£1bn funding gap for mains and drains hits Isle of Dogs new developments as public examination looms

PUBLISHED: 18:00 02 May 2018 | UPDATED: 08:50 03 May 2018

Funding crisis for mains and drains for new developments... where's the cash coming from? Picture source: Neighbourhood Planning Forum

Funding crisis for mains and drains for new developments... where's the cash coming from? Picture source: Neighbourhood Planning Forum

IoD Neighbourhood Planning Forum

A cliff-edge gap of almost £1 billion has opened up in funding that’s needed to sort out gas and water mains, drainage and sewers for major schemes already given the go-ahead by Tower Hamlets Council or the GLA, it has emerged.

Major new developments are leading to funding crisis to pay for gas and water mains and drainage. Picture source: Neighbourhood Planning ForumMajor new developments are leading to funding crisis to pay for gas and water mains and drainage. Picture source: Neighbourhood Planning Forum

The shock figure comes in the council’s Infrastructure Delivery Plan completed in October, the East London Advertiser has learned.

The Plan uses figures from City Hall’s draft Development Infrastructure Funding Study for the Isle of Dogs and South Poplar which has so far been left out of public scrutiny by the GLA which pulls the strings on London’s strategic development.

The shortfall is likely to cause a storm at the Public Examination hearing into the Isle of Dogs’ Neighbourhood Plan on May 10, with the Tower Hamlets figures showing an embarrassing £889.4 million shortfall.

Campaigners have been calling for tougher planning law for at least three years to make it illegal for the local authority or for City Hall to give the green light to lucrative housing schemes without first getting developers to pay for the infrastructure needed.

The previous Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, overruled Tower Hamlets several times to push major developments through, including skyscrapers on the Isle of Dogs as well as the London Wool Exchange and Blossom Street developments in Spitalfields—and almost succeeding with the massive Bishopsgate goodsyard scheme before leaving office in 2016.

But pressure on gas and water mains and other public services like transport continues with the current London mayor Sadiq Khan’s push for more housing.

This has led to plans to double the size of one controversial housing scheme on the 15-acre Westferry Printworks site from 700 homes to 1,500 by increasing the five tower blocks, already given planning permission, to reach 19 and 46 storeys instead of the agreed eight and 30 storeys and to add a sixth tower.

This scheme came under fire at hustings by candidates for Tower Hamlets mayor in tomorrow’s local election.

The Westferry site developers are responding to City Hall’s London Plan which earmarks Tower Hamlets to have 3,500 new homes every year, part of the 65,000 targeted annually across Greater London.

There are 10 major developments planned or under way on the Isle of Dogs alone which Thames Water warns will be too much for the mains network to cope—first revealed in the Advertiser on April 3. Its findings are being submitted to the May 10 Neighbourhood Plan public examination being held at Millwall’s Jack Dash House.

Population on the Isle of Dogs is set to rise by another 40,000 in the next 15 years, adding fears that public services won’t cope. This includes worries about public transport, with the Isle of Dogs connected to the rest of London by just the overcrowded DLR and Jubilee lines, two road bridges and the Greenwich foot tunnel.

The council study into the funding gap puts current infrastructure needs at nearly £2bn. It estimates £1.1bn guaranteed from sources other than planning levy under the current system, which leaves £889.4 million to find.

“The scale of (population) growth means the vast majority of funding will need to comer from other sources,” the study states.

It does, however, predict future funding from “other sources” over the next 15 years of £241m—but still leaves nearly £650m to find.

The study could cause political backlash after tomorrow’s council and mayor elections because figures revealing the funding gap were not available until October, while developments were still being given planning permission.

The Public Examiner looking into the Isle of Dogs’ Neighbourhood Plan at the May 10 hearing can only take on board evidence presented to him.

City Hall has been sitting on its estimates in ‘draft’ form for 16 months and hasn’t released a final report, even to the local authority, with just a week to go, the Advertiser learned yesterday. The council is still waiting for the GLA’s “final version” figures while the clock is ticking towards May 10.

Meanwhile, it is looking for extra funds over the next 15 years “from sources locally, regionally and nationally”.

Major schemes on the Isle of Dogs going ahead or still on the drawing board include Crossharbour town centre, Limeharbour, North Quay, Millharbour, Marsh Wall, Westferry Circus and the Westferry Printworks site.

Others are Wood Wharf and Reuters in Blackwall, the massive Bishopsgate goodsyard stretching through Bethnal Green, Spitalfields and Shoreditch, the Poplar and Bethnal Green gasworks sites and the Whitechapel masterplan which ironically has the council’s new Tower Hamlets civic centre at its heart.

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