Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Plan public examination opens today at Jack Dash House
- Credit: IoD Neighbourhood Planning Forum
The controversial Neighbourhood Plan for the Isle of Dogs where over-development has caused a funding gap of nearly £1 billion to sort out gas and water mains, drainage and sewers is up for public examination this-morning.
The plan goes before an independent public examiner testing its planning legality, to prepare it for public referendum later this year.
The 10am hearing at Jack Dash House community centre at Marsh Wall, near Canary Wharf, follows three years of public meetings and consultations by the newly-recognised Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Planning Forum.
It is aimed at halting yet more skyscrapers without infrastructure built first, based on a Tower Hamlets Council study showing costs at nearly £2bn to get all the infrastructure right, with only £1.1bn funding source identified so far—leaving a gap of almost £890 million to find, first revealed in the East London Advertiser last month.
The Neighbourhood Plan uses a town hall study to press for changes in planning law to make it illegal for any local authority or the GLA which is responsible for London’s strategic planning to give the green light to major developments without funds in place to pay for extra mains, drains and public transport.
It urges any planning levies be used only in the area affected by the impact of major developments, rather than dropped into the council’s general community fund.
The issue comes to a head at the four-hour public examination showing an Isle of Dogs population rise of 44,000 in the next 14 years resulting from major housing developments already given the go-ahead or in the pipeline that critics say will bring overloaded mains and other services to a grinding halt.
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The 2001 census showed 20,000 people living on the Isle of Dogs, rising to 33,000 in 2011 and could reach 77,000 by 2131.
The examination tests whether the Neighbourhood Plan meets legal requirements or causes legality problems before going to a public referendum in late summer. This would force Tower Hamlets and the GLA to cool down the overheated population growth and build infrastructure before homes, if the referendum votes for it.
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But activists are up against the GLA holding back for 16 months on its own study of what’s needed which has been kept in ‘draft’ form until finally released at 5pm last night—just 17 hours before the public examination at Jack Dash House, which is not enough time for scrutiny.
Neighbourhood Forum chairman Richard Horwood, acting on legal advice by a leading QC on planning policy, is likely to call on the public examiner not to rely on the GLA’s delayed report that was only released last night.
Instead, he will argue that the examiner should use Tower Hamlets council’s Infrastructure Delivery Plan which has been ready since October which identifies what’s needed and the gap in funding.
The Forum doesn’t want more delays from City Hall which could hold up urgently-needed solutions to the Isle of Dogs’ mains-and-drains crisis.
The delay stem from Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s push to get more housing through the planning system without waiting for the infrastructure to catch up, critics believe.
The 65,000 new homes targeted annually across the capital would add 3,500 every year to Tower Hamlets alone. Most would be built on the Isle of Dogs which is linked to the outside world by just two roads, one overcrowded Jubilee Underground line, the DLR and a foot tunnel under the Thames. The influx would add stress on already inadequate gas and water mains which have long reached full capacity, the forum points out.
The trend has already begun with developers doubling the size of one controversial housing scheme on the 15-acre Westferry Printworks site from 700 homes to 1,500 by increasing five tower blocks already given planning permission to 19 and 46 storeys, instead of the agreed eight and 30 storeys, and adding a sixth tower.
The developers say they are responding to City Hall’s housing targets.