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Pandemic crisis halts Isle of Dogs skyscraper schemes as Neighbourhood Plan gets fast-track green light

PUBLISHED: 07:00 16 April 2020 | UPDATED: 16:14 16 April 2020

The days when developers threw up Isle of Dogs skyscrapers without improving public services first have ended. Picture: Mike Brooke

The days when developers threw up Isle of Dogs skyscrapers without improving public services first have ended. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Developers may have been stopped in their tracks from cramming in more and more skyscrapers on the Isle of Dogs as a result of the national coronavirus emergency.

Victory for Isle of Dogs forum's Neighbourhood Plan to halt skyscraper mayhem.  Picture: Mike BrookeVictory for Isle of Dogs forum's Neighbourhood Plan to halt skyscraper mayhem. Picture: Mike Brooke

The official examiner appointed by Tower Hamlets Council to scrutinise the Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Plan has confirmed that it should go to a public vote, the East London Advertiser has learned today.

The immediate effect is that the tougher rules for new construction – in an area that’s going through a population explosion of an extra 10,000 people over the next decade – must be followed from now on with cash guaranteed for public services before developers get the green light.

Developers had carte blanche to build tall, as long as they paid the levy... not any more! Picture: IoD ForumDevelopers had carte blanche to build tall, as long as they paid the levy... not any more! Picture: IoD Forum

Any public vote, like other upcoming public votes, would be till May next year because of the Covid-19 lockdown.

But that doesn’t stop the new rules coming into full force from today, the paper understands.

Richard Horwood (centre) presents evidence to Isle of Dogs neighbourhood plan public heaing in 2018. Picture: Mike BrookeRichard Horwood (centre) presents evidence to Isle of Dogs neighbourhood plan public heaing in 2018. Picture: Mike Brooke

“It’s a red letter day for the long-suffering people of the Isle of Dogs,” the forum’s chairman Richard Horwood told the Advertiser.

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“The independent examiner’s ruling at last brings into force the policies we need to manage the huge amount of dense development.”

The neighbourhood plan went through public consultations in 2018. But it stalled over its use of GLA data that hadn’t been officially released, revealing a £1billion funding gap needed to make sure there was enough gas, water and electricity mains supply as well as drainage and public transport to cope with the rocketing population.

Construction continues... but now developers must put cash up front to improve sevices before they get the go-ahead. Picture: IoD ForumConstruction continues... but now developers must put cash up front to improve sevices before they get the go-ahead. Picture: IoD Forum

Isle of Dogs forum secretary Andrew Wood, a Tower Hamlets councillor for the area, insisted: “The neighbourhood plan must now be enforced to cover the strains on public services, using empty sites, better construction management and communication, sustainable designs and 3D modelling for high rise planning as the aspirations of the community.”

The council has formally received the examiner’s final report on the neighbourhood plan. The mayor has five weeks to decide whether to hold a public referendum next year.

Even so, it now has the legal power to reject schemes that have “a negative impact” on the community which cannot be sorted out with standard development levies, the neighbourhood forum points out.

It is a major achievement for the forum and its chairman Richard Harwood, who warned: “Developments previously couldn’t be rejected or delayed for lack of adequate infrastructure, but that rejection will now happen.”

Developers up till now used planning levies to insist on legal consent for new tower blocks, despite any strain on mains supplies and other public services which would “somehow be provided as and when needed”.

But the standard levies were never enough to cover the infrastructure demands. Now all extra public services that would be needed for new developments have to be guaranteed first — with hard cash.


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