Too many skyscrapers, so Isle of Dogs to tell Treasury Secretary ‘Stop! We’ve had enough’
PUBLISHED: 14:04 12 February 2017 | UPDATED: 20:50 14 February 2017
A corner of London’s East End with its crammed population set to treble in the next 10 years with yet more tower blocks packed into its two square miles is telling the Government “enough is enough”.
The people of the Isle of Dogs have invited the Treasury Secretary tomorrow to see for himself the impact continued planning applications for skyscrapers is having on their over-stretched community.
The government had “no idea” that developers were cramming so much into The Island, hemmed in by Canary Wharf and the loop in the Thames.
The Isle of Dogs has only two roads on and off, one foot tunnel under the river and an overcrowded DLR branch line linking it to the rest of London.
Yet the 40,000 population already living there is set to rocket to 100,000 by 2027—with no improved infrastructure on the drawing board such as enough schools, GP surgeries, mains utilities and sewers to cope, Treasury Chief Secretary David Gauke will be told on his walkabout tour.
Mr Gauke is being shown round by the Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Forum to see for himself how planning guidelines have become ineffective in protecting quality of life.
“He’ll be surprised at the scale of the development,” Forum chairman Richard Horwood told the East London Advertiser.
“The Government had no idea that the Isle of Dogs was being turned into a massive residential neighbourhood, more dense than Manhatten—it’s going to be ‘Hong Kong in East London’, but without the infrastructure to support it.”
The mayor of Tower Hamlets pledged at a packed public meeting at Jack Dash House community centre on Wednesday to tell the government that “enough is enough” and is calling for immediate Whitehall funding.
He told the meeting: “There are already another 23,000 new homes committed, so the Genie is out of the bottle.
“I’m happy to lead a protest on this—I have to tell the Mayor of London that we’ve had enough on the Isle of Dogs.”
Mayor Biggs warned defiantly: “You might fear the Isle of Dogs will be full of 50-storey towers from Canary Wharf all the way down to Island Gardens—that simply won’t happen.
“The message to the Government is that we’re happy that other areas of London should have high density development, to take the pressure off the Isle of Dogs.”
One example of “over development” is the go-ahead for yet more tower blocks at South Quay, for another 1,000 residents each, with the 4,000 already living there set to rise to 40,000 at Marsh Wall alone—but without better services to support that expansion.
Isle of Dogs councillor Andrew Wood, the Forum’s founding secretary, told the Jack Dash House meeting: “The Island is the densest, fastest-growing place in the whole of Western Europe. But we don’t have the luxury of saying ‘stop!’
“We’ve allowed 10,000 homes which the GLA asked us for in 2008—now we’re way beyond that, building more homes than anywhere else in the UK in a very small area.”
More than 50 people were turned away at the door because Jack Dash House was full to capacity.
“We could have filled this place twice over,” Cllr Wood added. “This shows on a cold February night how passionate the community is about these issues.”
Opposition Tory Leader Peter Golds, another Isle of Dogs councillor, attacked the Labour council’s own planning committee for having passed so many development schemes without improving services.
“There is only one road on and one road off ‘The Island’,” he pointed out. “Anyone who wants to get a bus in the morning finds they are already packed. You cannot get on the DLR trains.
“We must say ‘enough is enough’. The Island cannot take it.”
He added: “But at least Mayor Biggs is listening and has the guts to come down here—his predecessor didn’t even know where The Island was!”
There was laughter when Isle of Dogs councillor Candida Ronald told the meeting that City Hall “had a slide showing the Greenwich Foot Tunnel was a nice way for people to get around”.
She added: “But there’s no sign for how the DLR will be expanded and no sign of how cars can get on and off The Island—they should make sensible decisions and stop concreting over our homes.”
The message from Isle of Dogs Forum chairman Richard Horwood to the Treasury Minister on his visit tomorrow is that the Government has to invest at national level because the island’s infrastructure needs “outstrips the pockets” of the local authority and the developers.
“We’re not ‘nimbys’ saying don’t develop The Island,” he will tell the Minister. “There are many abandoned sites that can be used and we like the idea of more retail and leisure facilities that come with development.
“But we need the Government to recognise that a lot of the Infrastructure Fund they’ve announced has to be spent on the Isle of Dogs, because this is where we’re having the densest development anywhere in Western Europe.”
But all this is nothing new to the beleaguered community. Rebel Tower Hamlets councillor Ted Johns back in 1970 famously blocked off the two roads leading onto the Isle of Dogs and the Millwall Docks in a mass protest and declared it “independent” from the rest of London for two hours.