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New bid to ease strain on services by massive Isle of Dogs developments after first attempt was 'torpedoed'

PUBLISHED: 11:10 10 April 2019 | UPDATED: 13:30 12 April 2019

Hugh developments outstripping infrastructure on Isle of Dogs. Picture: Neighbourhood Forum

Hugh developments outstripping infrastructure on Isle of Dogs. Picture: Neighbourhood Forum

IoD Neighbourhood Forum

Another neighbourhood plan is being launched to try and control major developments on the Isle of Dogs to ease the strain on public services—almost a year on from a previous failed attempt.

Richard Horwood and Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Planning Forum team. Picture: Mike BrookeRichard Horwood and Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Planning Forum team. Picture: Mike Brooke

A simplified policy has now been put forward by the Isle of Dogs’ planning forum, whose earlier attempt was said to have been “torpedoed” by official data not being released in time which exposed a £1billion infrastructure funding gap.

A public hearing ruled that the data on what schools, GP surgeries, parks, public transport, mains supplies and even footbridges would be needed in the next 25 years was inadmissible because it hadn’t been released officially.

Yet the information was already included in Tower Hamlets Council’s Local Plan in 2017.

It is now public information with the GLA’s own Planning Framework for the area being adopted this month.

Richard Horwood presenting original Neighbourhood Plan to the Public Examiner (right) at Jack Dash House in May 2018... which failed get through. Picture: Mike BrookeRichard Horwood presenting original Neighbourhood Plan to the Public Examiner (right) at Jack Dash House in May 2018... which failed get through. Picture: Mike Brooke

“That means it’s the right time to launch the consultation on our new ‘neighbourhood’ plan,” forum chair Richard Horwood told the East London Advertiser.

“It cannot now be undermined in the same way as our first attempt that was torpedoed by the GLA failing to publish its data in time.”

The revised plan forces the local authority to reject any new major developments without first making sure the infrastructure can cope.

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“The council doesn’t have to give consent for super-dense developments just because it’s done so before,” Richard pointed out. “It has dug itself into a hole to be ‘consistent’.

“Our proposal spells out that circumstances change. Each new major development puts further strain on the infrastructure, so that does change circumstances.”

The Isle of Dogs has the fastest growth rate anywhere in the EU, with its current 40,000 population set to reach 100,000 in the next 10 years. One street alone, Marsh Wall, where 4,000 people live, is set to house 40,000 in the next decade. Towers soar to 70 storeys, packed cheek-by-jowl into a tight, enclosed area that just four decades ago was empty land after the India and Millwall Docks had closed.

Tower Hamlets last month approved yet another huge development at Marsh Wall, reaching nearly 50 storeys, but without infrastructure guarantees.

The authority’s hands are often tied, mayor John Biggs insists.

“Planning law is adequate for most areas,” he says. “But the sheer scale of Isle of Dogs development is phenomenal, nothing like anywhere else in the country.

“We’ve been meeting developers and the utility companies to reduce the pressure, but our powers are limited—that’s the problem.”

The original ‘neighbourhood’ plan included unpublished GLA data revealing the £1bn funding gap to pay for services, first uncovered by the Advertiser almost a year ago.

City Hall had been working on its study of the area since 2014, but delayed releasing the findings until just 15 hours before the public examination of the original ‘neighbourhood’ plan held at Jack Dash House last May. It wasn’t enough time for the data to be legally considered, the hearing ruled.

Now that same ‘neighbourhood’ plan has been simplified and the GLA’s statistics are out of the bag in time for another public hearing later this year, to meet the needs of Europe’s fastest-growing population.

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