance to this residential complex to add a fence and gate across the road. (You can see the area on this map.) When completed it will be hard to access the complex without keys.

And I keep wondering if turning this place into a gated community is really such a good idea.

Despite all the recent media coverage of recent events (which frankly took place nearer to Upton Park than to the centre of Forest Gate) this isn't an area I've ever felt unsafe in. A few kids may play games in the car park at the end of Post Office Approach (not actually shown on the map) but they've never been a problem. If there is a problem with car park access, it's with people who use it as a free carpark for the shops on Woodgrange Road. But restoring the old car barrier that used to be here would deal with that. From a practical point of view there is a danger that a gate and fence will make it harder for couriers to deliver (they already have problems as there's no reception or letter box at the exterior) and possibly make it difficult for people to visit (or conversely put the entry phone far closer to the street than it is now).

But far more substantial is the question of the effect that gating up residential areas can have. There are approximately three hundred rooms in the two buildings here, containing many nurses, teachers, students, engineers and other key workers. Now many don't work/study in Forest Gate itself (we have very good transport links here as well as being next to Stratford) but do still shop locally, get local takeaways, go for walks on Wanstead Flats, worship and so forth. Will all this end if a fence is put up over the entrance to here? Of course it won't. But gating off the complex will slowly change the mentality. It won't be a true gated community as we lack the facilities and amenities this side of the gate that keep many behind fences. But with more and more stores and takeaways offering delivery services, plus the slow gentrification that the Olympics is going to bring to the area, there will be less and less reason for people to go out in the local area (even just on the north side of the Romford Road - and that's not a frivilous distinction) and become ever more withdrawn. It doesn't help any society to have large portions of the population sealed off.

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