Triumph of imagination 2: High Street 2012

Moe: Oh, everybody is going to family restaurants these days, tsk. Seems nobody wants to hang out in a dank pit no more.
Carl: You ain't thinking of getting rid of the dank, are you, Moe?
Moe: Ehh, maybe I am.
Carl: Oh, but Moe: the dank. The dank!
- The Simpsons

Brockley resident Ben is a member of the team that is leading the regeneration of some of Tower Hamlets' grottiest stretches of road. He sent us these before and after shots to illustrate what's been achieved.

The project is called High Street 2012 and is designed to spruce up their neighbourhoods ahead of the Olympics. We wrote admiringly of the scheme a while ago, and it has now begun to bear fruit. The Council website explains:

Tower Hamlets Council's High Street 2012 programme is a major regeneration project along the thoroughfare (A11/A118) that links the City of London to the Olympic Park in Stratford - the buildings are the first of around 100 to benefit from the conservation works.

Nick Smales, Head of 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games at Tower Hamlets Council said: "High Street 2012 aims to regenerate of some of the most deprived areas in Tower Hamlets against the backdrop of London 2012. This will help lift up the area, with the benefits lasting for years to come.

“The completion of the first phase of the Historic Building Conservation Scheme is an important step towards realising this vision."

The six rejuvenated buildings (64 - 68 Whitechapel High Street) have seen new shop fronts, repairs to the brickwork and pointing, new windows and the reinstatement of lost architectural features and details. Taking six months to complete, the conservation works cost approximately £460,000.

We've called this a triumph of the imagination, but actually, you don't need to be John Lasseter to see similar potential in Brockley Road and Lewisham Way.

Our high streets are the only public facility that we all use. They make a major contribution to our prosperity and quality of life and well maintained public streets can help attract new investment and even reduce crime.

And yet, too often we accept the crappy status quo as though any other reality is impossible and to hope for better is arriviste social engineering.

But you don't have to go far to see that that these criticisms are nonsense. The parades in Honor Oak and Crofton Park work. They blend the aspirational with the practical, the leisure business with the staple-seller, the restaurant with the takeaway. They've attracted good quality busnesses without alienating any part of the community.

Ladywell Village Improvement Group has made a start with its own plans to improve Ladywell. Piecemeal investment is planned for parts of Brockley Road, but progress is slow and there is no sense of a coherent plan from the Council. To hear that people who know how to make change happen live locally but apply their talents to other parts of the capital is particularly depressing.