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Isle of Dogs referendum hit by delayed GLA study into future housing and service needs

PUBLISHED: 11:59 11 May 2018 | UPDATED: 17:32 15 May 2018

Massive housing development on the Isle of Dogs with yet more construction going ahead. Picture: Mike Brooke

Massive housing development on the Isle of Dogs with yet more construction going ahead. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

The proposed referendum on a neighbourhood plan for future Isle of Dogs developments could be delayed because City Hall didn’t release a study on solving the ‘mains and drains’ crisis until just hours before a public hearing.

Forum chairman Richard Horwood (right) with team members Andrew Wood and lawyer Dr Sue Chadwick preparing for Neighbourhood Plan public examination at Jack Dash House. Picture: Mike BrookeForum chairman Richard Horwood (right) with team members Andrew Wood and lawyer Dr Sue Chadwick preparing for Neighbourhood Plan public examination at Jack Dash House. Picture: Mike Brooke

The study into what infrastructure is needed to cope with the population explosion was only released 16 hours before yesterday’s public examination.

Instead, the hearing at Jack Dash House community centre had to rely on a similar Tower Hamlets Council study completed in October which exposed a funding gap of nearly £1 billion to pay for gas and water mains, drainage and public transport that would be needed.

The shortfall—first revealed in the East London Advertiser—forms the backbone to the Neighbourhood Forum’s argument for changing planning law to make it illegal to pass major housing schemes without first guaranteeing the infrastructure.

Many schemes adding thousands of new homes have already been passed without ‘mains and drains’ guaranteed, with others are on the drawing board. A cautious Tower Hamlets Council was often overruled by the last Mayor of London pushing through lucrative developments along the waterfront.

Public examination into Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Plan, held at Jack Dash House. Picture: Mike BrookePublic examination into Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Plan, held at Jack Dash House. Picture: Mike Brooke

Yesterday’s public examination to test whether the local forum’s proposed Neighbourhood Plan would be legal and meet planning requirements was adjourned because it was unable to take the GLA’s delayed evidence.

The public examiner has asked the forum’s chairman Richard Horwood and his team to meet town hall officials confirm that the GLA’s study is “not materially different to the unpublished draft” before the Neighbourhood Plan was submitted.

“The Examiner refused to let us rely on the Tower Hamlets study,” Richard told the Advertiser. “He asked us to confirm with the council that the GLA infrastructure study is not materially different to the unpublished draft that existed last June before we submitted our Neighbourhood Plan.”

The examiner is to announce if the referendum of the future of the Isle of Dogs can go ahead, but only if all the figures tally. Any fundamental differences would mean having to reopen the stalled Public Examination which would push any referendum back, perhaps for months.

Public Examiner wading through evidence for Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Plan. Picture: Mike BrookePublic Examiner wading through evidence for Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Plan. Picture: Mike Brooke

Adopting the Neighbourhood Plan would force Tower Hamlets and the GLA to cool down the overheated population growth and build infrastructure before homes.

This would rail against the Mayor of London’s push for more housing with 65,000 targeted annually across the capital. That would add 3,500 new homes every year to Tower Hamlets alone—most of it, the forum believes, would come to the Isle of Dogs which has to cope with only two roads, one overcrowded Underground line, the DLR and a foot tunnel under the Thames linking it to the outside world. Its population is predicted to hit 77,000 by 2031.

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.

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