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At last Isle of Dogs gets its Local Plan referendum to fill £1bn funding gap for public services

PUBLISHED: 17:00 13 May 2020 | UPDATED: 15:21 14 May 2020

Referendum planned for Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Plan. Picture: IoD Forum

Referendum planned for Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Plan. Picture: IoD Forum

IoD Forum

The long-awaited referendum for the Isle of Dogs’ Neighbourhood Plan has been given the go-ahead after the coronavirus emergency is over to halt “wild development” straining public services.

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

The referendum was approved yesterday by the mayor of Tower Hamlets. It will be the council’s first public planning vote and the largest ever in London with an estimated 25,000 voters taking part.

It is set for next May on the same day as the 2021 London Mayor and London Assembly elections. The long delay has been caused by the current pandemic emergency.

But the neighbourhood plan has effectively been in operation since April 14, after its approval by the government’s public examiner, which forbids developers steaming ahead with yet more tower blocks across the Isle of Dogs without first putting cash up front for services such as gas, electric and water mains supplies as well as transport, health and education services.

The referendum is seen as a formality with an anticipated 90 per cent “yes” vote to be officially adopted.

Forum secretary Andrew Wood says: Forum secretary Andrew Wood says: "We need 'yes' vote next May to control spread of Isle of Dogs tower blocks." Picture: Mike Brooke

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“We expect some fun and games with 51 weeks to go to the referendum,” Isle of Dogs Forum secretary Andrew Wood told the East London Advertiser. “We need to work hard to raise public awareness because this referendum is the same day as the London Assembly elections.”

Most planning referendums get massive “yes” votes, so the government changed the rules in 2017 giving adopted neighbourhood plans the same weight as local authorities’ own plans.

A first attempt getting the Isle of Dogs neighbourhood plan approved was stymied in 2018 by the GLA sitting on documents that were supposed to be released the year before, the forum points out.

Tower Hamlets mayor says 'yes' to Isle of Dogs public vote in 2021 on planning rules. Picture: IoD ForumTower Hamlets mayor says 'yes' to Isle of Dogs public vote in 2021 on planning rules. Picture: IoD Forum

The documents revealed a stunning £1billion gap in funds to pay for extra services needed for all the tower block developments in the district.

They were only released by City Hall the evening before the public examination of the Local Plan which the examiner had to reject as the documents had not been made public first—despite having already been revealed in the Advertiser a month before.

The forum needs 51pc “yes” vote on May 6 next year to have any formal influence on what needs to be paid for by developers before they start building work, with the Isle of Dogs population predicted to rise by another 10,000 by 2031.


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