£1m planning bonanza cash being funnelled to help poverty families and the elderly in Poplar and Isle of Dogs

Mayor vistis Mudchute city farm on the Isle of Dogs to see how planning 'windfall' cash is being spe

Mayor vistis Mudchute city farm on the Isle of Dogs to see how planning 'windfall' cash is being spent. Picture source: LBTH - Credit: LBTH

The elderly and families on the breadline are among those now benefitting from a £1 million windfall levied on new building schemes in the mass redevelopment of Poplar and the Isle of Dogs.

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs has visited six projects including Mudchute city farm on the Isle of Dogs to see how the cash from planning agreements is being used.

The council’s levy on developers’ planning applications is aimed at softening the pressure on public services from skyscrapers springing up across east London’s Docklands.

Neighbourhoods like Poplar, Millwall, Cubit Town, Canary Wharf and Blackwall face massive infrastructure demands on utilities and public transport which are battling to keep pace with a population explosion sparked by 20 years of regeneration schemes.

So the council is ploughing back the levies known as Section 106 under the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act.

It awarded £1m to the East End Community Foundation in 2016 on condition it was spent around Poplar and the Isle of Dogs.

“We ask developers to contribute to our community and infrastructure when we approve planning applications,” Mayor Biggs explained. “We recognise that development growth brings challenges to neighbourhoods as well as benefits.”

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The mayor visited the first projects to get cash 12 months ago to run programmes for family debt management, tackling isolation among the elderly, apprentice training and education activities.

Sister Christine Frost’s Neighbours in Poplar charity now has funding to deal with isolation of many OAPs with a weekly lunch club, day trips, fitness sessions, cooking sessions and sewing classes.

The Island Advice centre in Cubitt Town is using its grant to help those in debt to manage their finances and to deal with benefit payments, the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ on spare rooms, benefit cap and the Universal Credit.

The Limehouse Project is also helping vulnerable people tackle debts and develop financial literacy to be more in control.

Mudchute city farm in Millwall now has three apprentices working in accounts, childcare and animal care training for NVQ qualifications.

The Lincoln Area Regeneration project now runs education activities in Poplar’s new Barlett Park centre such as watersports, after school provision and language classes to improve physical and mental wellbeing.